§ CLASS VI.
§ BOARD OF TRADE.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £175,940, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, and Subordinate Departments, including certain Services arising out of the War."—[Note.—£84,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
For the convenience of the Committee I propose to give a general survey at the beginning of the Debate and deal with the Estimates as a whole, leaving questions and individual points for discussion later in the proceedings. There has been another year of marked progress in nearly all the principal industries of the United Kingdom, with two notable exceptions, to which I must refer later, coal and cotton. Progress has been remarkable in all industries supplying the home market. It has been slower in the export trades, but still continues to be in the right direction. Improvement has been widespread, but by no means uniform. It has occurred in varying degrees in nearly all the areas and in almost every branch of trade and industry. This is best illustrated by the unemployment figures. The number of insured persons in employment in Great Britain last month, excluding agricultural workers, was over 440,000 more than in June, 1935, and the number of unemployed was nearly 300,000 less.
The decreases in unemployment varied geographically from 84,000 in the North-East division to 4,000 in Wales and, as between the more important industries, they ranged from 31,000 in engineering to 8,000 in wool. One of the best tests of prosperity in this country is to be found in the railway receipts. In spite of the competition by road and by sea, 2070 railway receipts were about £1,830,000 higher in the first six months of this year than in the corresponding period of 1935. Improved receipts from freight traffic accounted for nearly the whole of this increase. During the same period, postal receipts, another good test of great activity, increased by nearly 4 per cent. compared with the first six months of 1935. Bank clearances increased by nearly 7 per cent. Retail sales are difficult to ascertain, but we are able to make some comparison with former years in this department of activity. Retail sales may be regarded as one of the tests which can be applied to the whole country. These sales during 1935 were 6 per cent. more than in the previous year. The expansion continued this year, and sales in the first five months of 1936 were about 7½ per cent. more in value than a year earlier. Sales of food and perishables increased by about 9½ per cent., and other merchandise by about 6 per cent. The precise extent to which increases in the money value of retail sales is due to price changes cannot be estimated, but it is certain that the volume of retail sales has increased during each of the last three years.
Industrial production last year was about 7 per cent. greater than in 1934, and the increase was spread over both the export and the home markets. In the first quarter of 1936 there was an increase of 9 per cent. over the first quarter of 1935. If we turn to the overseas trade, the figures for the first six months of 1935 and of 1936, show that although our export trade has not gone up with the same rapidity as in recent years, it still is increasing. In 1935, January to June, our exports were £206,500,000. In June, 1936, they had risen to £207,900,000. Imports have gone up to an even greater degree. Food, drink and tobacco show an increase from £166,000,000 to £179,000,000. Raw materials, and articles mainly unmanufactured, have gone up from £103,000,000 to £120,000,000. Articles wholly or mainly manufactured have gone from £88,000,000 to very nearly £101,000,000. It is only right to point out, when we are considering the import figures, that we are to some extent gauging the consuming capacity of the principal industries. A large proportion of the imports of which I have just given the figures is used again in our 2071 own industries. We need not be alarmed at the speed with which these figures have gone up, provided that year by year we can use up, without too great a strain on our exchanges, the goods which come in for purposes of consumption by our industries.
A large proportion of the imports, therefore, classified under the heading "articles wholly or mainly manufactured," are of a non-competitive character; for instance, non-ferrous metals and oils, which accounted for nearly £4,000,000 of the total increase of nearly £13,000,000, under this heading.
§ Sir JOHN WARDLAW-MILNE
The right hon. Gentleman has twice mentioned the words "a large proportion." It would be very interesting to know what that proportion is.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I pointed out that the figures which I have just read to the Committee, in regard to non-ferrous metals and oils, represent imports which come under this heading.
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
What is the proportion of the total imports used in the processes of manufacture?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I do not think I can give those figures without closer examination. My hon. Friend may take it that a very large proportion of the increase in imports has been due to activity in our own home trades, although it is not reflected in our own export trades. Many articles which are classified as manufactured goods form the material for further industrial processes. This illustrates the point which I was making in reply to my hon. Friend. For instance, there are certain classes of pottery and of iron and steel manufactures, some machinery and some qualities of leather, which are all regarded as manufactured material for our import returns, and which play a large part in the industries which supply our home trade as well as our export trade. Increased imports in these cases undoubtedly indicate a greater industrial activitiy, and are an inevitable consequence of the improvement of trade in this country. I need hardly say that this is one of the aspects of the ebb and flow of our trade which ought to be watched with great care, if we are to avoid a situation in which undue strain will be placed upon our foreign exchange.
2072 The increase in raw materials is very largely due to a larger consumption of wool and, strange as it may sound, also to a larger consumption, to the extent of over £4,500,000, of cotton. Exports of United Kingdom goods, although they increased only about £1,400,000, must not be regarded as entirely unfavourable. Part of that slowing up of the export trade of this country is due to an almost complete cessation, for a time, of our exports to Italy, which were over £4,000,000 less than in the first half of last year. I hope that the trade which we lost during 1935 and 1936 is going to be regained in Italy. Already we are taking steps to get into close touch with the authorities in Rome, so that the obstacles to British trade with Italy may be removed as rapidly as possible. Coal exports unfortunately declined by £1,700,000, but the value of exports to countries other than Italy was slightly higher this year than last.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
There are two or three elements which have been detrimental to our export trade in coal, and undoubtedly the imposition of sanctions was one of them. The other was the difficulty which the Italian importers had to provide payments for goods of which they were taking delivery in Italy in the months preceding the sanctions.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
Is the right hon. Gentleman giving the figures for the first six months of 1935 compared with the First six months of 1936, or is he giving figures for the whole year?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Perhaps the hon. Member will let me say that, as far as coal is concerned, I was hoping that he would make some mention of that industry in his remarks and that then my hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary for Mines would deal with them. We are short-handed at present on the Treasury Bench, and in those circumstances I did not propose to go into the details of the whole question. Let me refer to the aggregate increase of exports of manufactured goods. That amounted to no less than £1,300,000. Woollen and worsted goods and miscellaneous manufactures each increased by £700,000. There were declines of nearly that amount in non-ferrous metals and cotton goods. The excess of imports of merchandise over 2073 the total exports went up from £124,000,000 to £162,000,000, mainly owing to the increase in imports. The question naturally arises, can we afford the additional imports which the home market is demanding? As far as we can ascertain, we can afford them at the present time. Taking into account the invisible items, that is to say shipping earnings, income from foreign investments, brokerages, commissions and insurance, there is no reason to anticipate any serious debit balance in payments this year; but I am naturally unable to give the figures for the first half of the year, for they are usually made up and examined towards the end of each year, with the assistance of the statistical authorities concerned.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned "debit." Does he mean a debit compared with last year?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I was referring to the adverse balance of payments, which is the phrase generally used on this subject. I cannot give the exact figures of the balance sheet—to which, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, we pay great attention once or twice a year—without ascertaining what has happened throughout the whole year, and without obtaining the assistance of statistical advisers for making up our case.
The decline in international trade appears to have been arrested at last, but the improvement as yet is rather slight. The proportion of this country in world trade is definitely increasing. In 1932 our proportion of world export trade stood at 9.9 per cent., and it rose to 10.8 per cent. by 1935, showing that of the world's trade we are obtaining an increasing share.
I will turn for a time to a short description of some of the various industries which call for most attention. Coal will be dealt with by the Secretary for Mines, but I must say something on the subject of the cotton trade. I am glad to say that, taken as a whole, the position of the cotton industry appears to be rather less gloomy than it was, although in some districts I fear that that statement will not meet with a very hearty reception, for in the lower grades of cotton the recovery has been slight, if any. As to the export trade, all that can be said is that the cotton industry is about holding its own, but no more than that. Ex- 2074 ports of yarn and piece goods increased from £59,000,000 in 1934 to £60,000,000 in 1935, but in the first six months of this year they are about £700,000 less than in the first half of 1935, an increase in yarns having been exceeded by a fall in the value of piece goods exported.
The cotton industry has welcomed the recent adjustments in the Canadian and Australian tariffs and the Danish Government's undertaking to allocate more import licences for our cotton goods. The revision of the Indian tariff rates, although not up to Lancashire's expectation, has removed the depressing uncertainty of recent months. I have already mentioned that there has been an increase in the imports of raw cotton into this country. Deliveries to the mills have shown a distinct increase during the last 12 months, and there has been a marked decline in unemployment. The percentage of insured workers unemployed is now less than 16 per cent., compared with over 21 per cent. a year ago.
The Cotton Spinning Industry Act, recently passed, provides for the establishment of a Spindles Board, with power to purchase redundant spinning machinery. Both the Spindles Board and the Advisory Committee which is to assist it, have now been appointed, and the board have already done a great deal of preliminary work. It is hoped to announce very shortly the appointed day for the commencement of statutory operations. The Act is regarded by the majority of the industry as the first step in the return of the industry to a sound economic basis, which will enable it better to face world competition. A special reorganisation committee of the industry has been formed to investigate the existing organisation and to put forward proposals for the expansion of the cotton trade. Such steps will always have the Government's sympathetic support, for it is measures such as these, rather than enactments, which will enable the industry to adapt itself to changes in the cotton world.
Now let me deal in outline with iron and steel. The position of the industry was recently debated on the Finance Bill. At the present moment it is probably our busiest important industry. The production of pig iron during the first half of 1936 was at the annual rate of nearly 7,500,000 tons, that is to say over 1,000,000 2075 tons in excess of the 1935 production and a little below the 1929 production. Expansion of pig iron production has been hampered to some extent by a shortage of coke, consequent upon a deficiency of modern coking plant, but this deficiency is in course of being rectified by the building of new batteries of coke ovens at various steel works. The production of steel ingots and castings in the first half of 1936 was at the annual rate of nearly 11,500,000 tons; that is to say, we are now producing in this country very nearly 1,000,000 tons a month, far above the level of 1935 or 1929 and constituting a new record.
Many additions and improvements have been made in iron and steel plant in all parts of the country, and there are plans for the erection of further plant in some cases. One of the industries on which the iron and steel trade is dependent for prosperity is the industry of shipbuilding and marine engineering. In shipbuilding, which has so long been one of our most depressed industries, there is now a gratifying revival. At the end of June the tonnage of merchant vessels under construction was 850,000 gross tons, compared with 560,000 tons a year earlier. Important Admiralty contracts and certain foreign naval orders have greatly assisted these figures. The builders, especially on the Tyne and Clyde and Wear, are busy, and more slips are occupied now than for many years past. This increased activity has brought a welcome increase in the work of marine engineers and boiler-making firms. General engineering shows a continued improvement, and in some branches, for instance machine tools, demand has overtaken supply. An ample supply of machine tools is now one of the most critical questions with which we are having to deal. It would be a great pity for the general industries of this country if they were held up or delayed by the absence of this most essential part of their equipment. I hear that there is also a shortage of skilled labour in many parts of the country.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
In the Midlands and South Yorkshire. I am referring at the moment only to the main industries.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
That may be, but in the tool-making industry there is a great shortage of labour in some districts. The hon. Member may be thinking of the abundance of labour in some districts and not of the shortage in others.
§ Mr. LEWIS JONES
Is it not a fact that there is a big difference between the various grades of engineering craftsmen? In referring to machine tools, did the right hon. Gentleman not mean that there was a shortage of highly skilled labour among those craftsmen engaged in the manufacture of machine tools?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I can only depend on the figures which reach me from the industry itself. There are some difficulties that this trade has to face which are new and certainly not within my recent experience.
§ Sir PATRICK HANNON
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Midlands, between Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, we are trying to secure at least 1,500 skilled men? Will hon. Gentlemen opposite do anything to help us in that matter?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
In the electrical industry all-round improvement has been continued since 1935. The activity of other industries is reflected in a bigger demand for electrical material, both heavy and light. Good orders continue to be received from abroad. Exports in the first six months of 1936 were valued at £4,640,000, compared with £4,380,000 a year ago. The motor industry is now one of our leading industries and it continues its prosperous career. During the first seven months of the current season, that is October to April, the production of private cars and taxis increased by over 11 per cent., and the production of commercial vehicles by 10 per cent., compared with the corresponding period of 1934–35. Exports have slightly increased this year. The sustained activity of the industry has benefited a number of ancillary industries, such as tyre making, fittings, upholstery and so On.
Artificial silk is a young industry which has shown remarkably rapid development in recent years. The 1935 pro- 2077 duction of yarn and wastes was more than double the 1931 production and is still increasing this year. The United Kingdom is now the third largest producer of continuous filament rayon yarn, and on the latest available figures it occupies second place among exporters of rayon piece goods, including rayon mixtures. The advance of rayon has not been at the expense of other textile industries. The rayon industry has grown up rather as a valuable source of supply of new raw materials for the other textile industries. Lancashire manufacturers, in particular, have been quick to seize on the possibilities of using rayon yarn in new fabrics, the demand for which will make up for some portion of the loss in the cotton fabrics trade.
I turn to some of the trade agreements which have engaged the activities of the Board of Trade and its staff during the last year. Imports into the United Kingdom from the Ottawa Dominions and from India increased, between 1931 and 1935, by the large sum of £38,000,000, and the share of these countries in our total imports rose from 19.6 per cent. to 27.4 per cent. Our exports to the Ottawa Dominions and India increased, between 1932 and 1935, by about £38,000,000, and the proportion of our total exports taken by those countries rose from 27.6 to 32.5 per cent. These figures must be put down mainly, if not entirely, to the operation of the trade agreements with those countries. During the last three years, 24 bilateral agreements with foreign countries have been concluded. Some deal solely with trade matters, the principal benefits secured being reductions of foreign tariffs, undertakings for the purchase of United Kingdom produce and manufactures, fair quotas for United Kingdom exports, and the better treatment of British shipping. Some agreements provide, in addition, for the payment of old debts due to our traders, and for exchange to be made available to pay for current trade, while others are Payments Agreements pure and simple.
Our exports to foreign countries, that is to say, those countries with which trade agreements other than payments agreements have been made, increased, between 1932 and 1935, by £14,000,000. In the 12 months ending March, 1936, our total exports were £68,000,000 2078 more than in 1932. The increase in respect of exports to the Ottawa Dominions and to countries with which trade agreements were in force during the whole or the greater part of the later period amounted to no less than £55,500,000. These trade agreements dealt, of course, very largely, in the case of the Northern European agreements, with the export of our coal, to which my hon. and gallant Friend will refer in the course of this Debate, but I would like to make some reference to our recent negotiations. We have just made a supplementary agreement with Denmark. There have been discussions which for various reasons have not yet resulted in the conclusion of agreements, with Argentina, Spain, Holland, Peru, and Brazil. In the case of Peru, an agreement is likely to be signed very shortly. As regards Brazil, discussions with a view to a new instrument to replace the existing exchange of Notes regulating trade relations between the two countries are now reaching the final stages. Discussions with the Dutch Government have resulted in specific quotas, of advantage to the United Kingdom, in respect of textiles in the Dutch East Indies. With regard to Argentina, I regret to say I cannot make any report this afternoon, for the negotiations have not yet been concluded, but a full statement of what is required by our industries is in the possession of the Argentine Government, and we have made it quite clear that we are prepared to meet them on the friendliest basis, but that we cannot sacrifice unduly our own industries for their benefit.
§ Sir ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
Do I understand that we shall have an opportunity of examining that agreement at length before it is ratified by His Majesty's Government? Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that there is a determined feeling in this House and outside that we cannot give support on the Argentine meat question, or even on the Anglo-Argentine textile question, unless and until the Argentine railway question is satisfactorily settled, in view of the fact that £500,000,000 of British money is invested there?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I quite understand the anxiety of my hon. Friend with regard to the Argentine Agreement, but 2079 I must tell him that we shall have to follow the procedure of former years, and I am quite sure we shall do everything that we can to safeguard British interests, including those which are connected with the Argentine railways and the utility companies, both of which have very serious grievances. Those matters are under close consideration and discussion at the present moment with the Argentine representatives.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend. He will satisfy public opinion if the public know for certain that this agreement will be laid before Parliament and considered before it can be ratified.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
It must, of course, meet with the approval of the House before it can be regarded as an operating instrument. Negotiations primarily concerted with the liquidation of outstanding trade debts have been conducted during the last 12 months with Uruguay, Rumania, Hungary and Spain, as well as discussions with Brazil arising out of the payments agreement of March, 1935, and in each case they have resulted in the conclusion of agreements which are more or less satisfactory to us. These agreements, and the German Agreement of 1934, have resulted in the recovery of actual cash, in respect of arrears due to United Kingdom trade creditors, amounting, so far, to a total of about £12,000,000. In addition, very large sums have been liquidated by means of bond issues and the like, and provision has been made for payment for current trade in many cases Where payment would not otherwise have been forthcoming.
I would like to say a few words on the commercial policy of this country, and I am sure it will give satisfaction, at all events to the majority of Members of the House, to know that the commercial policy of this country remains unchanged. It is now a well tried policy. We are able to judge by results, and we have no intention of taking any undue risks in the future. Our policy is founded on equality of opportunity for all nations, and is qualified only by the duty of other nations to play their part in the same general scheme. Our policy rests on the belief that only the removal of the artificial restrictions which at present 2080 hamper multi-lateral trade can restore the volume of turnover which was reached before the crisis of 1931. Events since that date have reduced the volume of world trade by 20 per cent., and its gold value by 60 per cent., and this disastrous decline can only be due to the impoverishment of nations, to the closing of markets and to the increase of restrictions of all kinds.
Not only have tariffs been increased, but far more drastic barriers have been raised in the form of prohibitions and quotas, and also by the operation of exchange restrictions. The quantitative regulations of imports commonly called quotas are of two kinds. They can be adopted merely as additional means of protection, or they can also be used for the better regulation of production and marketing in the case of certain primary commodities, especially of agricultural products. As regards exchange restrictions, these are, happily, unknown in the United Kingdom. They are the outcome of fear for the exchange value of the currency in those countries which are haunted by memories of uncontrolled inflation or by the apprehension of a flight of capital. Such fears readily arise in countries where the currency is overvalued. In this country, I am glad to say, there are no such fears, but in some others they have been constantly present since the crisis of 1931. Such countries, having no currency that can be freely exported, are driven back upon various kinds of barter trade of greater or less rigidity.
Clearing agreements are the modern sophisticated form of barter. Their object is to get over exchange restrictions or to secure a balance of payments. His Majesty's Government believe that payments can only be made to balance by artificial means at a lower level of trade all round. But in self-defence we have been compelled to use clearings, or agreements of the nature of clearings, in the case of countries having exchange restrictions where it was essential to secure the liquidation of outstanding commercial debts and to provide more hopeful conditions for current trade.
The British import market, which is by far the largest import market in the world, has been kept open for the goods of all nations on fair and equal terms all through these difficult years. The control 2081 of this market for the purpose of buying from those who buy from us is a temptation to those who believe that clearings really provide the foundation of a system of balanced trade. Upon certain countries and for a certain period we could, no doubt, force a greater quantity of United Kingdom goods, but we do not believe that a policy of force in this region would prosper for long. It would lead to the impoverishment of our customers and of third parties in whose prosperity we are interested, and, eventually, to a fall in our own trade. We have, therefore, used the power of our huge import market with great caution, to promote the sales of our goods abroad rather than to compel artificially enhanced purchases. This has been the policy of the Ottawa Agreements and of our trade agreements, and it is the policy which we shall continue to follow.
With regard to the future, in considering the prospects of British industry and commerce it is as well to have in mind the factors on which the trade revival has been based. The restoration and maintenance of confidence, following a series of balanced Budgets, has been one of the main factors. A second has been the protection given to the home market, which has been adequate without removing the incentive to increased productive efficiency; and a third has been the development of overseas markets, largely under the stimulus of bilateral agreements with Empire and numerous foreign countries; while finally there has been the fertilising influence of cheap money. These four factors, I am glad to say, still operate. The confidence of the business community is unimpaired. The trend of industrial profits is still upward, and, although costs are gradually rising, there are no indications that profit margins are likely to be much reduced. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about wages?"] I need hardly say that, unless British industries make profits, they cannot carry on. The policy of developing overseas markets through trade agreements is being pursued by us, and the Government are doing their utmost to see that our exporters get paid for the goods they send to foreign countries. Raw material imports are higher than a year ago; money is being spent freely; and the further expansion in employment and some recent wage increases in certain 2082 industries will no doubt lead to a greater volume of consumption.
The prospects of nearly all our manufacturing industries, with two notable exceptions, seem to be good. Housebuilding activity is being maintained, while industrial and commercial building is expanding. When the anticipated slackening in housebuilding comes—so far there is no sign of any rapid decline—it is likely to be counterbalanced by work under the defence programme and under the railway, road and slum clearance schemes. It is easy, however, to exaggerate the extent of the demands that are likely to be made on industry by the defence orders. The matter can be kept in proper perspective if it is remembered that the total output of our factory trades alone is in the region of £2,000,000,000 per annum. The volume of world trade is slowly expanding and the international background seems to be slightly less unfavourable than in recent months, but our exporters are still impeded by tariffs, quotas and exchange restrictions and there are still fears of further economic developments of a disturbing character in some foreign countries.
It seems probable that for some time to come the hopes of our exporters will be centred mainly on the continued expansion of trade with Empire and other countries within the sterling area. Nevertheless, looking at the whole field of world trade, there are certain encouraging features. The statistics available covering the past few years suggest that, in spite of the growth of economic nationalism, levels of prosperity in individual countries still tend to rise and fall together. Although special factors continue to retard progress in the gold bloc countries, the rise in industrial production from the depth of the depression is widespread and, as an exporting country, the United Kingdom should benefit from this progress in other countries. Another hopeful feature is the advance of our newer industries, like the motor vehicle, rayon and electrical industries, in the export trade which has offset the decline in exports and production of some of our older basic industries. It seems that we must still rely mainly on our internal trade for the continuance of our recovery in the coming months. We cannot enjoy full prosperity 2083 until there is an improvement in international trade on a scale which cannot be expected in the very near future.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
Are we to understand that the Government will not attempt to do anything to help to revive the export coal trade?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I did not say that. I do not know whether the hon. Member was in the House when the Debate opened when I said that the Secretary for Mines would take part and would deal with the question of coal. If there are no further major developments of a disturbing character abroad, and assuming a continuous of industrial peace at home, there is every reason to hope that the progress of the past three or four years will continue.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I feel sure that the Committee was rather pleased to find that the right hon. Gentleman somewhat abated his picturesque tone towards the end of his address, because he would have conveyed the impression that we have at last reached the happy stage of full prosperity, which seems so unreal even to this well disciplined House, which controls its emotions so well. I saw hon. Members opposite rubbing their eyes. One would imagine that everything was now all right, that there was no need for further fears and that industrial prosperity had at last come upon us. There was only one black spot that the right hon. Gentleman presented to us in his survey of world and national prospects. He said he was not quite satisfied with the position of coal. I imagine if he is to be confined to coal that we shall hear a less optimistic expression of opinion from the Minister of Mines.
I was able to take a hurried glance this morning at the trade report for the last six months as compared with the same period in 1935 and 1934. I find that the export trade in coal has declined by 3,200,000 tons as compared with the same period in 1934. Even when we take into account the loss of trade to Italy in that period of 2,200,000 tons, there is still 1,000,000 tons left, entirely dissociated with sanctions against Italy, which has to be accounted for. It is worthy of notice that we lost to France 2084 a quantity of 700,000 tons, almost exactly the identical figure by which the Irish trade improved in consequence of the long-delayed agreement with that country. The disagreement was due to this Government and the loss was signally repaired by the Anglo-Irish Agreement achieved a year ago. As a result, the Irish demand for coal has increased by exactly the same quantity as the loss in the French trade. The right hon. Gentleman rightly claimed that the trade agreement countries—Finland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden—show a very small improvement but, when you include the trade agreement countries with the non-trade agreement countries, there has been a decline of 1,000,000 tons which has to be accounted for by the Minister of Mines. The right hon. Gentleman would have us believe that we are happy, contented and prosperous, and that there is to be no further anxiety in regard to unemployment. I wonder why the Government is bringing in the means test next week? We have not enough workpeople in the country. If his glorious expectations are half fulfilled, we shall be compelled to search for the unobtainable labour required to carry out the expansion in industry which he foreshadowed.
But I come back to the picture of a district which is not relieved in the slightest by anything that has been said by the President. I belong to an industrial district which is dependent mainly upon three industries. It is true that there has been an expansion of production in steel, and to some extent that has benefited the South Wales area, but there has been a very great decline in the coal trade. The Trade and Navigation Return shows a decline in the export trade in tinplates and galvanised sheets. I shall take back small comfort to my people from any word that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman's lips. He painted a picture of gloom, almost of despair, to the part of the world in which I live, where the gloom is deepened every day that this Government remains in office, and its vaunted policies have been put into operation. No advantage at all has come to South Wales. I should like the Committee to look at this district where we have the best coal in the world, where we have an industrial district built on the coalfield, slightly overlapping the 2085 site of the coalfield itself, and including within its area. coal, iron ore, limestone, sandstone, clay—all the essentials of the industries which have been found there from the earliest days of industry. Iron was worked and smelted which charcoal in the middle ages. Copper and tinplates came to find a home there two and a-half centuries ago. Spelter and lead and nickel came in due course because of the easy communication by sea and the availability of all these materials for smelting which are characteristic of the natural advantages of that district.
Despite all these advantages we are to-day facing a period of terrible anxiety and this district, which has proved its capacity for the building up of these industries, is now racked with despair because the Government has failed to give a word of comfort, or encouragement, or hope to the people in it. I have accompanied deputations to the President of the Board of Trade. I make no complaint of the courteous way in which we were received, but we were given very slender promises. I do not think he gave us anything to which we can hold on. I was amazed by a remark that he made to-day. I shall return to it because it gave me forebodings of further trouble on the point of the retention of the industries that we have at present. We have been to the Prime Minister, and I have never known him or any other responsible person using so many words to say "No" as the Prime Minister did in the most despairing reply that he gave us. He is going to South Wales this week-end. I hope it keeps fine for him. He is not going to the industrial area. I wonder if he could be induced the change the venue of this meeting and go from the pleasant fields of St. Fagans to the Valley and see to what depths our people have been reduced by the neglect of the Government. The people in this part of Britain are no less competent than those in any other part. We intensely dislike having to come here in the character of supplicants asking for favours. We have proved our capacity in the world of industry. We have built up those industries. In 1913 under normal conditions of industry we had built up a production in coal of no less than 57,000,000 tons a year, of which 36,700,000 tons were exported, the remaining 20,000,000 being for home consumption, mainly within the area itself for the maintenance of other 2086 industries. We employed 15,000 men in steel production and 22,000 in tinplate production.
This comparatively small area produced no less than 20 per cent. of Britain's coal output, 40 per cent. of its coal export, 30 per cent. of Britain's steel, 95 per cent. of its tinplates and almost the whole of the copper, spelter and nickel produced in this country, an enormous production showing the natural suitability of the area and the organising capacity of the people employed there. They have built up these industries and also dock and railway facilities unexcelled in any part of the world. Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Neath and Llanelly all played their part in providing for the enormous imports and exports which served the needs of the district. This was the gateway by which a large portion of the wealth derived in the country was sent abroad. These docks and railroads which served the coalfields not only served the immediate neighbourhood, but served to send abroad the production which paid for the food of the people of the country in a very large proportion. There was an enormous contribution made by the delivery of these substantial exports from the district of South Wales at these docks. The total annual trade in that small area on the north side of the Bristol Channel amounted to no fewer than 55,000,000 tons, more than 20 per cent. of the total clearances from all the ports in this country.
In addition to the docks, the railways, the mines, steelworks and tinplate works, large numbers of ancillary undertakings were developed and were working prosperously, with the hope of further prosperity and greater expansion in the future. When the world War came—and this must be noted in examining the causes of distress in South Wales—the whole of the industrial life of this part of the country was transformed, and the industries were converted to war purposes. There were the usual stories of prosperity. It was a period of high prices and large profits; the industrial concerns in South Wales made fabulous profits indeed. Those profits are staggering when one looks back in retrospect from this distant period. These War profits were distributed by men who had large interests in trustification and amal- 2087 gamation, but who had little knowledge of business, little social conscience and little idea of their duties to the community. They bought and sold industrial concerns at five or ten times their value. It was a question of easy come and easy go. Money was bandied about in this way, and the post-War industry of South Wales was saddled with a mortgage which was impossible of being sustained. We are now paying a tremendous price because of the short-sightedness of the people who controlled industry in those days.
I now come to the beginning of this doleful experience which has come upon us, and has existed from 1920 to this day. There came a slump due to very special causes—bad politics, Reparations: debt settlements. It was the politics of this House that struck the first heavy blow at South Wales, from which it has not recovered. We had been the special victims of wrong political ideas. The deadly blow which was struck at us in 1920 has damaged us so severely that we have not yet even begun to recover. Our condition has worsened to a greater extent still by the mistaken and ruinous policy of the Government of the day. I will tell the Committee what has happened to the coal industry since 1920, as I am sure that it does not realise the fact. In 1920 we produced 46,250,000 tons of coal in South Wales, and in 1934 we produced 35,000,000 tons. In 1920 the output, as I have said, was 46,250,000 tons, the value of production £125,000,000, the wages paid £66,000,000, profits £26,000,000, and the number of people employed 234,161. Take 1934, after 14 years of depression—I give the figures for 1934 because they are complete and reliable—the output was 35,000,000 tons, the proceeds £26,750,000, wages £15,500,000, profits £2,000,000 and the number of people employed 138,806, about half the number of those who were employed in 1920. The proceeds of production have, therefore, dropped to about 20 per cent. and the wages are down to less than 25 per cent. of the 1920 standard, and the number of people employed has declined by 50 per cent. That is a terrible story of disaster, loss, unemployment, commercial stagnation and of ruin overtaking individual concerns.
The decline in the coal trade which caught the owners unprepared was met by them by an attack upon wages which we 2088 remember so well. The Government of the country at that time came to an agreement with the owners and prepared a joint attack upon miners' wages. They were only too successful. Miners' wages are at a miserable level to-day because of the combination of forces of the Government of 1921 and the coalowners at that time. We were told, those of us who sat in joint meetings with the coal owners, that if we reduced the costs of coal by 2s. 6d. a ton we could regain the whole of our trade in the world. A cut of 2s. 6d. was made, and at the end of 12 months we were asked to let them have a further concession of 2s. 6d. from miners' wages. That cut was again made, with the result that miners are now working at wages very much less than they were in 1914. Half our people are out of work. More than 200 mines have closed down, and concern after concern has gone into liquidation, with disastrous effects upon the savings of small investors, those who respond to the prospectuses in the daily papers and have no knowledge of industrial business themselves. The retired grocer, small schoolmaster and even the retired policeman with a few pounds allowed their money to go to people who write prospectuses so attractively and well, and who, having gained his confidence have absolute freedom to dispose of the small man's savings. Thousands of men have been ruined in South Wales by the liquidation of colliery companies and the reorganisation of iron and steel and other industrial companies. This deadwood, ruthlessly cut out, is now to be seen in South Wales rotting, and there is no prospect of relief or help from any quarter.
I think that the Committee should know that many of the coalowners came to understand this game of liquidation very well and that they liquidated for their own purposes, that they wrote down capital with the assistance of the banks, and brought their own concerns on to the market and bought them in again for "an old song," or for very little, and made a fresh start with new capital. The scandal should be made public, and the world should know how far that special wickedness has been carried on in South Wales. The same process has gone on in the iron and steel industry. We have had reorganisation and amalgamation and nationalisation 2089 with the result that employment has declined. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell the whole story about employment in the steel industry, and perhaps one of his colleagues will repair the omission. Although we are producing steel at the rate of 11,000,000 tons this year—we shall probably exceed that figure, and I should not be surprised if it does not come very near to 12,000,000 tons—the fact remains that we have fewer people employed to produce that larger quantity than we had in respect of the production of a smaller quantity in 1929 and 1917, the years of the previous peak levels in the industry. The numbers of people employed in all these industries have declined, but I am now devoting myself mainly to the terrible plight of the mining industry. In this district miners wages have gone down by no less than £1,000,000 a week. That is the effect of the details which I gave to the Committee a few minutes ago. Those who are in employment are working for £1,000,000 less per week than those who worked in the same industry in 1920. Although individual production has been increased, there are now between 160,000 and 170,000 persons out of work in the South Wales coalfield, the majority of whom belong to the coal industry.
This enormous loss is not only suffered by miners. I would point out how these losses have been distributed. Everybody has suffered loss. If one divides the people who have been affected by the depression of the last 15 years into categories, there is first of all, the loss suffered by individual shareholders, who, when a concern goes into liquidation or is wound up, lose the value of their share capital. There is the loss of profits on the part of those who have invested in concerns which are still working, but are doing so at a loss. There is the loss of value on building property, which is widespread and catastrophic in district after district. There is the loss of professional incomes, and losses by tradespeople. There has been a grave decline in the income from all sources.
We have had the Special Area Commissioner giving us attention now for nearly two years, pointing out the tragedy and the pathos of life in this once prosperous area. I do not think that this House can allow its responsibility to devolve upon the Special Area Commissioner, a man with a roving commission, 2090 a kind of touch-and-go, who comes in contact with the problem only indirectly and does not give the whole of his time to the area and does not carry the full authority of the State behind him in everything he has to do. We live in a community which is governed by as near a democracy as this country or the world can show. In this area we have built up a democratic system of government which controls our local authorities, maintains our social services and our public services upon a standard of which we are very proud indeed. In this area, where all the powers of disintegration and demoralisation are at work, we are not demoralised. We are still alive. We insist upon living upon a high level, as far as we are allowed to do. We are giving education as good as that which is given in any part of this country, or anywhere in the world. We are trying to maintain decent housing conditions and to sustain the health of our people, because we dare not allow the health of our people to suffer in consequence of the follies of Governments in the past. We are fighting hard to maintain our position, and are meeting with a large measure of success. If we receive the encouragement and help of this House, we can pull our people through this period even now.
There has been, unfortunately, a great decline in the resources of local authorities. I have figures to show that from 1920 to 1934 the value of production in our three main industries has declined by £171,000,000 a year. I do not know what the total decline of income is, but I would put it at a higher figure, perhaps £200,000,000 a year, representing the sum of our purchasing power as compared with the period of 15 years ago. The financial conditions of our local authorities has been very seriously weakened. Idle mines do not pay rates, and the burden of rates has been thrown upon the people who are unemployed and the struggling tradespeople who cannot make both ends meet. There is a loss of population of young people who go away not under the happiest of auspices, but who have to go, and they go in very large numbers. Our elderly people have to remain. Our population is one of young and old, very old and unemployed people and very young people, who have to be cared for. That is the kind of population that remains to us after this 2091 very severe period of depression through which we are passing.
We are losing our population, and the resources which would enable us to meet our community responsibilities. Take, for example, the town of Merthyr. Its rates are on a very much reduced assessable value. Its property is losing in value every day. It is assessed at a lower level, and the rates rise in proportion as the assessable value falls. The rates stand at 28s. in the pound, of which 16s. in the pound is accounted for poor rate. The resources of local authorities have been depleted. They have been reduced, and if the depression continues, there will have to be a further reduction still. We have public debts of no less than £40,000,000. The interest rate is from 6¼ per cent. to 3¼ per cent. The capital debt has been considerably increased and the aggregate amount of rates is 200 per cent. higher than in 1914. Let me give some examples. In Aberdare, in 1913–14 the rates were 9s. 8d. in the £, and in 1934–35 20s.; in Pontypridd, in 1913–14, 10s. 10d. in the £, and in 1934–35 21s. 2d.; in Rhondda, in 1913–14, the figure was 7s. 9d. in the £, and in 1934–35 22s. 9d.; and in Gelligaer in 1913–14 it was 11s., and in 1934–35 24s. 3d. In all the urban districts the county demand for public assistance is greater than the total amount of rates in 1914. The number of people in receipt of public assistance went up from 45,000 in 1921 to 130,000 in 1935, and the number is still rising.
I would ask the Committee to extend some consideration to the plea which I am about to make on behalf of this district. We must have considerably more spending power in South Wales. Our earnings must be increased. We cannot cope with our administrative responsibilities if the earning and purchasing power of the community and of the individual continues to decline as in recent years. There is an increasing number of unemployed people who are passing out of insurance and who are thrown upon the means test. The Committee must remember that the object of the means test is to preclude certain persons from benefit and to place the national responsibility upon the households to which those persons are attached. A continuation and accentuation of the means test will bring still 2092 greater difficulties not only to the households of the people concerned but to the community to which they belong.
We are not unmindful of the way in which we have been assisted by the community, but it has not been fully recognised that the principle of the means test does not operate as it ought to do. Hon. Members may say that it is a right thing to have a means test and a family means test, and they may ask why a fortunate person should not make a contribution to an unfortunate member of the same household who is out of work.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
My point is that if that principle is good in the household it is good in the whole country, and the country must be prepared to give more generous assistance to those in South Wales who are suffering not because of any fault of their own but through faults of previous Administrations and indeed of the present Administration. I have said that the Government has given assistance. The net contributions from the Treasury have been about £30,000,000, spread over the period from 1920. Total unemployment benefits have varied from £5,000,000 in 1928 to £9,000,000 in 1935, a very substantial sum, but be it remembered that when people are receiving their unemployment benefit the average amount per applicant is just over £1 a week, which is about half as much as a person would get if he were in any low-paid employment. The unemployed man gets less than half as much unemployment benefit as he would get if he were in work.
I should hate to think that South Wales is an area which now undeservedly makes claims upon its rich relations and asks them to come to its assistance. That is not an accurate picture of the case. It is a distortion of economic facts which is not easy to refute, but we protest against the idea that the South Wales coalfield, that highly industrialised area, is in debt to any part of Great Britain, or is asking for undeserved charity from any part of the country or from the country as a whole. We are the victims of world prices, and to quarrel with those is to quarrel with the world system. We have evidence enough that nothing that we have done is responsible for the condition 2093 that we are in. I will give over again three significant figures affecting the three main industries of South Wales to show how they have suffered in recent years. In 1913 the value of the production of those three industries was £53,250,000; in 1920 the value was £221,000,000 and in 1934, £52,500,000. In that time prices have gone up and down. No one would say that the South Wales miner, the South Wales iron worker or the South Wales citizen is in any way responsible for that condition of things. Is it right therefore that he should bear the whole burden of the deprivation of purchasing power and income which has resulted? We have had 15 years of depressed prices, and in that period we have gone back 40 years in our standard of living.
On the question of the transference of industry, of which we have heard so much, I should like to say to the President of the Board of Trade, please do something to allay the apprehensions of the people of South Wales on this point. This threat to remove from us a source of the meagre incomes that we receive at the present time and to take away from us one of our main resources comes almost as a sentence of death to the localities directly concerned and also a sentence of extreme penalty upon the whole of South Wales. I hope that the Minister will today send us away on holiday not singing "Roses, roses, all the way," but that he will give us a straight hint of the Government's intention to protect us from further deprivation and further deterioration in South Wales. Leading industrialists in South Wales in the past have complained of Government interference. That is where they were wrong. They were childishly wrong. I have said to them and I say to-day that they have now a Government of their own choice. They have been given protection, protection ill-distributed, and now they call aloud for help. Those who call for help from the Government do not sit on these benches but they are represented on the benches opposite, and they are blaming the Government for the difficulties they have had to experience in industry in South Wales.
This Government has given protection to several industries in this country. A shelter has been provided by the State. It is a kind of subsidy. There is no 2094 disguising that fact. A person limits his mobility voluntarily when he takes advantage of a shelter provided by somebody else. These people who are protected by the State and still claiming the right to shelter should not have the right to move at their own free will and to leave the communities to bear the burden consequent upon their action. Those communities have built themselves around the industries in South Wales. The capital of the community may exceed and often does exceed tenfold the value of the industrial capital. It is represented in workpeople's houses, rates, health services, transport, schools, hospitals, churches and everything that appertains to the amenities of those who have spent years of service in industry. We trust that we shall not be told that the policy of the Government remains unchanged. I hope that they will introduce one change and declare that change to-day, and that is that these people shall not desert the communities which have stood by them and helped them to build up their industries.
I would ask the President of the Board of Trade and the Government to consider a plan for the industrial reorganisation of South Wales. I am vain enough to believe that I could do something for South Wales if I had the power. I do not believe that it is impossible to reorganise South Wales. Given a planning authority with the co-operation of Government Departments, with a sympathetic and understanding Treasury, and also representative of the industry, of the local authorities and the people of the area, we could accomplish much. If the Treasury would say: "We will assist you with the necessary finance," we could set up a body with authority to provide cheap power, cheap transport, if necessary, and with authority to take advantage of whatever trade agreements the Minister might bring in from time to time, and of whatever tariffs or quota arrangements were necessary. We could give that planning authority the responsibility of reorganising production in South Wales. I feel sure that if the Government did that they would be able to claim a far greater achievement than anything contained in the wonderfully attractive speech of the President of the Board of Trade. He went far and wide to collect laurels, but unless he gives back prosperity to the South Wales coalfields and to the de- 2095 pressed areas of Tyneside and the Clyde, his great conquests abroad, and the record of his achievements in negotiations, will count for nothing with our people.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am one of those who never can listen to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) without feeling that in his contributions to our debates his utterances are sincere and deserving of the sympathetic attention of every one. I have never known him to show spite in anything that he says, and for that reason the Welsh blood in me responds to the sentiments that he expressed in describing the condition of the area which he has so eloquently brought to our attention. The figures that he gave were most impressive, showing that South Wales in general has suffered terribly and that those whose whole livelihood is concerned with the coalfields of South Wales have suffered much more, but he was wise enough to point out that those sufferings have also extended even to the wicked capitalists in South Wales, for whereas the wages have fallen to one-sixth he stated that the profits have declined to something like one-twelfth or one-thirteenth.
I know that it is not the smallest consolation to the hon. Member to tell him that the rest of the country is gradually moving forward to prosperity, and it is not a consolation to he told that South Wales would be in complete collapse but for the fact that the rest of the country has helped, to a certain extent, to carry the distressed areas on their backs.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I think the hon. Member if he thinks it out must realise that if the rest of the country was as impoverished as South Wales and the other depressed areas, the state of the depressed areas would be even worse than it is. That is obvious. In saying that one does not belittle the terrible tragedy of the depressed areas. The hon. Member was hardly fair in blaming the Government for the condition of things. He might blame the Government for not having that Welsh wizardry which will establish some new form of industry there, but this condition of things has been going on under various Governments. In the course of his speech the 2096 hon. Member pointed out that the whole position was governed by world prices in regard to the coal trade in particular, on which South Wales is dependent. The Government cannot control world prices and, therefore, we cannot attribute the blame to them. The area with which the hon. Member is well acquainted has probably suffered more than any other, but if you are going to blame the Government you must also congratulate them in that the total production of coal has increased to a greater extent than the loss in our export trade. That is broadly true. The Government are entitled to say that by giving new life to the heavy industries of the country they have greatly increased the home consumption of coal for domestic purposes.
I want to deal with the general trade position of the country. I was a little upset to hear that the Government's policy is unchanged. I was hoping to hear that it was going to be considerably speeded up. It will be agreed, I believe, that a policy of moderate protection has done a great deal to change the position of this country from what it was in 1931, when hon. Members of the Liberal party entered the Government in order to correct the adverse balance of trade.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Sir Herbert Samuel, who was then the Leader of the Liberal party, declared that it was essential to correct the adverse balance of trade.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I believe that the right hon. Member and his party voted for the abnormal duties, but not for the moderate tariff which was proposed. He voted for the Wheat subsidy but not for the 10 per cent. duty on competitive manufactures. Surely the trouble from which we suffer in our economic policy is the fact that His Majesty's Government from the inception did not make it clear to the Import Duties Advisory Committee exactly what was the policy at which they were aiming. Had the Government decided on some policy which would give such protection to our industries as would secure the greatest amount of employment for our people and the maintenance of reasonable prices, we should 2097 be in a stronger position to-day than we are. Instead, the Government had no definite policy. We have had some discussions in this House on one or two main items, but the main duty of deciding the amount of the various import duties has been handed over to the Import Duties Advisory Committee. I pay my tribute to the extraordinary amount of work they have done, and it is greatly to the credit of our British system that there has not been one word or suggestion that hon. Members in any part of the House have tried to Lobby to get the duties down or to get them up. That is a tremendous tribute to the method by which the Government decided to take this question out of politics.
I do not quite see the responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade in regard to this matter. The Department which is responsible, in so far as the duties are presented to this House, is the Treasury.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I submit that it is competent, after the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, to suggest that the general level of our tariff system is either inadequate or too high.
The difficulty I see is that although that line of argument may be quite admissible on the suitable occasion, it is the Treasury who are responsible for deciding whether or not any recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee should come before this House, and not the right hon. Gentleman whose Department is now being discussed.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Do I understand you to rule that we are precluded from discussing a rise or fall in tariffs, because, if that is so, it narrows the discussion so considerably as to make the Debate hardly worth while?
It has been so ruled before; and if hon. Members will look at the Import Duties Act they will discover that there is only one duty for which the Board of Trade is independently responsible, and that is in recommending an import duty to the House because of unfair discrimination on the part of a foreign country. So far as I am aware, that particular power of the Board of Trade has never been exercised. The remaining duties are presented to this House by the Treasury. 2098 The recommendations of the Import Duties Advisory Committee are presented on the responsibility of the Treasury, and by Statute it is the Treasury who have power to accept or refuse to put the recommendations forward. Therefore I am bound to hold, as I have before, that these are matters which should be raised on the Treasury Vote, and not on this Vote.
§ Sir P. HANNON
Is it not competent, following the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, to raise in the Debate questions affecting the progress of industry in relation to the tariff policy of the country, quite apart from the Import Duties Advisory Committee? Are we not competent to criticise or approve the actions of the Board of Trade in relation to the general commercial policy of the country?
I did not understand that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was doing that. He was criticising the level of tariffs, which is quite a different matter. The level of tariffs can only be altered either by Statute or on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, and I am pointing out that that is a matter in which the Board of Trade have no responsibility; the responsibility rests with the Treasury. Of course it is open to hon. Members to say that a tariff policy is good or not; and to argue whether they agree with it or do not.
As a general argument, yes. I am pointing out that any alteration as a matter of Government policy is not technically the responsibility of the Board of Trade, but is the responsibility of the Treasury.
§ Sir ROBERT TASKER
Are we precluded from discussing the effect of the action of the Board of Trade in relation to an industry like coal?
Certainly not, if it is the action of the Board of Trade. There are certain things which are technically the responsibility of the Treasury, and we must not expect the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to answer for a 2099 Department for which he is not responsible.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am grateful for your Ruling, and I appreciate that it is not competent for me to discuss the decisions of the Advisory Committee, but I gather that we may discuss the policy which the President of the Board of Trade rightly claims is in a large measure responsible for the prosperity of the country and, therefore, I shall be in order in suggesting that if the level of duties which were recommended to the House in 1931 and 1932 was correct, then, as things have moved so much since, it cannot be the correct level to-day.
I want to deal with the general flow of trade in regard to imports and exports during the last few years, and I will take the complete year 1932, which was the year before the full tariff came into operation, and the complete year 1935, and, I think, if I take as a basis the values of the year 1930, it will be a fair way of dealing with the subject. I will take Class 3 goods, deducting the principal items to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, non-ferrous metals, manufactured, oils, resins and fat, as being of a non-competitive character—although I cannot agree that they are so in all cases—and I find that in 1932 the imports into this country of Class 3 goods amounted to £122,500,000. In 1935 they amounted to £144,767,000. That is a very alarming increase, assuming that we were at the correct level in 1932. The fact is that there has been a steady increase in the retained imports of these goods between 1932 and 1935. They have increased by 18 per cent as compared with an increase of only 8 per cent. over the whole range of all classes of retained imports.
I submit that this is a serious change in the position, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that there are many hon. Members who do not appreciate the argument that a large proportion of these goods are semi-manufactured articles which undergo further processes in this country, because these further processes would be carried out just the same if the articles themselves were manufactured in this country. If you take the total imports of manufactures coming into this country at the present time which might be produced in this 2100 country, they represent the employment of something like 400,000 workers. Therefore, I suggest that we cannot view the present situation with complacency. Everybody knows that, compared with the doleful years of the Socialist Government, we have much improved the situation, but we cannot have any great satisfaction yet that the position has been restored. I am certainly not going to rest content with 1,700,000 unemployed workers in this country, because I am quite convinced that if the Government were really resolute in applying a well-proved policy with greater scientific methods, we should see a large number of additional persons absorbed into industry.
I will give the Committee a few facts which, I think, will interest it. These figures were got out for me by very expert and quick workers, and I do not suppose anybody else has had time to get them out. The facts which they disclose are surprising and indeed staggering. If one takes the six months ending 30th June of this year, compared with 1932, one gets the following surprising results. There was an increase in domestic and fancy glassware coming into this country of 93,813 hundredweights, that is, 143 per cent. In the case of machine tools there was an increase of 227 per cent. The increase here is perhaps excusable, and we may have to go on importing because we are not in a position to produce them in this country at the present time. In the case of typewriters there was an increase of 388 tons, or 233 per cent. There was an increase of 343 per cent. in refrigerating machinery. For cotton yarns and manufactures, I will give the figure in pounds sterling: the figure has risen from £690,000 to £1,300,000, an increase of £612,000, or 88 per cent. There was an increase of 114 per cent, in the number of square yards of carpets coming into the country. This represents very serious competition with the carpet trade of this country, which is feeling the draught very badly. There was an increase of 157 per cent. in women's dresses. Art-silk stockings and hosiery have risen from 212,000 dozen pairs to 959,000, an increase of 746,000, or 350 per cent. The figure for women's leather boots and shoes has gone up by 116 per cent.
§ Mr. BENSON
The figures which the hon. and gallant Member is quoting give 2101 a comparison between now and the very lowest point of the industrial depression. Could he not make a comparison with 1928, which was the last normal year?
§ Sir H. CROFT
That does not affect the argument I am putting forward. I want to see imports prohibited in the case of goods which we have proved can be equally well manufactured in this country. I believe that is very largely the policy of His Majesty's Government, with a view to correcting as far as possoble the adverse balance of trade, but since that policy was adopted there has been this colossal increase to which I am referring. It is that increase to which I am calling the attention of the Government. The same applies in the case of tissue paper, where there has been an increase of 81 per cent., and motor cars, where the increase has been one of £1,000,000, which may appear to be small, but which represents in the four years in question an increase of 511 per cent. I think it will be agreed by hon Members that these increases are very large. I do not wish to weary the Committee with any further details of that nature, but I would suggest that it would be worth while hon. Members studying the figures themselves, and if they do so, they will see that the increase in imports during the last four years has been a very rapid one. If the right hon. Gentleman is interested, I will hand him the list from which I have quoted, and I think he will be impressed by the amounts as well as by the percentage increases.
I wish also to call attention to the very grave position with regard to the adverse balance of trade. I remember that in 1928 I had the audacity to warn the House that in a very few years time we would have a grave crisis unless we did something to remedy the adverse balance of trade. Everybody said how foolish it was to talk in that way because in this country we have always had invisible trading arrangements, so that the adverse balance of trade does not matter. I think the right hon. Gentleman must admit that the figures disclosed to-day are really serious, because, taking the last month, there is an adverse balance of trade of £30,000,000 sterling, which is a very serious figure. The position has been steadily going in the wrong direction during the last year. 2102 The figure for the first half of this year was £162,500,000, that is to say, £38,500,000 worse than for the same six months of last year. Naturally, if the right hon. Gentleman could assure us that our invisible exports have increased to the same extent that the adverse balance of trade has gone against us, we could feel fairly happy, although I would still not be content, because it seems to me that the direction of the policy is wrong. Surely the position is a very alarming one, and unless the right hon. Gentleman can give some assurance that the invisible exports have greatly increased during the same period, then as sure as fate we are getting back to the position of 1931. I beg the Government not to regard this question with sluggish complacency, but to get busy and to see whether it is not possible even now, by a more scientific adjustment of the tariff system, to exclude at least £75,000,000 or £80,000,000 of manufactures which unnecessarily come into this country at the present time, and thereby give a very greatly increased measure of employment to our own people.
In conclusion, I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman express his faith and hope in the possibilities of greater trade expansion in the Dominions. Surely it is time we began to think a little more of the potential value of those markets. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that since Ottawa imports from the Dominions to this country have increased by £38,000,000, and that our exports to the Dominions during the same period have increased by £37,500,000, almost completely balancing. What a wonderful thing it is, when the exports of the rest of the world have been going down, that the family of British nations have been able to increase their trade in this way one with another owing to sane and sound trading arrangements. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to give any pledge in this Debate or between now and the time of the next Imperial Conference that he is going to adopt the one-sided approach that was adopted at Ottawa. I do not think anyone will accuse me of being anti-Empire. [Interruption.] I am grateful for the implied assent. I can say with absolute truth that my sympathy with the people of the Empire is so great that I feel just the same towards 2103 a Canadian, an Australian or a New Zealander, as I do to a man from Yorkshire or Lancashire. It must never be forgotten that they saved our existence at a certain great time in our history, and I think that if we get together in trade we shall help one another through these difficult times.
But in spite of all that, I think it would be unwise, in discussing great business arrangements, for us to say to the Dominions, "Everything you send us during the next few years can come into this country free; now what are you going to do about it?" Even if I were having a business argument with my hon. Friends here and we were trying to fix up a trading arrangement, I would not throw all my cards away before entering the conference room. I submit that we should be wise if we got back to Joseph Chamberlain's idea that we should impose a small duty on Dominion products, but that we should give a very substantial preference. Surely, if that were done we should have some sort of argument to fall back on. We should then have a far greater chance of securing a greater amount of Free Trade within the Empire than we should have if we merely said to the Dominions that we were going to continue to maintain Free Trade for their goods in this country, whereas they might be imposing tariffs of 30 per cent., 40 per cent, or 50 per cent. against our goods in their markets. That is not the way in which to get the best results ultimately. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take great care that next time he and his colleagues meet the Dominions representatives they will approach the whole question from the angle of great friendship and of congratulation on mutual success, but at the same time reckon on the definite fact that they are not merely dealing with Dominion foodstuffs and raw materials; for we have to contemplate fierce competition in the sphere of manufactured articles from the Empire overseas in days to come, and while we prefer the products of the Dominions to those of foreigners, we must not allow our action in this matter to bring disaster to our industries in this country.
§ Mr. A. HOPKINSON
May I ask the hon. and gallant Baronet to clear up one 2104 point? Again and again he has used the phrase "adverse balance of trade." I gather he means the difference between the value of the material wealth coming into this country and the material wealth going out, and that what he calls the adverse balance merely represents the excess coming into this country in any given year.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I have referred to it, in the sense that His Majesty's Government do through the Department. First of all, there is the adverse balance of trade in actual goods and commodities, and secondly, as corrected by invisible exports.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
Although I do not differ in principle from the hon. and gallant Baronet, I would venture to point out to him that it is quite a fallacy to talk about the adverse balance of trade without taking into consideration overseas bullion and capital transactions. Does the Board of Trade call it a trade balance or a balance on oversea transactions?
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Sir Robert Young)
The hon. Member is getting in his speech before he is called upon, instead of asking the question for which he rose.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. W. ROBERTS
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Baronet in the remarks he has been making, except to say that I come from the North of England where we are interested in the export trade, and I would like to ask him one question. He was referring to our exports and I would ask him how the foreigner is to pay for our coal if he is not allowed to send goods into this country? Having said that, I would like to make a few references to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. Though I am well aware that my first name is not David, I venture to say that I was disappointed in some of the statements which he made. He did not appear to give much hope for the northern counties in which I am interested. I also listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) who dealt in the same way with South Wales.
There is a particular matter which I propose to raise in due course with regard to one of the heavy industries in 2105 the North, but at the moment I desire to make some remarks on the general question of the future of our heavy export industries. The right hon. Gentleman said that his faith in the policy of the Government was unshaken and that that policy remained unchanged, but in another part of his speech he said that he relied mainly for our future prosperity upon internal trade, and that remark filled me with considerable gloom. He is relying upon bilateral agreements which have been concluded over a series of years, and he mentioned some figures showing a considerable increase in our exports to the Ottawa countries. But that belief in bilateral agreement is not shared by other Members of the Government. I notice that on 15th June last the Lord President of the Council, speaking at Cardiff, said:Tariffs, subsidies, quotas and restrictions on the currency that could be exported to creditor countries, were problems that could not be solved merely by bilateral negotiations.It is that very question which I wish to bring to the notice of the President of the Board of Trade. Is he still so confident that bi-lateral negotiation is the method of restoring this country to the position which it once held? He himself has said that it would be necessary to remove tariffs and quotas in order to get back to the relative prosperity which we enjoyed in 1929. I need not give hon. Members figures with which they are no doubt familiar beyond mentioning that our exports in those days amounted to £729,000,000 or thereabouts and that to-day they represent only £425,000,000, in spite of the increase to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The increase of £36,000,000 to the Ottawa countries between 1931 and 1935 represents the total increase in our export trade, and the increases due to the agreements are infinitesimal compared with the huge leeway which we have to make up if we are to recover the position held by us before the great slump. In 1931 our exports to the 16 agreement countries were £109,000,000. In 1935 they were £110,000,000. To the countries with no bi-lateral agreements they were £110,000,000 in 1931, and now they are £111,000,000, in round figures. Is not that a clear indication that those agreements will never restore to us the position that we have lost? In my opinion, they are a positive hindrance to us in the recovery 2106 of our position. If I can find no encouragement at home, I shall have to look for it abroad and I feel that, possibly, the example which the United States is giving at present affords somewhat greater hope for the recovery of world trade. Mr. Cordell Hull recently said:Just as we set the vicious example of erecting trade barriers and high tariffs which induced others to follow us, so now we are asking other nations to join us in an attempt to undo the damage which our collective action has worked.I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the American method, which differs from the British method in these matters, is not perhaps the right one and whether he could not, even to-day, co-operate with the United States in a definite, deliberate and persistent attempt to remove the shackles which are hampering trade to-day and which in the belief of some of us are forcing countries nearer to the possibility of war.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The level of the American tariff is exceedingly high, but in some of the agreements now being made by the United States, tariffs are being reduced by anything from 16 to 50 per cent. I would also point out that these are not bilateral agreements in the sense in which we understand the term in this country. The point to which I wish especially to direct the attention of the President of the Board of Trade is not unrelated to this general question, because I believe that the interests of the North of England, Wales and Scotland, the interests of the workers in the heavy industries who have suffered such a long period of unemployment, are intimately connected with the recovery of our exports in iron and steel, cotton and coal. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the exports of coal in the last half year were lower, and I would direct attention to the position in the iron and steel trade, where our exports are little more than half what they were before the slump.
The particular question which arises in this connection has been discussed in the House of Commons on another occasion. I refer to the proposed steelworks at Jarrow. I do not claim to be an expert 2107 in the iron and steel trade, but if the correspondence published in the Press and the Debates which took place here and in another place are studied, I think it will appear, as the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) pointed out, that this is a question of general public interest. I speak of it not because it is a question which affects the Special Areas. In some ways, I think it unfortunate that the issue has been rather confused as a result of the impression which has got abroad that the project to create a new steelworks at Jarrow was in some way a philanthropic measure for the relief of unemployment. I believe that the proposal is something bigger even than that, and that it affects the whole question of the redevelopment of our iron and steel industry with a view to the recovery of some of our lost exports in that line. It is a disquieting suggestion that such an opportunity of industrial expansion has been missed owing, possibly, to the short-sighted policy of the interests concerned and I feel that we are entitled to a full explanation, by some impartial authority, of what has happened. Statements, cross-statements and denials have been made and the general public has been left in a somewhat bewildered state of mind.
I believe that if the public statements are carefully studied it will be found that the facts of the case are now fairly clearly established. The fundamental facts seem to be that this proposal to establish a basic bessemer steel plant at Jarrow was recommended by some of the greatest experts in the steel industry—the firm of Brassert & Company—and that the proposal was for a fully integrated plant for the manufacture of certain other products in addition to the basic bessemer. The process which it was proposed to adopt at Jarrow is one which is only being carried out at one other place in England, namely Corby. It produces a type of steel which is largely imported at the present time and a large part of which cannot be made at present in England except at Corby. It also appears that Jarrow offered opportunities of special value for developing the export trade of the Tyneside to-day. Lastly—I am quoting what I believe to be the views of a great number of experts—the process would cheapen the production of steel enormously.
2108 That is the case for a steel works of this sort at Jarrow. It was not to be a small plant but was to be two or three or more times the size of the old steel works which it was to replace. In those circumstances it is a matter of vital interest to the House of Commons and to all who are concerned in the redevelopment of the North of England to know why the project has not been carried out. We are constantly told that the only permanent solution of the problem on the North-East Coast, in West Cumberland and in Scotland is the revival of the basic industries. Here was an opportunity, and I think we are justified in asking the President of the Board of Trade and the authorities concerned to give a full explanation as to why this particular opportunity should have been allowed to slip. The report of the experts also took into consideration the question of whether another site on the North-East Coast would be equally satisfactory. The report, I understand, stated that Tees-side would be equally satisfactory for a plant of this sort. After very protracted negotiations, developments took place on Tees-side which made it less desirable to establish the plant at Jarrow, but those developments which have taken place on Tees-side are not carrying out the recommendations of the experts, but are rather hurried extensions of plants which exist. It is not a question of introducing the basic Bessemer process on Tees-side; it is a question of meeting the immediate demand which there is for steel by rather patchwork developments which have none of the advantages of reducing the cost of production or giving the opportunity of recapturing some of our lost export trade in steel.
The three parties concerned have been the syndicate which originally obtained an option on the site and originally developed the idea, the Iron and Steel Trades Federation, and, of course, the Government, though I think the Government appear to have taken a somewhat negative part in a project of very great importance. We have heard that the syndicate, on the recommendation of its experts—and their experts too, for the same firm was acting for both the syndicate and the Federation—could have acted on its own and that the Federation had no power to prevent such a development. It appears to me, again speaking with no specialised knowledge of this 2109 subject, a rather negative attitude for the great Iron and Steel Trades Federation to take up to say, "Well, if you want to start a, new plant, you can, but it has nothing to do with us whether you do or whether you do not." I hardly think that that is the attitude which a reorganised industry should take up towards a project of such considerable importance, not only to Jarrow, but to the country as a whole, and it would seem to me that the policy which actually they did adopt up to a certain time is more the policy which one would expect such an organisation to adopt, namely, that they considered the experts' report, and that they attempted to see what co-operation could be obtained on the North-East Coast. They did obtain some very substantial support from among their members, but finally, it appears to me, this question of whether or not the industry should have been started could have been, and possibly should have been, referred to the Government. In fact, I think the Iron and Steel Trades Federation have power to prevent such a development merely by withholding their approval, and I believe that everybody who is concerned in these things knows quite well that without that approval finance would not he obtainable from any of the finance houses in London.
§ Sir P. HANNON
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member entitled to refer to the Iron and Steel Trades Federation in this connection? Surely the President of the Board of Trade has no control over the Federation?
§ Mr. MAGNAY
On that point of Order. Surely the Board of Trade, which appointed Sir Andrew Duncan to organise the iron and steel trade, as he had done before that the great electricity grid, have some oversight over that organisation?
§ Mr. BENSON
Further to the point of Order. If we are not entitled to discuss trade in general, surely we can discuss nothing. The right hon. Gentleman has no control over any industry, and if we are not entitled to discuss the Iron and Steel Trades Federation, we may as well close the Debate.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
The Committee are entitled to discuss the Iron and Steel Trades Federation in re- 2110 lation to any project that comes within the scope of this Vote.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The Federation have very close associations with their customers now, and through that association they can in fact, and through their rebate system, control production to some extent, and, of course, in addition the powers which have been given recently under the Finance Act place the Federation in an enormously strong position, so strong that it would be hopeless to attempt to go forward with a project of this sort without their approval. The fact of the matter is that part of the Iron and Steel Trades Federation, the chairman and others, have supported this project whole-heartedly and that there has been a division within their own ranks, and that that part of the Federation whose interests might have been adversely affected by the construction of a new plant has won the day. It is not for me to say whether the interests of Tees-side would or would not have been affected, but there again I suggest that if the question of increasing employment in Tees-side or in Jarrow was in fact—I am not convinced that it was—the question which influenced the decision, it appears to me that there again the Government, with their special organisation for dealing with the distressed areas, should have been consulted.
The outcome of the whole thing is that apparently the difficulties now in the way of establishing this great, modern, up-to-date plant are greatly increased. Instead of that, there are certain developments on Tees-side. I hope the matter is not going to be left there. What I fear is that the immediate dividend prospect of certain firms may have overridden the wider national interest.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
If that is the case, then I think there is an unanswerable case for the Government to step in, to look into the question fully, and to let the public know what has happened. The Government have given this Federation great powers, and I think it is the duty of this Committee to see that those powers are not used in the interests of one small section of one industry, but that they are used in the interests of the industry and the country as a whole. We 2111 have heard that there is a danger of over-production and that there has been redundant plant in the iron and steel trade since the War, but there is also another danger, and that is that the powers which have been given to the industry may be used to limit its output or its capacity for output, and it seems to me that if there is a danger of the dead hand of the past preventing the modern equipment of British industry, and as vital a British industry as the iron and steel trade, then indeed there is a case fully made out for a public inquiry into the whole matter. I ask that when the Minister replies he may give us a full statement of the situation up to date and that he will grant such an inquiry.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. LIDDALL
I will not attempt to follow the last speaker in regard to the Iron and Steel Trades Federation, except to inform him that the federation is not a dead hand on that industry, but is a very up-to-date federation and that it has carried out that great scheme of reorganisation which has helped in no small way to make the iron and steel industry of this country as prosperous as it is at this moment. Instead of the dead hand or encouraging any derelict concerns, it is only prepared to support those works that can be efficiently managed and carried on and that in the long run are in the interests of this country.
I rise really to make a few observations upon the trade agreements, and, critical though my observations may be, I would assure the President of the Board of Trade, through my hon. and gallant Friend the Minister for Mines, that my criticism will be friendly. I give way to no one, not even to hon. Members opposite, in my admiration of the right hon. Gentleman who is the President of the Board of Trade, and to-day I am more than ever convinced that no better man could have been found in the length and breadth of this country to supervise the great change-over in our national trade policy from Free Trade to Protection. There are certain points, however, in connection with the trade agreements on which I feel that one is justified in asking for an assurance from the Minister. It is frequently urged that special treatment should be given to the Argentine Republic because of the large amount of British 2112 capital invested there, and the Minister, in the House on 12th May last, stated that the amount so invested was estimated to be £435,000,000. The Minister also gave a further answer to a question put by me on 18th June to the effect that the latest available information regarding capital invested in Australia gave the amount as £524,000,000.
With regard to the Argentine the revenue from the investments was estimated to be £8,500,000, and in the case of Australia £27,300,000. The £8,500,000 in the case of the Argentine is the estimated revenue whether remitted to this country or not. It is not known what amount has not been remitted, but in the case of Australia this difficulty does not arise. I therefore ask the Minister to bear in mind these figures, which show that our interests financially are far greater in Australia than they are in Argentina, and that therefore, apart from all other considerations, Australian interests should not be sacrificed to those of the South American Republic.
The agreement previously made with Denmark was to some extent nullified by the withholding of licences by the Danes for the import of certain British goods from this country, and the Board of Trade are aware that at least one Lincoln firm lost orders on account of the delay in the granting of licences. Surely it is only reasonable to expect that the Danish Government should carry out their part of the agreement, and when they promise, as they recently did, to issue a substantial allocation of supplementary import licences, they should keep their promise. In regard to the difficulties which Lincoln firms have had and are still experiencing, I wish to acknowledge the helpful attitude of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, especially during the last few days, but I should appreciate the Minister's assurance that in the next agreement signed with Denmark the arrangement will be so definite that what is given with one hand will not be taken with the other. In the existing agreement with the Argentine certain restrictions are put upon the importation of chilled beef, except in experimental quantities, from Empire sources. Will the Minister in this case give his assurance that the progress of scientific research will not be hampered by such a restriction in any other agreement that may be signed? The encouragement of further 2113 discoveries should not be allowed either to hinder Australia's progress in that direction or to discourage Empire supplies as an alternative for this country.
In various agreements, such as that with Denmark, arrangements were made whereby the country concerned was to be permitted a certain definite amount of exports to this country. Denmark, for instance, was guaranteed an allocation of not less than 2,300,000 cwts. of butter in any one year. There seems to be no objection to guaranteeing any particular country a certain percentage of our imports, but to guarantee a certain specific amount in times such as these, which are changing with immense rapidity, seems to be a very dangerous precedent. I hope that the Minister will give his assurance on this point and that it will be carefully considered before any such concessions are made in any future agreements. It is generally agreed that the most-favoured-nation clause has been a continual handicap to the making of satisfactory bargains. In the various agreements that have been made it cannot have escaped the Minister's notice that concessions of a similar nature given to a number of different countries and embodied in agreements which expire at different times are, in effect, extended to those countries whose agreements expire at earlier dates because the mostfavoured-nation clause secures them to those countries until the expiration of the agreements which have not then been concluded. For example, the trade agreement with Denmark could have lapsed without notice on 20th June, but it has been temporarily continued. If, however, it had been permitted to lapse we should still have been compelled to treat Danish products on just as favourable terms, because the same restrictions on our powers to increase the duties on those products are also contained in a number of other agreements, like that with Estonia, which cannot be brought to an end till 31st December of this year.
Will the Minister take steps, either by making such agreement run for concurrent terms, or by some other means, to secure that countries shall not receive extended concessions for which nothing is given in return? In regard to the increasing seriousness of the German subsidisation of her export trade, which is responsible for so many lost orders to this country, I can only hope that the 2114 Minister will, as I am sure he will, keep the matter under constant review. By this method Germany is buying her way into our best markets, notably India, where she is making very free use of subsidies amounting to as much as 40 per cent. of the f.o.b. value of the goods. German manufacturers are frequently telling their customers that, whatever the British people quote, they will under-quote them by means of their subsidy. Our engineers have no subsidy, but the British Government have a new weapon with which effectively to retaliate, and I hope that the Minister will not hesitate to use it against this unfair foreign competition.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. MORRISON
Profiting by the example by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall), I propose to address some friendly criticisms to the Minister with regard to another department of the Board of Trade. I suppose that it is inevitable that in a general discussion on the work of a vast Department like the Board of Trade, there should be a certain amount of jumping from one subject to another. I propose to follow up a series of questions that have been asked in the House by Members of all parties during the last week or two in regard to a very extensive form of swindling that is taking place in the city of London and the country generally, and to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether there are not some steps he can take to curb the activities of certain people who are known under the somewhat unpleasant name of bucket-shopkeepers and share-pushers. This is not by any means a new subject, for it has been raised at Question time in the House recently, but the questions which have been put from all sides of the House have failed to elicit any indication from the right hon. Gentleman what his policy is, but have elicited only the fact that the point has been noted and that the information is being filed pending a general review of the Companies Act.
In the meantime, the activities of the people to whom I have referred are increasing with considerable rapidity, and I fear that the recent vague and ambiguous replies of the right hon. Gentleman have been taken by them as an encouragement to carry on. Almost every day thousands of misleading 2115 circulars are sent out. I did not want to bring a lot of stuff to the Committee this afternoon, but the right hon. Gentleman might care to spend some of his spare time reading the kind of thing which is going out. I have in my hand examples of the circulars which are being set out by the thousand by new firms which are springing up every day with high-sounding names and high-sounding addresses, with telephone numbers and cable addresses. The remarkable thing about these firms is that in spite of the fact that they have imposing names and seem to consist of a number of people, they always boil down to one person. Every one of the firms which are swindling innocent people of thousands of pounds describe themselves as stock and share brokers. In contrast to the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and his Department, the Home Office has been exceptionally active in trying to track these people down, but the people who go in for this kind of swindling upon a large scale are what they call in America "smart guys." Occasionally Scotland Yard is a little smarter than they are.
A recent case which was heard in the court came to my notice, where a group of these people arrived from America. On coming off the boat at Southampton, they engaged within half an hour a chauffeur and a motor car, and they were driven about and proceeded merrily on their way, hoping to be back in America within three months with their haul of plunder. Instead, they found themselves in the dock at the end of the three months, and, much to their surprise, a detective in the witness-box gave evidence of the detailed movements of the gang from the moment they arrived at Southampton. The reason why Scotland Yard managed to give such complete evidence of their activities was that the chauffeur whom the gang engaged was a Scotland Yard detective.
The Home Office, Scotland Yard and the City Police have been exceptionally clever in trying to get on the track of these people, but, unfortunately, the number who are caught are few, and unless the Board of Trade come to the support of the police these bucket shops and share-pushers will flourish and multiply. A notorious scoundrel many years ago was standing in the dock await- 2116 ing sentence, and when the judge asked him if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed, is reported to have said: "My lord, there are two classes in society, those with money and no brains and those with brains and no money. It seems to me perfectly natural that these two classes should be brought together for their mutual advantage." Apparently that is the guiding principle of those people, except that the victims are frequently women and old people, and they seem to specialise in victimising widows who have some property or have been left some shares.
Let me give the Committee one or two brief examples. In the bankruptcy proceedings in the case of C. W. Dickinson, carrying on business in the name of F. C. Owen, which took place recently, it was shown that the total liabilities were £273,337 and the assets £75. The list of creditors included 220 women and 120 clergymen. It came out in evidence during the proceedings that this gentleman had actually paid £1,000 for a list of people who were likely dupes. The debtor was described in these proceedings as a stock and share dealer. He put up this extraordinary defence, that his business was, in effect, a bookmaker's business, and he thoroughly believed that nobody expected him to have shares and he never did have any. In another case not long ago, that of Percy Bennett and Company, the liabilities were £107,000 and the assets £309. The business was run sharply and shortly. After about three months the business was wound up, the various principals disappeared, and the public had been swindled out of £107,000.
About that time matters became so serious that the present Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, who was at that time Attorney-General, gave a special broadcast to warn the nation about the number of these people who were about, and advised people to keep out of their clutches. I am told by those who are closely in touch with this question that the right hon. Gentleman's broadcast was useful, and it is stated, though I cannot say what the authority for it is, that at least 20 of these bucket shops closed soon afterwards. Still, the fact remains that those people lie low only for a week or two till things blow over and then come out again stronger 2117 than ever. Indeed, some of them even turned the Attorney-General's broadcast to their own advantage. I will give the Committee a report of a recent case. I am quoting from the Press:The witness spoke about hearing a broadcast by Sir Thomas Inskip in which he issued a warning against sharepushers. She went up to London and saw defendants, who explained that they themselves had asked Sir Thomas to broadcast this warning.That will indicate the kind of people whose activities I am trying to bring to the notice of the Committee. The lady went on to say, as indeed 90 per cent. of people would say, that she thought from the note-heading of the firm that they were members of the Stock Exchange. She lost £720 and has now had to break up her home. Referring to one of these cases not long ago, Mr. Justice Charles said:So far as can be ascertained something like half a million of other people's money has disappeared with the particular gentleman who is now wanted.The President of the Board of Trade will remember the case of a gentleman rejoicing in the name of John Jacob Factor. John Jacob Factor carried on his activities in spite of the efforts of the "Daily Mail" to stop them, and threatened to take proceedings against the "Daily Mail" for saying he was a scoundrel. I have only raised the case of John Jacob Factor to say, in passing, that the last reference to him which I saw in the Press was the following message from Reuter's, sent from Chicago:I guess the British Government is tired of spending money on me,' joked John Jacob Factor, stock promoter and speculator, in an interview. 'That English business is all washed up' he added, referring to the British Government's effort to have him extradited. 'The extradition warrant is three years old. They'll have to get a new one. I think I shall be in Chicago for a long time.' Factor really believes that he will never be extradited to England. He is wanted there in connection with alleged stock fraud amounting to £1,400,000.An unfortunate recent development of this evil is the fact that some of the people who are operating in this country are now extending their activities to France. Circulars have been sent to thousands of people in France from offices in the City of London. The right hon. Gentleman does not need me to tell 2118 him of the ill-feeling which that sort of thing will arouse between the peoples of the two countries when the French find out that those who send the circulars are really common or ordinary swindlers. The French Government is taking action, I understand, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman not to delay any longer in dealing with this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman and his staff are too busy to handle the matter themselves—and we all know the multitude of things that come before them—I suggest that he should set up without delay a small committee—a departmental committee or a select committee or a committee of Members of this House—to get together the evidence as quickly as possible. I am sure there is an abundance of evidence available, his own Department must have a good deal, and such a committee could suggest to him the most effective way of stopping this evil.
If one had time one could make out an overwhelming case for action to be taken quickly. I know that in this Debate we are not allowed to suggest legislation, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, in the statement which I am sure he will make in regard to the cases I have put, will say that he is prepared to do something without waiting for the general revision of the Companies Act which will have to take place I suppose, within the next three, four or perhaps five years. The matter is urgent and ought to be tackled before then. I believe that within three months a committee such as I have suggested would be in a position to put before the right hon. Gentleman a remedy which would meet with his approval. An announcement of some definite step would be welcomed not only by the public but by the Stock Exchange and by people who are carrying on business in the City in an honest and legitimate way.
Some of us in this House, myself included, have had experience as voluntary magistrates in police courts. In the police court where I used to sit before I came to this House we frequently had before us people who were called street bookmakers—poor half-starved fellows who were taking 3d. and 6d. bets, acting on behalf of somebody else, and we treated those cases most severely, fining the men very large sums. Surely there is something wrong when such people are dealt with so severely—and I am not 2119 suggesting that they should be dealt with otherwise—and these others are robbing people of huge sums of money with impunity. The attitude of the President of the Board of Trade—I hope I am not interpreting it correctly, though it is what I have gathered from his replies to questions which I and others have put in the House—seems to be, "Oh, do not bother me, I am busy." I have proved the urgency of my case, and in conclusion would ask two definite questions, to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to give an answer during the day. The first is, "Does he intend to wait until the general revision of the Companies Act before dealing with this evil?" The second is, "If he is uncertain where the remedy lies, will he consider this matter as urgent and set up a committee to give him advice on the matter?"
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I am sure that the whole House is indebted to the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) for his helpful and valuable speech. In principle I agree with every word he said. I shall do the best I can to back up his action in the matter. I do not intend to wander outside the bounds of order by suggesting legislation; indeed, no legislation is required. I agree with the hon. Member for North Tottenham that the remedy should be, to start with, the setting up of a Departmental Committee. I remember standing here this very week last year and speaking in a Debate on the Assurance Companies (Winding-up) Act, then a Bill, which had been brought in to remedy the defects in the Assurance Companies (Winding-up) Act of 1933. The reason for that Bill of 1935 was the disasters which had overtaken holders of motor car insurance policies. The public outcry had compelled the Board of Trade to bring in the 1935 Measure as a remedy. I only hope the Board of Trade will not find itself in a similar position a year or two hence through not having acted on the advice of the hon. Member opposite, which I support, but set up the inquiry before there are fresh scandals which might have been prevented if there had been an inquiry. If after the warnings which have been given to the Board of Trade by the hon. Member to-day, and those 2120 of us who have for several years past consistently and persistently asked the Board of Trade to have an inquiry, another company scandal does take place, and the public is robbed again, the Board of Trade will lie under a considerable responsibility for having done nothing to avert it.
Parliament must realise, as the country does, that the holding of investments under the system of limited liability is so much a part of the commercial life of the country that the law on the subject of limited liability must be reexamined frequently in the light of what happens from time to time. Of late years, the efficacy of the broad principles of accounting in relation to balance sheets of holding or subsidiary concerns, and profit-and-loss accounts of such companies has been brought into question, and I do not think the country is satisfied that the present form of the certificates of auditors and accountants provides that full protection for honest men which they are intended by accountants to provide. if we have an inquiry we shall thresh that matter out and ascertain whether there is something wrong or lacking in the usual scope of balance sheet accounting. I believe I may say that accountants themselves are not satisfied with the efficacy of the system of certification and the construction of profit-and-loss accounts of limited companies.
We need an inquiry into the flaws and defects of the Act of 1929. We ought to prevent a recurrence of scandals such as have been disclosed in the Courts of Law during the last seven years. So far we have always been met by a refusal by the Board of Trade to set up such an inquiry by a Departmental Committee—not of necessity staffed by officials of the Board of Trade, but composed of men, of whom there are a great many available, who have the necessary experience in the working of the limited liability system and who would willingly serve upon such a committee. Hon. Members will remember that in 1924 a Departmental Committee was set up called the Wilfrid Greene Committee on Company Law Reform. The Bill which now forms the Act of 1929 was based upon its report. We ask for another similar committee of investigation. 2121 Two or three years ago, the Association of British Chambers of Commerce set up its own committee, composed of leading men from the chambers of commerce in the whole of the country. There were upon that committee representatives of two or three great societies of accountants, a member of the London Stock Exchange, and a representative of provincial Stock Exchanges. I had the honour of serving on it, as I am connected with the executive of the association. We made a report, and we approached the Board of Trade, but could not get the board to move. That association, which represents the main body of commercial men in the country, does not accept the attitude of the Board of Trade, and I am certain that I would have my colleagues' authority to say so, namely, that the time is not ripe for the appointment of a Departmental Committee of inquiry. We do not agree with that attitude. I do not want to rake up unpleasant cases, but we recall that cases have been dealt with in the Law Courts, and discussed in this House; we remember the latest one. There is undoubtedly an abuse of public confidence from time to time by the use of limited liability and to such an extent that limited liability tends to become a blot upon the good name of British commercial morality. Limited liability, instead of being used as a protection for honest men, has become frequently a shield behind which rascals have been able to fleece the public.
The recent pepper scandal has revived the demand for an inquiry into the flaws of company law under the 1929 Act. There is, to my own knowledge and in the knowledge of most hon. Members, an abundance of material in the hands of the Board of Trade to be examined, showing what are the defects in the Act of 1929. An inquiry would strengthen the hands of the Board of Trade to remedy the flaws which exist, and thus prevent rascals from fleecing the public. I do not know why the hon. Member for North Tottenham said that the inquiry could be done in six months. I do not think it could be carried out under two or three years. If an inquiry were set up, it would take two or three years to examine witnesses, sift the evidence and issue a report.
§ Mr. R. C. MORRISON
My reference to six months was not to the general revision of the Companies Act, but was for dealing with the specific point which I raised.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I accept that correction, if the hon. Gentleman does not mean a general revision of the Companies Act. But I do not think it would be proper to amend piecemeal the law dealing with limited liability. It should all be done at once, because if you are not careful you can make one Section cancel another.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman cannot deal with any proposal that involves legislation.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I am speaking of the inquiry to deal with all defects in the law at one time. I do not see why this committee could not be set up now. I would remind hon. Members that when we got the inquiry in 1923–24 it was as the result of my asking a question of Mr. Sidney Webb, the President of the Board of Trade as he was then, across the Floor of the House. He said he would give an inquiry if I withdrew the private Bill of which I had given notice. We got the committee and it was not until 1929 that we got the Act. It took five years to get it. If a committee were appointed now, I am sure that it would take four or five years before the work of the committee resulted in an Act.
The main reason however why I rose was to refer the President of the Board of Trade to a question which was put to him yesterday by the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach), who asked whether the President of the Board of Trade had noted that, while wholesale prices in the country were now 2 per cent. below pre-war rates, retail prices were 40 per cent. higher. What is in that question? It is a very good question, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised it. Wholesale prices have fallen, but there has been a rise in the retail prices. My right hon. Friend dealt with the question as well as he could, but he could only answer that he had no definite information to give. He could not answer the question in a way that would enable a general conclusion to be drawn from the comparison of those two figures.
2123 Probably the rough total of the annual income of Britain is £4,000,000,000, and of that sum £2,000,000,000 passes across retail counters. The retail trade is almost entirely employed in distributing goods to the consumers. Manufacturers know pretty well what is the cost of manufacture, but we do not know, and neither does the distributing trade, what it costs the public for the process of selling the manufactured article and getting it into the house of the consumer. In my opinion, one of the main reasons for the difference between the wholesale and retail figures is that there is far too much wastage in selling and getting the manufactured article from the shop to the consumer's house. We do not know the integral factors of the cost of that process. That is a problem to which the Board of Trade should address itself, and for which there should, again, be a departmental committee. Nor do we know why there is a difference in the cost of retail distribution of the same article in various cities. One article goes from the factory to a city, and an exactly identical article will go to another city, and be sold at a different price, on account of the variation of cost of selling and distribution. Where there is a difference in cost in various cities we ought to know the reason. The analyses can be made. At present, no attempt has been systematically made to make the analyses.
Costs of production of manufactured goods have steadily gone down, but the cost of selling and distributing the goods has steadily gone up. If the Board of Trade is unable to undertake the duty of inquiry, I do not see why a team of young economists should not do so. There are learned economist societies in London, and others such as the Cambridge circle of economists. It would be a very good thing if they took hold of the problem and tried to find the reasons we are trying to ascertain for the high costs of retail selling and distribution. This knowledge ought to be known not only by ourselves, in the House of Commons, or by the public, but particularly by the distributing trade; it needs that knowledge. It would be interesting to me, if I were a retail trader, to know and test the efficacy of each factor in the costs of distribution of my goods. If I were ignorant in my 2124 methods of expenditure for attracting buyers I could not cut my prices, for fear that I should make a loss in competing with other traders. But if I knew how the cost of selling goods compared with such costs in other firms I should be much safer. There seem to be no analytic statistics in the retail trade of the costs of selling and distributing, and retailers have no data by which to detect any general weakness in expenditure on selling and distributing.
It may be that some of the expenditure of selling and distributing is wasted. We do not know. That is the puzzle. Some people say that there are too many shops. Just as there are too many varieties in patterns of hammers or spades or office stationery or locomotives or too much variety of fashion in articles of luxury, so there may be too many retail shops to meet the needs of the public. That makes for waste, and ought to be tested or checked. The great effort of manufacturers is to do away with waste. If we have too many shops in an area, one shop filching trade from another, and all selling the same things, that is hardly good trading and is a form of waste in distribution. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is private enterprise."] It is said that there are 500,000 shops in Britain. If you reckon five people to a family, it means that you have 8,000,000 families and 500,000 shops—one shop to 16 families.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I do not think that is so always. I think there are variations in various towns, but I should like to think the problem out before I gave an answer to that question. Uneconomic overlapping and wastage are a loss to the community, and should be stopped. As I walked here to-day, I saw the same services being sold in an unnecessary number of shops, namely banking facilities. I walked through Portman Square, Orchard Street, Baker Street and Wigmore Street. I am sure that I could have thrown a cricket ball and hit perhaps 10 branch banks of four or five separate banks. They are creating no new money, no more aggregate deposits, and represent unnecessary overlapping and probably unessential waste of effort if not of expenditure.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
Overlapping and wastage are axiomatically bad in every system. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to think this matter over. We want to know the cost of selling goods in shops and of getting them into the homes of the consumer, with knowledge to be applied to the general retail trade of the country and in various cities. We want to know what causes the increase in the price of goods besides profit from the time they leave the factory until they reach the house of the consumer. I have raised these questions because they may have a dominating effect upon the consideration of the cost of living and on the knowledge of the real value of wages.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. F. ANDERSON
I listened very carefully to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon, to find out what was the position respecting new industries which had been established outside the Special Areas, as well as those which had been established inside. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to know what has been done by the Government since the last discussion took place upon new industries being brought into the Special Areas. So far as my own Special Area is concerned, I am not aware of any particular new industry having been established. It would be helpful to us in coming to a conclusion as to how far the Government are implementing their promises, made when the location of industries was under discussion, if we could have the information. The Government said on the last occasion that they would endeavour to use all the persuasion at their disposal to get new industries established in the Special Areas. I want to know what industries have been established in the Special Areas and outside.
Something of a special character ought to be done to help the Special Areas. For instance, we are aware that powers which have been taken from time to time, especially with regard to the cotton trade are a form of compulsion. Some scheme should be put into operation to provide that people who desire to establish new industries must be compelled first to give consideration to establishing those industries in the Special Areas. I am not aware that any special machinery has 2126 been set up except the Commissioners for the Special Areas, but no existing machinery is sufficient to check the possibility of new industries being established outside the Special Areas. If it is possible to have an Import Duties Advisory Committee to advise whether tariffs should be put on certain classes of goods, why is it not possible to establish an advisory board before which peple wishing to set up new industries should appear before they are given permission to establish those industries?
I want the Board of Trade to give careful consideration to that suggestion. Assuming, for example, that I desired to establish a new industry and the capital was at my disposal, the first thing I would look for would be a suitable place. How does the Board of Trade know that it is the intention of Messrs. A. to establish a new industry in a particular locality? That calls for some investigation of the methods adopted at present in the establishment of new industries. It may be said that it is not wise to interfere unduly with anybody who desires to establish a new industry, that they should be given the utmost freedom to establish their works wherever they think it desirable. But if that information had to be submitted to an advisory board, they would be able to give assistance of a direct character to enable the Board of Trade to say where it was best to establish the industry. I know it is done by the various development councils, but it is not in the best interests of the nation that one development council should have to compete against another for the establishment of a new industry in its area.
If these matters were treated solely on their merits we would be able to say to the potential capitalist coming into the area, "What are your difficulties in the way of establishing your industry?" and it would be the duty of the advisory board to give all the assistance possible to make it a practical proposition for new industries to be established in the Special Areas. There are areas in Lancashire that are hit as hard as some of the Special Areas, and that is the reason why I think it is unwise to pit development council against development council. We should have some order in this business, and some vision. There should be some control of the development of new industries 2127 in the future. I would like the Minister who is to reply to tell us what new industries have been established in the Special Areas and how many people have been found employment, and also what has been done to try to establish other industries outside the Special Areas.
I come from an area where there are located iron-ore and limestone and the other raw materials for the production of iron and steel. I find from the answers to questions I put a few days ago, that during the six months ended May, 1936, there were no fewer than 7,200 tons of pig-iron imported from Russia, and 41,500 tons from India. Why is it necessary to import pig-iron when we have a large number of blast furnaces out of use? The Minister may say that the furnaces have been unused for so long that it is not known whether they may be usable or not if they are required. But it should be the responsibility of the Board of Trade to investigate how far these furnaces can be put into operation. In the Special Areas alone there are 72 blast furnaces out of use, and they are capable of producing more than 2,000,000 tons of pig-iron per annum. If it is the policy of the Government to do all they can to encourage British trade, it is their business to investigate the possibility of producing more pig-iron. We must consider the possible man-power that could be employed in producing at home the pig-iron that is at present imported. Increased production of pig-iron would be an important factor to the coal industry, and would undoubtedly help it materially.
The serious decrease in the export of coal during the first few months of 1936 shows that something tangible should be done to help the coal trade. It is not the system advocated by hon. Members on this side that is in operation; it is the system advocated by supporters of the Government, and therefore it is the Government that has to defend its policy. In response to a question which I put to the Secretary for Mines, he told us that there has been a serious decrease in export coal. It averages about 3,000,000 tons per annum. I have excluded the figures for Italy because of sanctions, but there has been an average decrease per month of 50,000 tons to Canada, 50,000 tons to Sweden, 6,000 tons to Latvia, 12,000 tons to Denmark, 21,000 tons to Belgium, 49,000 tons to Egypt and 17,000 tons per month 2128 to Argentina. I have said sufficient to warrant a definite reply from the Minister on what the Government policy is with regard to export coal.
If we are told correctly that the totalitarian States are subsidising export coal, the Minister should give some reply on what the Government policy is regarding that action. I also want to ask what the Government propose to do about increasing production and employment in the heavy industries. It is not sufficient to say that they are going to try and persuade them to do a little bit more. Persuasion has failed, and what is required is some compulsory method of regulation compelling people who desire to exploit capital for the introduction of new industries to go to the stricken areas. Looking at it from either the business or the practical point of view, I cannot understand why the Government will not say that the stricken areas shall have the best attention. The Government would receive whole-hearted support if they were prepared to set up an advisory board and use the powers of that board to give all the credit they could and all the industries they could to the depressed areas.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Captain Crookshank)
Perhaps it would be convenient, as the Debate seems to be going first in one direction and then in another, that I should take this opportunity of replying to one or two points which were put by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. R. Grenfell), and at the same time offer a few observations, as my right hon. Friend said I would. Of course, he will wind up the general Debate in due course. The hon. Member for Gower was really, I think, talking Wales rather than coal this afternoon. He wanted to put before the Committee the dreadful plight in which the Principality finds itself to-day, and I must say, if he will allow me to do so, that no one could have done it in more moving terms. At the beginning of his speech, however, when he was talking of the coal trade in general, he said that we were steadily losing our trade in coal exports, but I do not think that "steadily losing our trade in coal exports" is quite the right phrase to use.
I do not want to weary the Committee with too many figures, but, in order to get the matter into the right perspec- 2129 tive, I would like to give the figures of the output of coal. It is quite true that there has been a tremendous drop as compared with some years ago, but it is also true to say that 1933 saw the bottom, or, at any rate, we hope it is the bottom, because in that year the production was only 207,100,000 tons. By 1934 the figure had risen to 220,700,000 tons—quite an appreciable rise—and last year the output rose again to 222,200,000 tons; while for the first six months of this year it is 114,600,000 tons, as compared with 110,800,000 tons for the first six months of last year, an increase of very nearly 4,000,000 tons. In spite, therefore, of world difficulties, the trend seems to be towards a rise in output in this country. I have no doubt in my mind that that is largely due to the very factors which my right hon. Friend put before the Committee in his speech this afternoon—the general restoration of confidence and the general improvement in the iron and steel industry and in various other home trades.
As regards the export side of the problem, where the hon. Member for Gower said we were steadily losing our trade, if one takes the coal cargoes exported, leaving bunkers out of account, it is not really right to say that we have been steadily losing our trade, because for the last four years, 1932–35, the figures, in millions of tons, have been 38.9, 39.1, 39.7 and 38.7. The figure, therefore, is rather a steady one. On the other hand, while it is unfortunately the fact that during the first six months of this year there has been a very large drop, the total coal shipped from this country in those six months being only 23,800,000 tons as compared with 27,000,000 tons in the corresponding six months of last year, it has, of course, to be borne in mind that there has been no trade with Italy in that period. If it had not been for the Italian position last year, which began to show itself long before there was any question of sanctions, our export trade would have compared quite favourably with the immediately preceding years; but of course the Italian position particularly hit South Wales, for Italy was its second largest market.
Taking the country as a whole, while the exports to Italy at the beginning of the year were something like 370,000 tons a month, by October—that is to say, before there was any sanctions complica- 2130 tion at all—the figure for the country as a whole had dropped to 100,000 tons a month; and for South Wales, whereas in the early part of the year the average had been of the order of 180,000 tons a month, it had dropped to 70,000 by October. That was due to increasing financial stringency and the difficulty which our exporters found in getting payments for what they were sending. I think that very probably the drop would have been even greater for the country as a whole if it had not been for the fact that, as I understand, a certain number of firms went into the business who had not any debts outstanding, and who, therefore, were perhaps more ready to take a risk than those who knew that they had a lot of money owing to them, and, perhaps, not much chance of getting it back in the then immediate future. The point I am making is that the drop in the Italian trade was irrespective of sanctions, though the sanctions afterwards brought it to an end. It is not quite correct, therefore, to read into these figures that, as the hon. Gentleman said, we are steadily losing our trade in coal exports. I hope, however, that, although I have said that, no one will think for a moment that we are satisfied with the present position. I am merely trying to put a statistical summary before the Committee. Of course we are not satisfied when we have, for example, a drop in the South Wales cargo exports in the first five months of this year of 1,100,000 tons as compared with the first five months of last year. No one who was not inside a lunatic asylum would be satisfied with that.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) delivered himself of the astonishing statement that the trade agreements were in his opinion a positive hindrance to our trade. I do not know where he got that idea from, but certainly they have not been a hindrance to the coal export trade. There are various groups of countries with which we have made trade agreements, and, taking what might be called the Northern group, that is to say, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, which do not do much trade with South Wales, so that that depressed area has not derived much advantage from improvements that have come about in our trade with those countries, our export coal trade with those Northern countries has increased by 2131 nearly 5,000,000 tons a year as compared with 1931, and I am glad to say that that increase is still continuing, because our exports to those countries during the first five months of this year were 73,000 tons greater than last year.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say what part of that increase was attributable to the Anglo-Polish Coal Agreement which was concluded some time ago?
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
Yes. Certainly, in the case of trade agreements of which I am speaking, we have got by our agreements a decent proportion of the total annual imports of those countries, and in that way they have had a salutary effect. Contrary to the view of the hon. Member for North Cumberland that they are a hindrance, it seems to me that an increase in exports during five years of the order of 5,000,000 tons a year is not exactly a hindrance; or, at least, if it is, I should like to have a great many more of them.
§ Mr. W. ROBERTS
How do our exports to those particular countries compare with our exports in 1929, before the slump?
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I could let the hon. Gentleman have the figures in due course; I have not them in my head. I am merely making a comparison with the position in 1931, which was the bottom year, before the agreements were made. The figures I have quoted represent the improvements which resulted from agreements made after that, when the Government of the day had adopted its fresh policy. With regard to Argentina, discussions, as my right hon. Friend said, are now going on, and, therefore, it would not be proper for me to say anything about that, but generally speaking our exports have been been kept up. Again, the German agreement of 1933 has been useful to us, because we are now getting a monthly increase as compared with the pre-agreement year. Taking the whole of Germany—that is to say, both the part to which the agreement refers, which is the Customs area, and the part 2132 which is open to everyone—our net gain during the year ending in April, 1936, the third year of the operation of the agreement, was 97,000 tons per month as compared with the pre-agreement year and 16,000 tons per month as compared with the second agreement year. There again, therefore, the policy we have adopted in this direction has been fruitful, and one can only hope that it will continue to be fruitful and will increase and multiply.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
Is it not the case that there has been a fall of 17,000 tons per month in the export of coal to Argentina alone, and is not that a very serious position?
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
It is just for that reason that we are at present negotiating an agreement with Argentina on the whole trade position. There are one or two further points where the figures are a little better. As regards the Irish Free State, in the first six months of last year we exported there 870,000 tons, and in the first six months of this year that figure rose by about 350,000 tons, to over 1,200,000 tons in the six months. That again can be traced back to the arrangement which was made with the Irish Free State. Finally, since 1930 we have been fortunate—and this concerns South Wales to the extent of four-fifths of the amount involved—in increasing our anthracite exports to Canada from 996,000 tons to just under 1,500,000 tons last year. Therefore, on the general question of the effectiveness of the trade agreements, the figures certainly show that they have been beneficial. But I would repeat that it is not for any of us to be complacent with regard to the whole coal position in this country to-day.
The hon. Member for Gower suggested that the Prime Minister should go to Wales and see the depths to which South Wales had been reduced by the neglect of the Government. None of us will dispute the fact that South Wales is in a deplorable condition, but that is not due to anything that this Government has done. It is not our fault that so many ships in the world to-day use oil instead of South Wales coal; it is not the Government's fault that so many countries to-day, to which we used to export coal, now generate electricity by waterpower, although that again has had 2133 a considerable effect upon our coal trade; nor is it our fault that Italy could not pay her debts last year, and our exports to that country kept dropping. Neither is it our fault that there is a continued depression of trade in the gold bloc countries, which has led to a reduction of our exports to those countries. All of these things cumulatively have helped to make the position bad in South Wales, but not one of them is due to any action, either neglectful, or otherwise on the part of His Majesty's Government.
The hon. Member for Gower said that if one went far enough back one could trace a good deal to the policy in 1920 with regard to debts and reparations. If he follows that to its originating source it will be found in the greatest Welshmen of them all, who generally sits in that corner. The hon. Gentleman says it is nothing that South Wales has done that is responsible for its present plight. I would say that it is nothing that we have clone that is responsible for its present plight either. I agree with his analysis of the position. I have been there myself, and I constantly have reports and speak to many who live there and who have daily experience of life in that depressed area, and it is uudoubtedly sad and sombre. I think the hon. Gentleman was wise in making the kind of speech that he did in order to bring home once again to the House, and through the House to the country, the depressed state of that area, because there is no doubt that, when one talks of trying to attract industry to a particular area and that kind of thing, if they realise how depressed and sad the conditions are for the people who live there, there are many people who would let that thought determine whether they went there or not. I am glad, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman said what he did. I can assure him that the problems of South Wales are continually and continuously in the consideration of the Government.
He asked whether we would be prepared to consider a plan of reorganisation of industry in South Wales. The Wales Development Council are, as I understand it, at present engaged in a comprehensive, industrial survey of Wales and are looking into the industrial possibilities, more particularly of South Wales. There is also a committee connected with it which is investigating the 2134 various uses to which South Wales coal might be put, either in the raw state or distilled or hydrogenated or in other forms. My answer to the hon. Gentleman is that people are now considering a plan and, when they have done it, and bring it before the Government, naturally the Government will consider it and see what there is useful in it which might be adopted for the benefit not only of South Wales but of the country as a whole. No one in the House, whether on that bench or on this, can be satisfied with the deplorable position in which South Wales finds itself. We shall all be glad to co-operate in any plan, if he likes to call it a plan, which has a reasonable chance of success in bringing new industries into that area.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Miss WILKINSON
The Secretary for Mines has closed one section of the Debate and my special problem is with the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is one of the most charming and disarming speakers in the House, and he has conclusively proved that he is not responsible either for drought or flood or any other act of God, such as the discovery of oil-burning fuel. I can honestly say that we are now dealing with a problem which very definitely is not an act of God but an act of man, and we are here to ask the President of the Board of Trade for some help that can be given to what is now regarded as not one of the most hopeless but certainly one of the most difficult areas in the country. He pointed out with some pleasure that the present production of iron and steel had reached 11,500,000 tons. I take it that, following the various Debates, not really on iron and steel but on those trades into which iron and steel largely enter, he does not regard that 11,500,000 tons as the peak of the iron and steel demand. We are now, so to speak, not at the end but at the bginning of a demand period for steel. That being so, we are faced with a position where a trade which since 1921 has been getting more and more waterlogged and more and more in pawn to the banks is suddenly asked to increase its output. That is just the right moment for really comprehensive planning. I admit that you cannot plan the weather, but at least you can plan something like the production of a commodity where the plant generally has not been kept up-to-date. 2135 I am speaking particularly with regard to the steel works at Jarrow. In 1934, when the question was first mooted, the experts who were putting their plans before the Iron and Steel Federation envisaged a total production of 10,500,000 tons, not in 1936 but in 1940. We have reached 11,500,000 tons in 1936, and the demand is still rising. What is going to be done now? What is the immediate future going to be? We are not anxious to pit one area against another. We are most anxious not to have a Tyneside and Tees-side quarrel. We suggest that in this problem the national interest should be considered and that, so far, one section of the interest in the iron and steel trade has been allowed to be both judge and jury. Speeches are sometimes made, even by my own colleagues, which, in their natural anxiety to get employment, suggest conversion to the highest forms of protection. I am afraid I do not share that attitude, but the employing interests cannot have it both ways. They cannot on the one side demand practically prohibitive tariffs and the assistance of the Government in getting cartel arrangements which put the whole thing practically into the grip of monopoly and at the same time say this industry is their own to do as they like with. If you have a laissez faire employer who says, "This is my own business, I will be beholden to no man and I do not want a penny from anyone," that is arguable. That is the old diehard Free Trade position. But, if you have people who not only accept but demand tariffs, which have been increasing from 33⅓ to 50 per cent., and then a quota scheme, and now practical prohibition, they must at the same time accept the social responsibility for the results.
It is on that point that we want to have some reply from the Minister. Is he really content to turn over the whole question of steel production to the firms at present in the British Iron and Steel Federation because, if so, we are in this position, that the country is being asked to pay, and is paying, higher rates than it need in order to have the iron and steel produced in this country and at the same time is paying into one distressed area like Jarrow £348,000 a year for public assistance and unemployment benefit. A prominent steel manufacturer 2136 pointed out to me partly in a joke, that is double the amount of capital that would be necessary to build a steel works at Jarrow. He said, "If that is the figure, you could make the steel and give it away, and it would pay the country." Next week the House will be debating regulations that make arrangements for the minutest inquiry into the affairs of every recipient of every penny of that £348,000. But the country can make a present of millions of pounds to this monopoly, and there is to be no inquiry at all. That is not a position which the country is willing to put up with. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his courteous reception of the Jarrow deputation, when he gave us over an hour of his very overcrowded and valuable time. I have never known the Press so united on anything as on the fear of this enormous monopoly growing up and strangling a whole town. In concentrating on Jarrow we are not dealing with that town only. We are using it to focus attention on the whole activities of the British iron and steel trade. If it had not been for the Debate on Clause 6 of the Finance Bill, these arrangements would have gone through and the country would have had no idea of what has happened.
I should like to call attention also to what the Commissioner for the Special Areas I know has put before the Minister over and over again. These are just three figures which give an indication of how this town of 35,000 inhabitants is being strangled. There are 1,300 men only working in that huge town, of able-bodied men who have exhausted their unemployment benefit there are 1,568, and on unemployed benefit there are 4,748. If you add the able-bodied men on public assistance to those on unemployment benefit, that is 82 per cent. of the manpower idle in that town. This is an area which could have had the most up-to-date steel works in Europe. An hon. Gentleman who occupied a seat on the back benches opposite said that this was a derelict industry and that the Government were obviously not going to do anything for such an industry. The one thing that Jarrow wants to do is to get rid of this air of charity which somehow or other has gathered round this town. This is a highly skilled, authenticated proposition put forward by hard-headed business men who are as astute as Sir 2137 Andrew Duncan, Chairman of the Iron and Steel Federation. We do not want to go into the whole of the negotiations. We know that it is no use now. The Federation published a statement in a newspaper which made it clear that, in fact, the North-Eastern steel firms have turned down this matter.
We want to ask the Minister two things: First, will he on national grounds give the country an inquiry into the whole question of why this project was turned down, and whether it was in the national interests, or in the interests of the profit-making of the existing firms. The second thing that we want to know is whether the Minister has any alternative plan for this town. We suggest that it is not possible to leave an area like Jarrow in the state in which it is to-day. The people will not stand it. They have put up with it for so long because they were buoyed up with the hope that the shipyards would be reopened, and later by the prospects of the erection of the steel works. We do not know even yet whether this matter is ended. We do not know until we have heard the statement of the Minister whether any pressure is to be brought upon the Steel Federation. If this is not to be so, what is to be done? We want to get away from the idea—we have had the Minister's statement that we should—that this is a hopeless, dirty, draggle-tail place. Really, that is not the case as we have laid it before the Minister. I have had some experience of local authorities, and I know of nowhere where ordinary men and women of the town take such an interest in the meetings of the town council as they do at Jarrow. There is a long queue every time the council meets. The council has shown itself to be most up-to-date. It has built a new housing area, and it has, in the biggest way, offered to make plans for replanting the town if necessary in order to improve the river frontage. There is a frontage, with one mile of river, with water 35 feet deep, within two and a half miles of the sea. In addition there is the offer of special facilities from the Tyne Industrial Development Committee.
This is an area which this country cannot afford to leave as a derelict area; it simply cannot afford to do so. Here you have a site which has been admitted to be ideal for a steel works. Are we to 2138 have a steel works? If not, has the Minister any alternative suggestion? It is not good enough for Ministers who have demanded tariffs and quotas to come along and say, "We are very sorry, but we really have no power in the matter. We cannot give public money." Incidentally no one has asked the Government for a penny for the steel works. Once the barrier was lifted, we have the assurance of the promoter of the syndicate, that the money could be raised within a week, so that there is no question of money. If we are not to have the steel works, the Government must come forward with some alternative plan. We have passed out of the period when we could wash our hands of such a matter and when trade was not a question for this House. The House is in a position to demand planning. We see even the most unplannable industry, that of agriculture, being planned by the Minister of Agriculture, and we ask the President of the Board of Trade, What are your plans about Jarrow? We in Jarrow have done almost everything and are willing to do anything, but we are not willing to stand by and see some of the finest men of this country drifting year by year into further hopelessness. You cannot say that this is sobstuff and that we are pleading for charity. We have put before the Government an up-to-date plan, and if it is being turned down by the people who are in the hands of the Government and are dependent upon the Government for orders and for their tariff and cartel arrangements, the Government must say, "We have some alternative." I ask the Minister, when he replies to-night, to say what is his plan and what is his alternative for Jarrow.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN JARVIS
I wish, first of all, to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) upon her very forcible speech. She has rendered all the help that can be given. We do not see eye to eye on other matters, but on the matter of Jarrow we are as brother and sister. It is of the greatest importance that there should be an investigation into all the forces which appear to be preventing the steel works in Jarrow from being built. I do not propose to go over all the ground which was covered very ably by the hon. Gen- 2139 tleman the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) and by the hon. Lady. For 20 months, as the Committee know, the fortunes of the steel works of Jarrow have ebbed and flowed, and the final decision, it seems to me, must be reached to-night because this matter cannot go on indefinitely, dragging out its existence with no apparent end. I purpose to deal with only three points, which are more or less new, and I hope that I may convince my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, that there is justification for the investigation which we want to be made.
Unfortunately, in the last Debate the respective merits of the Tyne and the Tees were called into account. I am one who has said repeatedly in the North that I desire to see all men on the Tees at work, just as much as I desire to see all men on the Tyne at work. If it is to become a fight between the Tees and the Tyne, the Tees holds all the losing cards. I have made inquiries in the North—I was there over the week-end—and I find these facts: In the Tees the draught of vessels for the steel works are limited to 22 feet 6 inches, and the maximum tonnage is 7,000. In the Tyne the draught of vessels is much greater, and there is no limit to the tonnage of ships that come in. The Olympic of 45,000 tons is alongside one of our docks to-day, and we can get the largest vessels into this noble river.
I would remind the Committee that the sources of ore supply are steadily becoming less. Most of it, as hon. Members may know, comes from the north of Spain, and the nearer Mediterranean, and these supplies are not illimitable. The supply of Spanish ore is becoming less and less, and in the near future some one will have to look much further afield for this very necessary raw material. To-day we have ore coming from as far away as West Africa, and I understand—and I must be a little wary here—that the Iron and Steel Federation are making inquiries for ore coming from even more distant parts. These distant supplies must come in the largest vessels, which the Tees cannot possibly carry. The first essentials for cheap ore are, that it must come to a site with a water front, there must be a great depth of water, 2140 and there must be an abundance of cheap coal and cheap sea transport. Nowhere else can all these advantages be found to the same extent as at Jarrow.
There are only two places in the world which have such facilities for dealing with large ore vessels. The first is at Baltimore, where the Bethlem Steel Works are situated. They get their ore from Chile, and bring it in 21,000-ton vessels, and they can unload each vessel in 15 hours. It would be possible to do the same thing in Jarrow. The second place is at the German steel works on the Rhine. The big ships go to Rotterdam, which, of course, can take the biggest ships, and the ore is transferred to lighters, which are 4,000-ton ships, and is then sent to its destination on the Rhine. We could deal with ore at Jarrow much more cheaply than that.
My second point is that the Tees has conducted a policy of modernising existing plants in a great number of cases. This may be justified in order to get quick production, but, taking the long view, it is, in my opinion, economically unsound. No modernised steel works can represent the latest technique in steel production, which is absolutely necessary if we are not to lag behind in the future. Take the case of Bessemer steel, which it is proposed to make in Jarrow. I have it on the highest authority that this country could absorb no less than 3,000,000 tons per annum. Of this amount we make only a quarter of a million tons, and at the proposed new steel works at Jarrow, I believe, it is intended to make only another quarter of a million tons, so that it is foolish to say that there is not a necessity in this country for basic Bessemer steel plant. The plant proposed at Jarrow would be the most efficient in the country. It would displace no workman in the north of England and probably none elsewhere, and it would have the added advantage that if, unfortunately, war should come, we could get practically the whole of the ore we required for this type of steel works from the Lincolnshire district.
Therefore, there seems to be no reason and no excuse why any hindrance should be placed upon erecting this new steel plant at Jarrow. Surely, it is a heaven-sent chance for the Government to do a great work for one of the worst distressed areas without the cost of a 2141 single penny to the taxpayers. The capital, no doubt, as we have heard to-night, can be found. Take away the influence of the Steel Federation, and the money necessary for this great work will be forthcoming through the usual channels very quickly. If there is a matter upon which every party in this House is agreed, it is upon the desire to help the distressed areas of this country. Here is a golden opportunity for helping, on the one hand, the people who have a right to demand our help, and, on the other hand, of developing one of the great industries of the country in the best possible way. This is a great opportunity. If it is not dealt with now it may be lost, and, having been lost, the opportunity may never recur.
§ 7.59 p.m.
As a representative of a Tees-side. constituency, I am glad to have an opportunity of addressing the Committee upon this subject. Unfortunately, I was abroad when it was debated the last time, but I have read every speech which was made, and I believe I have read everything that has been published in the Press upon this subject. When it comes down to the final question, the complaint seems to be that the Steel Federation has not given its blessing to this particular scheme. No one can deny that this subject has had as much publicity as most subjects. I do not believe that anything that is available has not been published. It is sometimes vaguely hinted that when all the cards are put on the table we shall change our minds. Let us have all the cards on the table. To-night there is the opportunity. I was told yesterday that when the whole story was told there would be a very different impression made in the House of Commons. Why not let us have the whole story? I presume that now that the speakers for Jarrow have spoken we have the whole facts before us.
It is said that an inquiry is wanted. I do not object. I have always said that there has been a reasonable case for Jarrow, but I have also said that there is a reasonable answer. One of the great difficulties placed in the way of arriving at a final and fair judgment on this matter has been the difficulty that the people favour- 2142 able to this enterprise in Jarrow have not said whether they stand as business men or philanthropists. It is a great pity when a business proposition gets mixed up with philanthropy. I addressed the House in March on this subject, and I stated then, and it has never been questioned, on information which was given to me as authentic, that the cost of putting down a steel plant in Jarrow of the same capacity as that which could be put down on the Tees would be nearly twice the capital expenditure. I suggested to the House then and I suggest now that it would be very difficult to justify putting down a plant at that cost. It is no solution of a problem like this to rob Peter to pay Paul.
It is suggested that by going on with this scheme at Jarrow we should not put any men out of work on the Tees. I do not agree with that statement. I believe that it would put men out of work on the Tees. What the supporters of the Jarrow scheme are asking the Government to do is to say to the Tees-side Federation: "You shall not develop your plant any further." In other words, they are to interfere with the natural and normal development on Tees-side.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
There is one point that I should like to raise, because I may not be called upon to speak. Is it not a fact that in the Tees-side area they never extended their work until application was made for the establishment of the steel works at Jarrow, and then they did make efforts?
I do not know about the formal application, but I can tell the hon. Member that it is more than two years since I discussed this matter with the Tees-side manufacturers, and they knew then that the time was coming when they would be compelled to put down additional plant. It is a new development and a natural development. It is a natural and normal development of Tees-side plant to cope with a new demand. It is true that that demand has increased much more rapidly than any of us anticipated, and that is all to the good. It is true that there has been a shortage of certain classes of steel, and also a shortage of pig iron. There has also been a shortage of coke but, as the Minister said, that is being rapidly dealt with. 2143 The Government made one specific demand of the Federation, and it was to reorganise. When they were given protection it was specified that they should rationalise the industry. They were bound to do that. Hon. Members will recollect that the protection was actually withdrawn for a period because they did not move rapidly enough in that direction. At that time I criticised the leading manufacturers myself, and we had a controversy raging for a considerable period, because they were not moving as quickly as I thought they ought to do, but I say to-day, and no one can deny it, that the steel industry has made tremendous strides. It has reduced costs and it has rationalised in every sense of the word. The Government demanded that. Having done that and having brought some prosperity to the industry and the areas concerned, are we going to ask the Government to say to them: "Thus far and no further"? Are they to be stopped at that point? It would be much more reasonable to say to them: "Now that you have got down the costs, now that you have rationalised, you can go on and provide what is desired by the total consumption of this country."
There is not the slightest justification for saying that there can be any economies effected at Jarrow. On the contrary, I have very good authority for saying that the cost of delivery to customers will more than offset any economies. If we were to take any plant in the country and if we provided the capital to scrap that plant and to put down the latest design of plant, then obviously we should get lower costs of production, but are we going to argue for that reason that we must not only permit this enterprise—that is what the Federation is being asked to do—but that Tees-side manufacturers should be asked to finance and build up a formidable competitor on the Tyne? In effect, that is what they are being asked to do. We have more men unemployed in Middlesbrough than there are in Jarrow. A few years ago we had plant that we thought would never be used again but, fortunately, to-day we see it occupied almost to capacity. The plant at Jarrow, if the scheme goes on, will come into operation in about two years' time, when experts tell us we are going to enter into another depression, 2144 therefore, many of us feel that the proposition is to spend money on plant which when it is completed will be redundant.
There is another matter which I should like to give to the House, although I have mentioned it before. In considering Tees-side we have absolutely no other interest than steel. We are dependent entirely, in Middlesbrough at any rate, on the iron and steel industry. There is shipbuilding, what is left to us, and the Imperial Chemical Industries plant has assisted the district somewhat. In 1929 we had our previous record output, but in 1935 we exceeded that record, with 6,000 fewer men employed to do it. Employment or re-employment is not keeping pace with increasing demands, unfortunately, and I do not think that we can recommend the Government to go out of their way to help to build up a competitor to our industry in another place, unless it can be justified on its merits. If it can be justified on its merits, what is the difficulty.
We are told that they are in the way throughout. We are told that the obstacle is the Federation because it will not go out of its way to give its blessing to this proposed enterprise. You can approach the Federation as business people but not as a guild of help.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend. The last thing that I want to do is to get into controversy with my late constituent. So much of this argument is running simply on parallel lines. We are not talking about the same thing. At the previous discussion it was perfectly clear that the Federation was not asked to give its blessing to a charitable enterprise, but that it was refusing to allow a highly competitive rival the opportunity to compete. It may be asked why should they have a rival; but do not let it be suggested that we are thinking of running a charitable guild steel works at Jarrow.
Jarrow does not want charity. This is not philanthropy. If it is not philanthropy, it is nonsense to talk about it in that way. It has been spoken of as partial philanthropy. All this talk about partial philanthropy and 2145 about doing Jarrow injustice ought to be dropped, and the sooner it is dropped the better for Jarrow.
§ Sir J. JARVIS
Who has ever suggested that it is philanthropy? We have always said that it is a commercial proposition.
I have here the official report, from which I could quote a statement of the hon. Member where he said that some of his friends were willing to come in as philanthropists. That will not work. He said that some of his friends were interested in going on with this proposition partially on philanthropic grounds. That sort of statement has caused a great deal of mischief. The country wants to know whether or not this is a business proposition. There are a considerable number of people who believe that this proposed plant in Jarrow will be redundant when it is ready, or it will render redundant some of the plant on Tees-side. The question whether or not the federation has blessed it should be settled once and for all. The federation makes rules for its members, and we cannot object to that. Rules are the tenets of trade unions and a member of a trade union is supposed to subscribe to those tenets. The federation have their rules and they expect their members to adhere to those rules, and no one can blame them or say that they have gone beyond that. They have to conform to rules. Indeed, the Government have compelled them to have rules.
A great deal of play has been made of the statement that Sir Andrew Duncan at one time approved of this scheme. I would, however, point out that Sir Andrew Duncan was not appointed as an expert on iron and steel. His greatest qualification was that he was not an expert and that he would be able to bring an impartial judgment to bear. He may have approved of the scheme, but the fact is that when he had had time to consider the question with experts he decided that it was not a practical proposition. A great deal of play has also been made of another statement of a certain gentleman—an expert. I do not question his authority. He has stated that this scheme would be a success and that it could produce steel economically. I do not question that, but I do not think that he said that steel could be produced 2146 more economically at Jarrow than on the Tees.
Reference has been made to the size of ships, which is the only thing said in favour of Jarrow. I would ask hon. Members to translate that into pounds, shillings and pence in its effect on the cost of the production of steel. It is negligible. On the Tees we had a scheme for new docks to provide for larger ships, and it was only the depression that prevented us going on with that development. The expert who has been quoted said that the question was whether the Tees or Jarrow should be selected as the place to put down new plant. On one point Jarrow had it, and on another point the Tees had it. Can hon. Members be surprised if he favoured Jarrow? Can they imagine a lawyer being consulted and advising his client not to go to law? A human being who makes his living by advising people when they require certain expert opinion, naturally gives the advice they want, and it would be to his interest to have the plant put down at Jarrow. Therefore, we must not place too much reliance on that advice.
I do not know of a single fair statement that has been made which justifies the Government in doing anything to develop this plant on the Tyne. On the last occasion when I spoke I offered to help the people who are interested in helping Jarrow, and who say that they have considerable financial resources, to do something much more practicable and more profitable for Jarrow, and I will make the offer again. If hon. Members from the Northern district will read the report of those who have been studying for years this very problem they will find that they recommended them to do one thing. That is, that all local authorities should collectively study to buy everything possible within their own area. I have tried to estimate the things which local authorities have to purchase, and I have discovered that one of the principal things which they purchase is not manufactured in the area. I shall be very glad to give those who represent Jarrow the fullest information on the point.
The President of the Board of Trade can do one thing which would put more men into work than anything else, without the disadvantage of putting men out of work in another area. If the Presi- 2147 dent would hurry up the Committee a little I think they might produce a scheme for producing oil from coal on a profitable basis. There is no better place to put hydrogenation plant than Jarrow. It would be possible to start such a scheme next week, and it would put more men into work during the constructional period, in fact twice as many men, as would be the case by the establishment of steelworks. And it would find permanent employment for as many men as steelworks would employ. It is not a well thought out scheme supported by expert opinion. When put to practical people who would have to run it, there was no one who would support it. Somebody would have to find the money, and that is the investing public. It would be merely exploiting public sentiment in asking the public to invest millions of pounds unless you were quite certain that it was going to be a safe investment. That is not the case. Ill-advised philanthropists do as much harm as a Hatry in connection with schemes like this. I hope the Government will not give it their support, but will take other measures to help Jarrow.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I do not propose to make a speech on the distressed areas. We have discussed them ad nauseam and after the Debate a fortnight ago I said that I would never speak on the distressed areas again because it took too much out of me: I could not trust myself to express adequately the needs of these areas. I take it for granted that the Committee and the country know full well all about the problem which faces us in these Special Areas. Nor am I going to say anything about the manufacture of steel, for the obvious reason that I know nothing about it—[An HON. MEMBER.: "Hear, hear!"]—or just as much as some hon. Members who have spoken to-night, that is, little or nothing. I am told by a friend of mine who is a real expert on this matter that if the Jarrow steelworks are established and basic Bessemer steel made, they will not compete with Middlesbrough; the fears of my Middlesbrough friends are groundless. There is no fear of any competition between Jarrow and Tees.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I understood the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir J. Jarvis) to say that there was a demand for 3,000,000 tons of Bessemer steel, and that there would be a great surplus required even after the works at Jarrow were going at full capacity. I have been told by an hon. Member that if steelworks are established at Jarrow other industries are likely to go to the Tyne.
Even if steelworks at Jarrow would not compete with Middlesbrough they would prevent Middlesbrough developing in another way.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I have been informed—I cannot say this out of my own knowledge—that no attempt was made to enlarge the Tees-side works until two years ago, when they heard the rumour that the Jarrow steelworks were a possibility.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
That is what I have been told, and if the hon. Member will read the Debate in another Chamber he will find confirmation of what I am saying. I want to say on behalf of hon. Members for the North-East Coast who support the National Government that we held a meeting yesterday at which we expressed regret at the recent occurrences and disputes in the Press and in this House and in other places, and hoped that a way would be found to commence the steelworks at Jarrow on an economic and permanent basis. I agree absolutely that it would be the utmost folly to start steelworks at Jarrow or anywhere else if there was no solid prospect of good work continuing for some time. For this purpose we suggest that the Government should—
§ Mr. FURNESS
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but when he uses the word "we" I think he should tell us whom he means. It does not concern my constituency, and I should be surprised if one particular hon. Member from the North-East put his name to this document.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
This is a resolution which was carried last night, and if hon. Members who were not there object I am not to blame. If the hon. Member desires I will say "for myself." For these reasons I hope the Government will get 2149 into touch with the interested parties and re-open friendly negotiations. I emphasise the word "friendly." We were very anxious about that. We were all agreed that until a decision is arrived at the proceedings ought to be kept secret by the Government, so that the hearts and spirits of the people of Jarrow would not be broken by false hopes being engendered, as they have been, unfortunately, during the last year or so. I submit that the Committee cannot come to a right and just conclusion or decision, because it does not know the facts. That is obvious to me. There will be present in everybody's mind the Debate which took place a fortnight ago and the conflict there was on questions of fact and also, as one might have expected, on matters of opinion. Hon. Members will also have read the Debate in another place two days ago, when exactly the same thing happened. Therefore, it seems to me obvious that the Committee cannot come to a right and just decision because it is not in possession of the facts of the situation. Nor, I venture to say, can the Government come to a proper decision, because they are not in possession of the facts.
It is here that I wish to make an appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. I would ask that there should be an inquiry by an impartial body into the facts, and that a decision should be arrived at. I could suggest a body which is competent, fair and experienced, but it is not my province to do any such thing. I would suggest, however, that an impartial body, competent to deal with the facts, to examine them and to elucidate the truth, should sit immediately and find out what are the facts, and give the Government the benefit of its opinion. Its findings should be sent to the Government, and they alone should decide on a matter of high policy. It is not a matter of the Tees and the Tyne, but a matter of national policy. It raises, among other things, the question of the migration of industries and the preference that the Government have by Statute given, all other things being equal, to the Special Areas. The Government ought to decide upon this. In conclusion, may I express the hope that this grave matter will cease to be a political stunt or merely an economic proposition, and that it will be seen and judged in 2150 the light of the provision, if at all possible—
§ Miss WILKINSON
Does the hon. Member suggest that anybody has been making a political stunt of this matter? Does he suggest that careful reasoning before the Committee is a political stunt?
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I suggest that this is not merely a political matter or an economic matter; it is a matter of high policy which the Government should decide. It is a matter which ought to be considered coolly and deliberately by a competent body, which would see what are the facts and the arguments for and against, and, having come to a conclusion, pass it on to the Cabinet for a decision as to what should be done. I hope the matter will be seen in the light of the provision, if at all possible, of the means for giving work and earnings to the men in the distressed area of Jarrow and in the Tyneside.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
I would like briefly to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough East (Mr. Edwards). I can support him fully, because to-night we are not divided on this matter in parties, but rather in catchment areas. It was suggested, much to my surprise, by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) that there is here no question of competition between the Tees-side and the Tyneside. He ventured to rebuke the hon. Member for Middlesbrough East as though the hon. Member had not been present—I think he was—when the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir J. Jarvis) spoke. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Gateshead was present, or whether he took in all that the hon. Member for Guildford said. I was present all the time, and when the hon. Member for Guildford spoke he put it most emphatically as a matter of competition between the Tyneside and the Tees-side. He told us in some detail of the advantages of the Tyne and the disadvantages of the Tees.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
If the hon. Member puts it that way, I would say that the hon. Member for Guildford was showing the advantages of the Tees and the advantages of the Tyne, and stating that in his opinion the Tyne had the greater advantages. That might apply anywhere.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The hon. Member by his interruption has not in the least invalidated what I was saying. If this is a question of showing on the one side the advantages of the Tyne and on the other the disadvantages of the Tees, that obviously makes it a matter of competition between the two places and assumes that there will be competition between them. If there is to be no competition between them, there is no sense in talking about the advantages of one or the disadvantages of the other. Speaking for myself, I cannot imagine that those who are engaged in the management of this great industry in the areas in which it is now carried on in the north-east would be so foolish, in their own interest, as to try to continue their industry in a particular area if its prospects were as hopeless as the hon. Member for Guildford seemed to be trying to make out. It would be a mad attempt on their part to try to make new developments and to modernise their plants—which the hon. Member for Guildford seemed to think they ought not to do—if, from the expert information in their hands, they were not quite confident that they would be able to carry on. After all, can it be suggested that the Tees-side cannot do this work? They have been doing it there for a considerable time, they have been struggling through the time of depression, and they are now coming back a little to greater prosperity.
I have not heard anybody suggest that the Tees-side is not doing this work with the greatest efficiency. If that be the case, I cannot help thinking that, as an abstract proposition, it would be false economy from the point of view of providing work if one tried to cure the distress in an area which has suffered for a long time by setting up industrial activities which would draw away from employment somewhere else. Although I join with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East in saying that the district which we represent has nothing to fear from an inquiry which would make the facts known, I would ask that any inquiry undertaken—if it is necessary and if the President of the Board of Trade feels that he has not already the facts—should be made with no prejudice in favour of one area as against another, and with the recognition that no good will be done by making an artificial industry at the expense of one which is 2152 enjoying a vitality of its own, which it has preserved through most difficult times and which we believe it will be able to preserve triumphantly in future if it is given at all times a fair deal.
§ 8.35 p.m.
Mr. W. JOSEPH STEWART
As I listened to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade and his suggestion as to the amount of prosperity that had come to our country, I was almost persuaded that Durham County was not part of the British Isles. We have been debating now for over an hour the very important question of whether or not Jarrow should have work for its people and I sum up the situation in this way. To-night's Debate suggests to me a gamble with the lives of our people. We are debating whether thousands of men, women and children are to have bread and butter or not. If the Government are not prepared to help Jarrow in the matter of these steel works, what are they going to do? What is their policy to meet the needs of that great township? I happen to represent an adjacent constituency, and as a member of a local authority it has been my lot to sit on the Jarrow board of guardians and to deal with the cases of the people who present themselves monthly and weekly for Poor Law relief. The cases that have been cited to us there, time and again, suggest to me and to many others that the condition of Jarrow is infinitely worse than that of any other township in England or Wales.
As a member of the Durham tuberculosis after-care committee I go to Jarrow periodically to deal with cases of those who have passed through sanitoria and also those who are awaiting sanatorium treatment. We as a committee are faced with this position, that people who are enlisted to go into the sanatorium have no clothing, no boots and not a penny in cash. It should be realised that these conditions exist today in a township which, in past years, was one of the most prosperous on Tyneside. Surely someone ought to shoulder the responsibility, and seek by wise speculation and wise administration to bring a measure of succour to that township which is suffering to much to-day. In Jarrow the percentage of unemployed among the insured poplation is 70.1. That being the position, there ought to 2153 be no argument as to the establishment of the proposed steel works on the admirable site which has been suggested at Palmer's old shipyard. If we cannot have the steel works, is it not possible to put down in Jarrow, as has been suggested, a hydrogenation plant? If the steelworks project has to go by the board, surely we are not bankrupt in ideas of other means of helping Jarrow. Surely we are not going to leave it derelict. If the Government do not realise their responsibility and grasp this opportunity of doing something for the people of Jarrow, in all probability they will rouse a storm of indigation there which will have its reflex at the next General Election.
We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman that there is a certain amount of prosperity now in Durham, and I would like to quote to the Committee some figures which indicate the conditions now prevailing in that county. In the administrative county of Durham there are 13,842 persons who have been out of work for more than a year; 7,656 have been out of work for more than two years; 6,355 for more than three years; 6,619 for more than four years; and 7,792 for more than five years. Where is the prosperity? There are over 42,000 persons in that county who have never been reached by the prosperity mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. As regards the percentage of insured unemployed, in February, 1934, the figure for the whole country was 18.6 per cent., and the figure for Durham County was 36 per cent. In February, 1936, the figure for the country was 16 per cent., and notwithstanding all that we are told the Government have done since 1931, the figure for Durham County reached 31.5 per cent. In the Bishop Auckland area between 20 and 30 collieries are closed down. The township is practically derelict and has 52.8 per cent. of the insured population unemployed. In East Boldon the percentage is 40.6 per cent., in Lanchester it is 38.5 per cent., in Shildon it is 46–6 per cent., and, as I have already indicated, the black spot of the county is Jarrow with 70.1 per cent.
Let us consider the number of persons per 10,000 of the population in receipt of Poor Law relief in 1935 in various parts of the country, bearing in mind the statement that prosperity has come to us and that trade is reviving. In Surrey 2154 the figure was 117 per 10,000; in Glamorgan, 669 per 10,000 and in Durham county, which is supposed to have had a wave of prosperity, it was 755 per 10,000. Let us take the relief figures of Durham since the Government took over responsibility for the welfare of the people of this country. The number of persons in receipt of Poor Law relief in Durham in 1931, the first year of the National Government's life was 51,506, at a weekly cost of £13,815; in 1936, after five years of National Government, the figures have gone up to 64,281, at a weekly cost of £21,424, an increase of 12,755 persons and £7,609 in weekly cost. Surely, bearing those figures in mind, the right hon. Gentleman cannot suggest for a moment that if we have this revival in trade and prosperity coming to our shores, this prosperity has to any appreciable extent reached Durham county, which is a Special Area and which has been neglected by the National Government.
I remember sitting in this House as a new Member and listening to a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister on 3rd December last year, when he told us what the Government were prepared to do to help the Special Areas. He promised the setting up of trading estates in the Special Areas so as to introduce new industries, bring prosperity, and find work for our vast army of unemployed. As a result of questions during this last week, it appears that after seven months the Government have not even got a site in the Special Areas for a trading estate. I would like to take the record of a survey of industrial development for 1933 issued by the Board of Trade. The new factories opened in 1932 gave employment to 83,250 persons. One would naturally think that, if we had a vast army of people brought into employment through the introduction of new factories, some of them would have flowed towards the depressed areas, but according to the returns we find that out of those 83,250 persons employed, there were only 900 who found work in Durham, Northumberland, and the North Riding of Yorkshire. Take the survey covering 1934. There was a total of 478 new factories started and 144 extensions in the whole country, and out of those there were only seven new factories and two extensions in the Special Areas. Surely, bearing all those facts in mind, the right 2155 hon. Gentleman who represents the Government this evening cannot suggest for a moment that justice has been meted out to the Special Areas.
I asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman last week as to the number of new industries that have been started in Durham and Northumberland since 1931. His figures go two years beyond the 1934 period, the year when they had the last survey, and I am told that since 1931 new industries started in those counties have only found work for just over 3,000 people. As one who is interested in a Special Area, as one who knows somewhat the difficulties under which our people are living, I ask the President of the Board of Trade what he is prepared to do, or to advise the Government to do, to help those people who are not in a position to help themselves. In the past, by hard work and close application, we have helped to make this nation what it is to-day. By hard toil we have proved that we could turn out just as good a commodity and just as much per man-shift in the North-Eastern area as in any other part of the British Isles. If that is so, and if we are going through Gethsemane and cannot lift ourselves on to a higher plane, surely I am not asking too much when I ask the Government to do what they can to implement the promises which they made at the last election and to see that something is done for our people.
I am surprised at the attitude of the Government. Our people are suffering. We have the reflex upon the child life in our towns and in our Special Areas, and the future generation will not be what we would like it to be. We may boast about our position among the nations of the world, our position in the world of commerce and industry, but I venture to suggest that the most valuable asset that any nation can possess is a healthy, virile manhood and womanhood, and you cannot have that if you neglect the children. The children are being neglected, and they are not having the opportunity of life that ought to be theirs. We talk about Imperialism. We are told that we are sons and daughters of an Imperial race. Back up your Imperialistic ideas by meting out justice to your people and by seeing, as far as possible, that they have a decent and a better standard of life.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
If the Committee agree, I think we might dispose now of the question of Jarrow and then get on to other topics. The speech to which we have just listened comes with somewhat familiar tones to me, for I think I could almost imagine the sort of meetings that the hon. Gentleman addressed in my native county during the last election, and he certainly has the skill of putting a case before the Committee in moving language. I wonder if he will forgive me when I say that yesterday I met a deputation that carried me much more into the region of sentiment than even the discussion this afternoon. I have seldom if ever met a body of people who expressed their views with regard to their local problems, municipal, industrial, and social, with so much force and persuasive power as the deputation that saw me yesterday. I do not pretend for a moment that it is possible to provide a solution for the Jarrow problem. We can only take steps in the right direction, and we are bound to avoid raising any false hopes. Already that has been done in Jarrow more than once, and it has led to terrible disappointment, if not to actual harm. Let us face the facts as we find them, and before I sit down I want to say something of what ought to be done to elucidate the more obscure points. Let us think first of all of the personnel, the dramatis personae as it were, of this play. Naturally, the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), with all her persuasive power, has been able to make a great impression on the public mind.
I have noticed in the course of discussion the name of Sir Andrew Duncan has been used more than once. May I say without the least hesitation and without any qualification that Sir Andrew Duncan is one of the best public servants with whom I have had the pleasure of working? His work on the Electricity Board was of great value to this country. Since he has been in command of the Iron and Steel Federation he has done admirable work there, and certainly with neither a partial nor local affection, nor with the desire to make the Iron and Steel Federation dominate the other industries or those engaged in the industry. It is only fair that that should be said of Sir Andrew at once. He ought not be drawn into the controversy. I 2157 should like to point out, in order to clear the ground, that the Iron and Steel Federation is not an exclusive body. Indeed, one of the conditions that we laid down when we were discussing the matter of the Federation's existence was—and I am quoting from a letter from the British Iron and Steel Federation to the President of the Board of Trade on 31st March of this year—to provide for the entry of new concerns into the federation. Paragraph (c) of that letter reads:To undertake that membership of affiliated associations shall be open to all firms who are eligible under their rules and willing to observe them.That really throws the federation open to any concern which may be founded anywhere in the country. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. Edwards), who knows more than most of us about the organisation of the steel trade, must know the value that attaches to a body of that kind for the better organisation of the industry. We were glad when we found that it was possible to draw into one body and under such a chairman these representatives of the steel industry. It has been suggested that if a new syndicate or a new company were to get to work at Jarrow, it would be crushed by the federation. I take it that anybody who had the enterprise to go to Jarrow to found works there, and to provide sufficient capital to get it going and to work during the early years of construction, would want to know first whether they were going to be crushed by the federation. They would turn to the White Paper with which the industry is familiar, and they would find they had the right to enter the federation on the same terms as anybody else. It cannot be brought as a charge against the federation that they can crush out a new applicant for entry into their organisation. That is an important point that ought to be borne in mind by anybody discussing this Jarrow question.
I have received, directly or indirectly, a full set of all the communications that have passed and reports of all interviews that have taken place. I cannot say that I know everything that has been written about the expansion of the iron and steel trade in the north country, and Jarrow in particular. I have had to work on such material as was available to me, but I would like to point out that the whole position has been exhaustively reviewed 2158 again and again. After the Debate of a week or fortnight ago we had a new survey of the whole problem. There have been further discussions between Mr. Brassert, the expert consultant whose opinions on the iron and steel prospects of Jarrow have been quoted again and again, and a representative of the Consett Iron Company, which is the nearest iron and steel organisation to Jarrow. They had expressed their willingness to be associated with an enterprise at Jarrow if a sound economic scheme could be formulated. I do not take that as an improper condition. Nobody has any right to invite them into an enterprise which is not commercially sound, and it would be no good for Jarrow if they did. It would only mean in the course of time that we should have the story of the old Palmer's yard all over again. We must make sure that the concern is able to start on a commercial basis, and that is where Mr. Brassert came in.
Let me inform the Committee that Mr. Brassert is not a great controversialist, and he does not want to be drawn into public controversy. I can understand that. He is a great authority on the planning of iron and steel works—no one better. He has been in full consultation with the representatives of this organisation. As a result of the recent discussions, yet another conference was held under the chairmanship of Sir Andrew Duncan at the offices of the Federation as recently as Saturday last, when Mr. Brassert and representatives of the Consett company were present. The possibility of securing a sound commercial basis for the erection of steel works at Jarrow was considered, and the following conclusions reached:First, that an expansion equivalent in tonnage to that which is taking place on the North-East Coast and elsewhere to meet the national need for a substantial and immediate increase in the production of iron and steel could mot have been avoided.Let me point out the importance of that. We cannot afford to have our major industries short of supplies of iron and steel. One of the conditions we made throughout in the organisation of this industry through the Iron and Steel Federation was that they must keep the consumers of steel supplied with such steel as they required. It is, therefore, of great importance that that condition 2159 should be complied with. The pressure was at its height about 18 months ago. Immediately, the enterprising firms on the Tees set to work to extend their accommodation and their works. They have done so rapidly, and there is already a yield coming from those works. That is the first fact. Let us see how it goes on:In view of that expansion, no economic programme of production with an assured market"—and let me point out that that is one of the essential elements, that there should be an assured market—can now be found for a new steel works at Jarrow, nor could a new steel works at Jarrow have been ready in time to meet the present situation even if construction had been commenced over a year ago.This statement makes it clear that the Jarrow proposal must, unfortunately, in the opinion of those most nearly placed to it, and Mr. Brassert himself, be regarded as impracticable. The Committee will observe that both Mr. Brassert and the Consett Company agree that the expansion to the extent that has recently taken place on the North-East Coast could not have been avoided. He agrees that even if construction at Jarrow had commenced a year ago, new steelworks could not have been ready in time to meet the present situation. Mr. Brassert has expressed the opinion that if the clearing of the Jarrow site for the construction of works could have commenced in the summer of 1935, coke and pig iron would have been produced early in 1937, operations of the steelworks and rolling mills would have commenced in the summer of 1938, and full production would have been realised by the end of 1938. There would, therefore, have been left a considerable gap which would have placed penalties upon the users of steel which we wish to avoid if essential supplies are to be ample for internal demands. It is obvious from those dates that Jarrow could not in any case have met the present need. Therefore, we have one aspect of that problem which we must put on one side. I must at this point say how unfortunate I think it is that in some quarters there has been aroused an illfounded optimism regarding the possible success of steel works at Jarrow. I do not blame those who represent Jarrow. No one could 2160 have heard the deputation yesterday without being deeply moved.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
No, I quite agree. It has come largely from outside. The Jarrow people have been face to face with stark reality now for some years. Let me go on with the narrative. In the reply I gave to the House last week I explained as clearly as I could the position of the Government with regard to the Jarrow scheme and the general question of the organisation of the iron and steel industry, and I think that nobody can object to that, because although we have a very clear responsibility, as the hon. Member just remarked, for the industry, we have also a responsibility for the whole of the industries which are dependent on iron and steel, and we must not do anything which would be likely to injure them. The. hon. Member for East Middlesbrough does not want anything done at Jarrow which would hurt his constituents. It is my duty to see that there is no displacement of labour or no slowing up of work among any of the steel-using organisations. I am bound to keep that in mind, as well as the parlous state of Jarrow. I should like to say that the best I can urge is the following up of such suggestions as we heard to-night with regard to hydrogenation and other problems, and I can assure this Committee that we at the Board of Trade will do everything we can to push forward any proposals of that kind, but they must find an initiation somewhere, and I do trust that those who are feeling anxious about the position at Jarrow, especially those in the north country, will consider whether they could not reasonably put some of their capital, if they have any surplus capital in the north—I dare hardly suggest that they have after what we have heard—into enterprises such as that suggested to-night. [Interruption.] I am afraid it is only by trial, experiment and enterprise, one might almost say a spirit of adventure, that anything is likely to be done for that unfortunate area.
With regard to the proposal for an inquiry, let me say this. I have told the House that I did not think it was necessary for the purpose of solving our 2161 Parliamentary problem that there should be an inquiry, but I freely admit that there is involved in this subject a number of questions which are social even more than they are industrial—naturally our responsibility extends over a very wide area, although that aspect is not strictly within the purview of the Board of Trade. The further investigation which has been made during the past few days, to which I have referred already, confirms me in the view that I expressed earlier. I think it is abundantly clear that it would be profitless at this stage merely to conduct an inquiry into the events which led to the present position on the North-East Coast. I feel, however, that there is ground for an examination of a wider character than one confined to the particular subject of Jarrow alone. The discussions on this question and certain other questions which have been engaging the attention of the Federation have made it clear that the industry must in the interests of the country, as well as their own, study with care the lines on which any further extension of plant should take place; that is to say, that the social implications of these proposals must be considered as well as the industrial. Such a study must necessarily take into account other aspects of the industry, the conditions under which it is operating now and will be operating in the future.
We have asked the Import Duties Advisory Committee to examine all the data now available and to report upon the present position of the industry and, in so far as is practicable, the general lines of its future development. As the House is aware, the Committee, since its inception in 1932, has been closely concerned from a number of points of view with the development and organisation of the iron and steel industry in this country, and it will therefore come to the present task armed, as my hon. Friend remarked, with a fund of knowledge regarding the structure and needs of the industry. I think it will be agreed that no more competent tribunal can be found for the present purpose. I am glad to add that Lord May and his colleagues are prepared to undertake the examination and to report to His Majesty's Government. This seems to me to be a business-like method of throwing light on one of the most complicated and 2162 painful questions with which the Government have to deal, but when all is said and done I must still admit that the social problem remains.
§ Miss WILKINSON
May I ask a question about the inquiry? Do I understand that this will be a private inquiry among those in the trade itself, undertaken by the Import Duties Advisory Committee? Will it be possible for other bodies concerned with the social implications to lay evidence before the committee, or will it be confined purely to the business side?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The Import Duties Advisory Committee have had a good deal of experience, not exactly with problems of this kind but of inquiries somewhat of this nature, and I would rather leave it to them. They can call evidence from anybody they please, call any witnesses to give evidence, either in public or private, and if necessary they can get the advantage of information which perhaps some of the businesses would not care to broadcast for industrial reasons.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I think the committee would obviously be desirous of obtaining evidence of every kind covering that range of subjects.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. MATHERS
The matter which I have to raise is one apart from anything that has been under discussion this afternoon. I am raising a case which I consider to be, and have no hesitation in describing, as an undoubted case of the victimisation of a trade union branch secretary. The history of this case goes back to the time when I was in this House previously, representing the West Edinburgh constituency. I made application to the then Lord Advocate for Scotland for recognition of the trade union branch serving the men who were engaged in the service of the Northern Lights Commissioners, particularly on the steamship "Pharos." That was in March, 1930. After many arguments I was able to obtain the recognition of the union and was advised of that recognition in January, 1931, so that more than nine months were taken in establishing 2163 an ordinary principle which is prevalent throughout industry. But that recognition, I have to admit, was conceded with very great reluctance. There was a general atmosphere of antagonism to the idea of giving the recognition, and from the time that recognition was given the life of the branch secretary, a man for whom I have the highest regard, a man of very great attainments and of very good character, was made very difficult indeed in the work of serving his fellows as secretary of that trade union branch.
I want to condense what I have to say into the smallest compass. If I quote from some of the reports which I have been given from time to time, and which I have gathered together, that will indicate the atmosphere in which he was placed. He says, for example, in one communication:When the branch was first formed, I was warned by the captain that if I and the others who were active members were not very careful we would end by getting the sack from the service.Again, he says:As the secretary of the branch from its inception, I was soon made aware of the fact that I was to be made the target for special attention from the administrative authorities. I was subjected to all the usual forms of misrepresentation, being called such names as 'agitator,' 'Bolshevik' and even 'anarchist,' to all of which I paid no attention, but kept on organising my fellow workmates until our branch was 100 per cent. representative of the men employed on the commissioners' vessels. I was, of course, very conscious that, in being so openly active, I was treading on very thin ice. That was borne out by a warning I received from one of the commissioners that my success in building up a strong organisation was being closely watched by some of the more influential members of the board, and that I would have to be careful.He goes on to say that he was very careful, but later he talks about the fact that he had been passed over for promotion. He was the only able seaman on board the "Pharos" and had so improved himself, so studied and so applied his intelligence, that he was in possession of a certificate of competence as mate of a home trade passenger ship. I have that certificate here for the Minister to see, if he wishes to do so. Following up the point about not being promoted, although others were being brought into the service as officers from outside the commissioners' service, he says: 2164As a matter of fact, I was plainly told by the captain of the vessel that had it not been for the active part I had taken in organising the men into a trade union I would certainly have been in an officer's position in the service. Meanwhile, we had reached the point where, after much delay and a considerable amount of pressure, we had got the commissioners to meet us in conference to discuss our grievances. I was elected to attend that conference and, in view of the fact that I had been in close touch with the whole position for several years, my presence was regarded as of great importance from the men's point of view. But I never got a chance to attend that conference. I was ordered to go into hospital a day or two before the date of the meeting, to undergo an operation to one of my knees, which had been bothering me for over a year.He had made several representations to those in charge of him about having this accident seen to, but no attention was paid until, without any application on his part, when the time came for him to meet the Commissioners and put forward the case of the men whom he represented, it was found convenient to put him out of the way by sending him to hospital to have this old accident attended to and the injury to his knee looked after.
It was inevitable that, without the presence of the man who was the branch secretary and who was au fait with the whole of the case on behalf of the men, and who could put forward all their grievances in the proper way, the case would not be presented, although every effort was made to do so, in the most effective possible way. To make a long story short, the result of the first meeting was a complete rejection of all the points submitted. The trade union, the Transport and General Workers' Union, did not allow the matter to rest there. A national conference was called of all the men in the three services, Trinity House and the Irish and Scottish Board employés. A national demand was formulated and was put forward. This branch secretary attended a conference in London where the demand was formulated and he says, in a communication to me:Shortly after my return from the London Conference I became aware that I was to be made the subject of special attention from the officer in charge of my department. I was ordered to remove my union badge from my uniform and warned not to use the notice board in the men's quarters for union meeting notices while, at the same time, there was introduced a particularly irritating type of discipline which was hardly distinguishable from that of the Army or Navy.2165 Nobody is suggesting that there should not be discipline on a vessel of this kind, but it was brought to a very high pitch of the formality that is associated with very rigid discipline. He says that everything possible was done to emphasise the authority of those in charge. The reason it was being done was to break the spirit of the men and to prevent them from ventilating their very real grievances. However, under the leadership of this branch secretary, the branch "emained firm and the membership remained at 100 per cent.
Then a chance was presented to those in charge. A notice was put up in the ship, not relating to union business but to something which the union had organised, a whist drive and dance in aid of a hospital. The result of the proceeds of the whist drive and dance was put up in the ship. Because of the notice that had been given to this branch secretary that he must not put up any notices on the ship's notice board, it was indicated to him that he had committed an act of insubordination in putting up this perfectly innocent notice. He was called before the captain and was told that he had violated a rule that had been laid down. He said he was not aware that that was a prohibited thing, but that if he had broken a rule he was willing to apologise for it. He did apologise, and looked upon the apology as closing the incident.
Before he left the captain's presence on that occasion the chief officer of the vessel made a charge against him that he was responsible for breeding such a spirit among the men on the ship that he was damaging the service. Because he was absolutely innocent of anything of that kind, he quite rightly resented that insinuation, but he was not given an opportunity of discussing the matter. He was an able seaman, and the people to whom he was talking were officers, which made a very definite class distinction, apparently. In an endeavour to clear himself of the charge that had been made against him he took the only course that remained to him; he wrote to the officer who had made the charge and denied it, and asked for the charge to be substantiated or withdrawn. Immediately that letter was received this branch secretary was suspended from the service. He was 2166 told that he had committed an act of insubordination in daring to write to an officer. I want to explain to the Committee that the whole object in writing to this officer was in order to get an inquiry made into the charges that were being levelled against him. No inquiry was made. I am asking for that inquiry now.
Later on he was brought before the secretary of the Commissioners in Edinburgh and an indication of the terrible crime that he had committed was given to him. He was told that he was dismissed the service. He made an attempt to explain his position. He asked that the full circumstances might be inquired into, but that request was completely ignored. The board secretary gave him no chance to state his side of the case, and said in so many words that he had complete faith in the reports of the officers, and it was clearly indicated to the man that he had no right to make any protest or dare to get an explanation of any statement which was made against him, although it was resulting in his dismissal from the service and the ending of his career, where he might have done exceedingly well in view of his qualifications. The secretary of the board, on the branch secretary endeavouring to get an opportunity of stating his case, said that it was not that the Commissioners questioned the truth of the statements he made in his letter, but that they took exception to his having the audacity to make any statements at all. Yet it was a letter couched in language to which no exception would be taken in the service in which I have spent my life, the railway service; but such is the discipline which is being imposed that the language in that letter, which I consider to have been absolutely justified in the circumstances, resulted in the dismissal of this man.
It is evident to me that the sole reason for this piece of victimisation is the fact that, having been long accustomed to the very humble presentation of anything in the way of grievances, the commissioners and the officers on the ship resented the fact that they were not given such a good opportunity of merely evading the issue in respect of grievances. The branch secretary took care that grievances which he wished to put forward were put forward on paper, and that, it seems, is what was resented. Here we have an 2167 elementary right of a worker to organise, after it being agreed by those who have any authority which this House does hold over the commissioners that the union was given recognition. Objection to this recognition was expressed by victimising the people who were concerned and trying to break down the organisation. This man was dismissed last year. I have tried since I came back to the House to get the President of the Board of Trade to institute an inquiry. He has said that he has not sufficient jurisdiction over the commissioners to enable him to insist on an inquiry being made. He declares that the only aspect of the commissioners' work with which he has connection is that relating to finance. I want to relate this demand for an inquiry to the question of finance. This man has been dismissed the service. He was building up over many years of service the right to a pension. That right has gone by his dismissal, although it was a pension that was being paid for. In the service of the Northern Lights Commissioners wages are paid of 9s. 6d. a week less than the ordinary mercantile marine rate. That is to cover pensions, uniform, doctor and life assurance. This man has during the years of his service contributed a considerable amount in respect of pension, and some regard should be paid to that.
If he cannot be allowed to have any pension it is competent for me to ask that an ex gratia payment should be made to this man in respect of the amount he paid towards a pension. It will be observed that I have not used his name. I have done that deliberately; I do not want him to be identified publicly. He is now in business for himself, and I do not want there to be any prejudice against him. In so far as the President of the Board of Trade has dealings with the Northern Lights Commissioners he should represent to them that this man even now is entitled to have the opportunity of meeting and refuting the indictment that was brought against him, an indictment the precise nature of which he has never been allowed to know. In asking that this inquiry should be held, I want to ask also to whom the Northern Lights Commissioners are responsible, because it seems that with a great public service of this kind, in which this House is interested, there should be some point where we can definitely challenge their 2168 actions, as I do in this matter. I could extend the statement I am making; I could prove the value of this man whom the Commissioners have allowed to go out of their service by showing how he has used his intelligence to prevent damage on the ship which has taken place since he left, because he was not there. Hundreds of pounds' worth of damage has taken place on the ship since this man was dismissed because, apparently, there was no one on the ship with the knowledge which he had of dealing with certain matters. I emphasise the claim and insist that an inquiry should still be made into the victimisation to which this man has been subjected.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
During the earlier part of this afternoon we heard a description of the deplorable state of South Wales, Jarrow and other parts of Durham. I want to put before the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Mines another area which, if steps are not taken, may be reduced to a like state. We all know in the distressed areas the tremendous difficulty of getting either new industries or getting back other industries. I want to speak of the jute trade, and especially as it affects the city of Dundee, although in neighbouring towns the desperate emergency has already been felt. The jute trade depends enormously on the policy of the Government. At one time the unemployment figure in that trade had risen to 49 or 50 per cent. It has now been reduced by half, being 24 per cent. The unemployment figure in the city of Dundee at the present time is 23.9 per cent. We have been moving in the right direction. The trade has been enormously helped by the trade agreements, especially those with Argentina and with Denmark and the other northern countries, but now it is facing a new emergency.
There has come upon the workers in the jute trade a new terror that their work may be taken away, that the mills and factories may be closed down, and that the area may become an absolutely derelict area. This has come about as a result of the new policy of the Jute Mills Association in India. During the last few years we have watched the great in- 2169 crease in the imports of manufactured jute goods from India. The policy of restriction which was undertaken there has failed, and this year we have seen the last of the sealed looms unsealed and the hours of work increased. It has been calculated that, if the hours of work are increased, as is now suggested, by 54 per cent., and all the looms are unsealed, the output of the Indian mills alone will be some 43 per cent. above the whole consumption of jute cloth in the world. Last year the manufactured imports from India were greater than they have ever been since 1920, and in the first three months of this year they were 125 per cent. above the imports of last year. If something is not done, and done quickly, the jute trade of the United Kingdom will cease to exist, and I need hardly remind the Committee that that trade is an absolute necessity for this country, especially if we were ever engaged in war. I think the facts about the new policy are already known to the Board of Trade, but I would urge that some scheme, even if it be only temporary, may be arranged in order to help the people before further schemes can be outlined. Those who come into touch with the people in the jute trade are continually being asked why it is that, if cotton textile goods going into India are taxed, jute textiles are allowed to come into this country free. Jute manufactured goods are taxed in every other country in the world—in the Irish Free State the duty is as much as 50 per cent.—because of this rush of imports from India, but this country alone has its market flooded with competition that it is impossible to stand up against.
It has been suggested that some of these manufactured goods—a small percentage only—come into this country not fully manufactured, and requiring further work to be done upon them, but I suggest that if the whole of the work, and not a small part of it, were done here, the trade and industry of Dundee would be much improved and its unemployment figure would go down. It has already been reduced to 24 per cent., but there are many people working only four days a week who are not included in the unemployment figure. One large industry outside Dundee is closing down, and many other manufacturers are carrying on until the holidays, the week after next, when they may not be able to open their mills 2170 again. The position is desperate, and if something is not done, and done fairly soon, we shall not only have the unemployment figures that we had before, but the jute industry of the United Kingdom will be reduced to a state in which it cannot be carried on. Indeed, in many cases, even now, although it is being carried on, it is not paying. If this matter can be looked into, those engaged in the jute industry will be only too willing to put all the facts and figures before any Committee or adviser whom the Government may appoint. We in Dundee have been extremely grateful to the Government in the past. The trade agreements have helped us, because, as we believe, there has been a recognition of the particular difficulties of that area and of the fact that this one trade, which is vital to the country, is localised in that part of Scotland, which is the only part of the country where it is carried on.
There is another matter to which I desire to call the attention of the Board of Trade. I have already taken it up with them, but I desire to urge that their investigations into it should be accelerated. I refer to the closing of the Board of Trade surveyor's office in Dundee, I think in 1931, when the shipbuilding trade was at its worst. I was told then, and again in 1932 or 1933, that, should the shipbuilding industry improve, the surveyor's office would be opened again. The shipbuilding industry has greatly improved, but in Dundee it is suffering from the fact that the expenses of the surveyor have to be paid, and the surveyor has to travel from Edinburgh to Dundee, which of late he has had to do, owing to the fact that there is more work in the yards, every day in the week. The shipbuilding industries in Leith and Aberdeen do not suffer in this way, because the surveyor's offices there have been kept open even during the time of depression. I would ask that further inquiries be made as to whether the office in Dundee can be reopened, so that the shipbuilding industry there, which is now much more prosperous than it has been for many years, may not have to bear this burden which the industry in other parts of the country has not to bear.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. GRANVILLE GIBSON
The President of the Board of Trade to-day has given us a hopeful statement as to the 2171 present condition of the trade of this country, and, in view of that statement, I was rather interested to hear the remarks of two hon. Members, from Middlesbrough and Durham respectively. The former said that we see towns occupied again, while the latter said he thought, when he listened to the President of the Board of Trade telling us how enormously the country had progressed during the last two or three years, that Durham County could not be a part of the British Isles. While every Member of the House must be exceedingly sorry for the state of affairs in every depressed area, we must not overlook the fact that, taking the country as a whole, there has been an improvement little short of marvellous during the past few years. In the city of Bradford, which adjoins my division, 300 employers went into liquidation between 1920 and 1926, and I remember that in 1920–21 there were well over 20,000 unemployed there. To-day there are about 5,000 or 6,000. If anybody in the Bradford area is asked to be attributed this marvellous result, he will immediately say that it is the policy of the present Government. Hundreds of girls are working in the Bradford area to-day who have been brought there from Durham and the North-East Coast, and are finding regular employment because there is such a shortage of labour in the woollen industry in the West Riding.
I was very sorry to notice the laughter and jeers of hon. and right hon. Members opposite when the President of the Board of Trade referred to the fact that employers were now making profits again, and that it appeared likely that. in the near future they would make more profits. It does not seem to me that it is a heinous offence on the part of any employer to make profits. He has the same right as any operative has to have a reward for his industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "When he gets it."] Certainly, and he is getting it to-day. With the exception of coal there is hardly an industry in the country which is not exceedingly prosperous, with wages higher than they have been.
§ Mr. GIBSON
The President of the Board of Trade referred to the tremendous increase to the import of raw 2172 cotton during the past 12 months. That must mean that it is for manufactured goods.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
Is the hon. Member not aware of the census of wages taken both by the textile unions and textile employers in Lancashire, which shows how it is possible for perhaps 50 per cent. of the cotton operatives to work a 48-hour week and go home with less than 20s. wages?
§ Mr. GIBSON
I do not personally know the circumstances of the cotton industry in Lancashire, but in the Yorkshire textile industry there is a greater degree of prosperity and more wages being paid than at any time in the past 12 years. There are more people employed and higher wages are being paid. It is all for the good of the country that even the employers now are starting to make profit. What would the Chancellor of the Exchequer do if his largest source of revenue, Income Tax and Supertax, were cut off? Is it not better for the country that we should have these profits, because whenever you have prosperity for the employers you have prosperity among the employed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) referred to the difficulties with which we are faced in our foreign trade, and particularly to the effect of subsidies. He mentioned that Germany was subsidising her exports and that we were being adversely affected in our trade with India. His Majesty's Government cannot possibly take any steps to interfere with what Germany or any other country does with regard to subsidies in respect of foreign trade with other countries, but we can do something with regard to subsidies on imports into this country. A firm in Lincoln recently tendered for an excavator. The price it quoted was about, £7,000. A German firm came on the scene and said they were determined to have the order at any price and quoted a price against which the English firm had not the slightest chance. The difference between the price that was obtained and the cost of manufacturing the excavator in Germany was made up by a subsidy.
I was in Germany a little while ago and a manufacturer there informed me that in respect of all the goods that he sent to this country he received a sub- 2173 sidy of 25 per cent. Poland grants a cash subsidy of 20 per cent. on exports to all countries with which she has not got a trading agreement. That applies to cheap suits which come to this country made under conditions and hours of labour and wages which would not be tolerated for a moment here. We never hear a word of protest from the benches opposite against this kind of thing. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to consider putting a stop to these subsidies, which are unfair competition. When the exchange was strongly in our favour a few years ago, Canada put on an anti-dumping duty, and it seems to me that there is no reason why we should not place duties on goods from any country equivalent to the subsidy that they afford to their exporters.
I should have liked to have dealt with the question of Rumanian payments and the recent decision making it compulsory that all moneys in respect of Italian debts must be paid into the account of the Bank of England. That is a step in the right direction. I also congratulate the Board of Trade on its decision in respect of Spanish trade. I congratulate my right hon. Friend in having at his command a band of officers, with whom I come in contact on many occasions, who are exceedingly efficient. I feel that the policy of the Government during the past four years has rescued the country from terrible depression and placed it in a position of comparative prosperity.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMES GRIFFITHS
I will resist the temptation to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken and will leave him to be replied to by my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. I will content myself with asking the President of the Board of Trade two or three pertinent questions. First of all, has the Government abandoned all hope of restoring our export trade? He indicated that the only prospect that he saw of improvement in the next 12 months or so was an improvement in the internal trade of the country itself. He held out no prospect of improvement for the export trade. The Secretary for Mines, while promising to do his best, had no offer of assistance of any kind for the coal export trade, and we are entitled 2174 to ask the Government whether the export trade of the country is being sacrificed for the sake of the tariff. If you claim that the tariff brings prosperity to some trades you cannot escape responsibility for the disaster that it is bringing to others.
May I quote some figures in relation to the tinplate trade, the second largest industry in South Wales, the largest in my division, a trade which has found its home in South Wales for three generations, a trade which has been built up on exports from South Wales to every corner of the world? Since the adoption of the Government policy the export of tinplates has been reduced by 27 per cent. The President of the Board of Trade will not deny that that reduction is due to the tariff policy. There is a large variety of reasons for the decline in the coal trade, but the decline in the export of tinplates is one that is peculiar to this country, because every other tinplate-producing country in the world has increased its exports. Great Britain is the only country whose exports are declining. Have the Government any policy to offer to these export districts and, if they have not, I want to urge, on behalf of those in this trade who have been thrown out of work, that they are entitled to compensation.
The Debate that has taken place on Jarrow was a picture of the complete failure to plan industry. The hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) was concerned with the problem of trying to attract a steelworks to Jarrow. The people in my division are faced with the problem of trying to prevent the trade being taken away from them. The President of the Board of Trade knows that I asked a question some time ago, and that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and the hon. Member for Swansea West (Mr. L. Jones) and others interested, formed part of a deputation to urge him to take steps that would prevent the removal of the firm of Richard Thomas and Company, who for two generations have manufactured tinplates in West Wales. They made their first home in the town of Llanelly, and they made their money there. Even fortunes have been made by that firm.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
The money made by the firm at Llanelly was dissipated at Redbourne in Lincolnshire, and no one can deny the fact. Will the President of the Board of Trade take steps to induce this firm, which is now prosperous, as he would claim, in consequence of his policy, to recognise their social obligations? For 12 months there has been at Llanelly a fear that they might transfer their works from Llanelly, which has a population of 40,000 and is entirely dependent upon this one trade, to a village in Northamptonshire, which has a population of less than 5,000. It would be creating a new town in one part of the country and destroying another town in another part of the country, and we say that that sort of thing shows the complete failure of the existing system. Are the Government going to offer any kind of hope to the coal and tinplate export trades, and indeed to all the export trades of this country? Have they no tangible hope to offer? Will the President of the Board of Trade give some measure of encouragement to the people of Llanelly and West Wales in the divisions represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower and myself, that the influence of the Government will be thrown completely on the side of the prevention of the transference of that industry from South Wales, its natural home, to a village in Northamptonshire?
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
I do not propose to follow in detail the hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), except to say that it is deplorable in these days, when so many industrial areas of the country are in need of new industries and improvement in existing industries, that persuasion should have to be brought to bear on industrial organisations not to go to the virgin territory of the countryside and start industries which already exist in the larger towns. I want to raise an issue which, extraordinary though it may seem, has not been mentioned in this Debate on the Board of Trade Vote. I will come to it by first of all saying to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade how very much we appreciate in Lancashire, in connection with the export industry, the announcement made in recent weeks that two special commissioners have been appointed in his De- 2176 partment, Sir Charles Innes, and Sir Frederick Whyte, for the special purpose of looking after the export trade. I hope that indicates that the Department will also, more vigorously than has been the case in the past, go into the matter of improving the existing trade agreements and effecting better conditions than already prevail in that respect. I say that because I think that it would be wholly wrong if we were to approach the question of the revision, renewal and prolongation of existing agreements on the basis that, being so good as they are, all we need bother about is to keep them going. I do not for a moment subscribe to that point of view.
The trade agreements, as they exist, have admirably served the purpose for which they have been intended, but they ought to be regarded as a jumping-off ground for something better. I gather that there is a tendency in some quarters to say that any revision or improvement of these things can only come up for consideration and be given effect to as and when the existing agreements with particular countries run out. I hope that that will not be the point of view of my right hon. Friend. The fact that these agreements have so many months or a year or so to run ought not to be a reason for not effecting some improvement in the meantime. The best example of that is the action of Australia which, notwithstanding the earlier implementation of Ottawa, has lately greatly improved the facilities for textile exports from this country to that market as a result of a deputation sent out from Manchester, supported by action on the part of the Board of Trade at home. That is an indication that we need not wait for the date when any particular instrument or agreement runs out, and that we can here and there, by appropriate action, in the meantime effect interim improvements.
On these matters it would seem that we should take a firmer stand in demanding from the country with which we negotiate better conditions for British exports. There is not time at my disposal to go into the matter round the globe as one would like. For instance, Denmark with her overwhelming production of agricultural products, is vitally concerned to maintain an entry into the market here. It ought to be made clear 2177 to Denmark that, if she wishes to maintain in this country anything like an appropriate share of our market for agricultural products, she must turn her back upon the development of a textile industry of her own. There is already some move in the direction of a textile industry in Denmark, and it should be made plain to Denmark that she cannot hope to have entry into our market here with agricultural products, if she, in turn, if to develop her own textile industry and so reduce the volume of our exports. [Interruption.] I see that hon. Members of the Labour party—I am always at a loss to understand their attitude towards some of these things—do not seem to support me in the claim for an expansion of our exports to Denmark. I do not know why they should desire an unnecessary increase in Danish exports to this country. This is a matter for negotiation and agreement, and it is reasonable for us to say to the Danes or to any other country, "If you want a share in our markets for your agricultural products, you must reciprocate by restricting your own textile or other industrial productions and be prepared to take a corresponding volume of the things that we produce." [Interruption.] An hon. Member persists in interrupting and I would only say to him that all I am anxious for is to create and maintain employment for our own people in this country, which the Labour party have been advocating this afternoon, but which, I am sorry to say, the hon. Member does not seem to support.
One very important question which is much to the fore at the moment, in relation to the textile industry, is that of the Argentine. I hold no sort of common cause with those people who want to see the Argentine Agreement broken and to have no agreement in its place, nor do I join with those who oppose the proposals to make a levy on imported meat. I am certain that with the right and proper negotiation which my right hon. Friend's Department has in hand at the moment, the present Agreement with the Argentine can be improved from the point of view of the textile industry, that there is scope for a better share in the market of the Argentine for our textile exports, that the Argentine Government are quite willing to give us a fair show out there, and that that can be done 2178 without in any way contravening the efforts that are being made to improve our own agricultural position. There could be nothing worse in the controversy that rages around these things than to suppose that our textile export interests are opposed to the agricultural interests of this country. What we want is a reasonable balance between the two. In the case of the Argentine I urge my right hon. Friend not to listen to the advocates of no agreement, but to insist on an improvement of the present Agreement, to the advantage of both countries.
There is another matter, which has not been raised in Debate, on which I cannot dwell in detail. I hope that as far as it lies within the province of the Board of Trade they will exert their influence with other Departments of State in seeing that those parts of the county of Lancashire which compare in depression with the so-called depressed areas are given a reasonable opportunity in regard to new industry, and particularly in the production of munitions. We have in Lancashire an Industrial Development Council which is striving, I believe successfully, to keep an impartial and fair view of the requirements of the different parts of the county, and if the Departments of State will consult with that Development Council in their requirements for new production, they can be assured not only that their requirements will be met but that their orders will be placed in those parts of the county where they will be most welcome. I mention that because while the Defence Departments, the Army, the Navy and the Air are in touch with that Council at the present time, and a very welcome announcement has been made that certain gas mask production is to be located in our area, apparently there has been no consultation between the Home Office and the Development Council. As far as the Board of Trade have any influence in regard to these things I urge that they should take note of the mass of information which has been collected by the Industrial Development Council in Lancashire, and that they should consult with that body and make use of its services. For the rest, I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept from me on behalf of other hon. Members our appreciation of the new move in the appointment of trade commissioners, and 2179 our desire that an improvement of the various trade agreements should be expedited, and not be delayed until they are due for cancellation.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Gibson) will forgive me if I do not reply to him except to say that when there is improvement manifested in certain industries the Government and Government supporters claim the credit, whereas when there is exceptional distress arising from industrial location, in South Wales and elsewhere, the Government and their supporters disclaim all responsibility. When the President of the Board of Trade delivered his glowing oration this afternoon on the country's prosperity, I failed to reconcile it with the forthcoming discussion on the Unemployment Assistance Regulations. Prosperity and the means test are incompatible. Undoubtedly there is prosperity in the country, and no one would seek to deny it, but prosperity is neither universal nor widespread in its scope. There is, as has been revealed in speeches in the Committee this afternoon, endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Secretary for Mines, deep-seated poverty and distress, nor can the Committee forget that in spite of the efforts of the Government there is still a vast amount of unemployment in the country for which the Government have apparently no remedy whatever.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech seemed to ignore entirely the effect of the Government's arms programme on the industries of the country, nor did he seem to appreciate that when that arms programme has come to its conclusion we shall be confronted with another industrial slump, probably with an internal economic collapse, for which the Government have no plans. Therefore, for the right hon. Gentleman to speak in such glowing phrases of prosperity and at the same time to claim credit for his Government in that regard, is completely to ignore and set aside undeniable and inescapable facts, many of which were presented in the Debate to-day. How dare the right hon. Gentleman speak of prosperity in face of what is happening in South Wales? The facts were admitted by the Secretary for Mines, in that most melancholy and unhappy speech. How 2180 dare the right hon. Gentleman speak of prosperity in face of what he himself has conceded in relation to Jarrow and its prospects? By what right does the right hon. Gentleman or his friends speak of prosperity, of industrial improvement and the like, and in such glowing terms, in face of the facts revealed in relation to Cumberland, Lanarkshire and in the cotton areas, to which he made reference in the Debate? There is prosperity, large blocks of prosperity, but it is confined to a comparatively small section of the population, unless the right hon. Gentleman means by prosperity that some millions of workers are fortunate enough to be in employment with such wages as they receive. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's conception of prosperity it is not ours.
The discussion has revealed what might be described as the Argentine dilemma, to which I should like to make a brief reference. There has been a demand from hon. Members opposite for a revision of the Argentine Agreement. The right hon. Gentleman in reply to a question yesterday indicated that the term of notice suspending the agreement had now been reduced and that he had in view almost complete revision. I warn him, if I may with the utmost respect, to be very careful indeed—if he is seeking to safeguard the interests of British trade—not to pay too much heed to some of the interests on his own side of the House. Some of them are seeking to exclude goods, agricultural and otherwise, which have been imported into this country from the Argentine. They seek not to arrest or to stabilise that process but to extend it. Fewer goods must come into this country from the Argentine. Yet at the same time demands are being made, as we have heard from hon. Members opposite and in the City of London, that the Argentine public utility undertakings, particularly the Argentine railways, must be made to pay their just and lawful debts to British investors. If investors want a return they must not arrest Argentine trade, but seek to expand it. I ask the question: Who is to win in this struggle? Is it to he the City of London or the agricultural interests? I invite hon. Members opposite to make up their minds.
It is significant that in this Debate we have had very little of the old-time 2181 fiscal controversy. The glory of the Liberal party appears to have disappeared—just a brief reference, reluctantly and diffidently expressed, as to whether trade agreements are satisfactory or not. Is that Free Trade propaganda? Is that the spirit of the Liberal party? Do they believe in the Government's tariff policy? We on this side do not believe in the Government's tariff policy as a means of improving British trade prospects, except temporarily. Of course, you can always apply an artificial stimulus to industry, or provide the breath of life for a new industry. It is a kind of dope, but the more dope you give these industries the more they ask for. The speeches of the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) and the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) show that they are not content. The hon. Member for Dundee made a speech last week extolling the Government's virtues, declared that unemployment was diminishing, and yet she comes and asks for protection for the jute industry.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
If my hon. Friend had heard my speech, he would know that I said they had reduced unemployment in the jute industry by a half. I said I was grateful for that.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
If the Government's policy has reduced unemployment in the jute industry by a half, why ask for protection for the jute industry?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Let it be duly noted that the hon. Lady wants an improvement in the Dundee jute industry at the expense of the Empire. It is a question of shutting out goods from India. Indeed, there have been demands, expressed by no means diffidently or with reserve, that we should exclude, in part at least, goods coming from other Dominions. Has not reference already been made in the House to the deplorable and pernicious effect of imports from the Dominions? Has not a demand been made for the revision of the Ottawa Agreements? Has not the right hon. Gentleman been adjured to be prepared for the revision of those agreements in 1937? What does that portend? The fact of the matter is that the Protectionists are never satisfied. They cannot be. It is inevitable that when once you get on to the slippery slope of Protection, you go 2182 down and down. Tariffs are now on the Statute Book. They are an accomplished fact. Once a tariff is on, it is very difficult to remove it, and that is one of its disadvantages. It sometimes happens that when an industry has had the benefit of Protection for a while, and no longer needs that artificial stimulant, it hates to give it up; it holds on to Protection like grim death because it is afraid that if the prop is removed something serious will occur. That is the difficulty of the Protectionist policy. Not that I am going to make a song and dance about unrestricted Free Trade; I say frankly to the Committee that the day of unrestricted Free Trade has gone, and gone for ever. I can recall, as can all hon. Members, the days of unrestricted Free Trade, with booms and slumps, poverty and profits, and, of course, with unemployment. That is not the sort of policy in which we believe.
At the same time it is desirable to remind the Government of the disadvantages of the Protectionist policy. What has been the effect of the Ottawa Agreements? That there has been some improvement I do not deny. From the very nature of the case, the Protectionist policy is bound to bring improvement to certain industries, at all events for a while; but let it be noted that as a result of the Ottawa Agreement—I will not deal in detail with their effects, but with a few instances only—the United States Government have already removed the gaps in the Fordney tariff against Australia, and the Japanese Government are purchasing less and less wool from Australia as a retaliatory measure because of the Ottawa Agreements. I would like to invite the attention of the Committee to a remarkable utterance, not by a Member from these benches, but by a most estimable gentleman in the eyes of hon. Members opposite. I refer to Dr. Earle Page, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth. He made a speech under the auspices of the Empire Parliamentary Association. The right hon. Gentleman was in the chair and must have heard every word of the speech in which it was stated:A study of the trade of England and Australia will make you realise how necessary it is that there should be not merely an improvement in Empire trade but a restoration of international trade in your own interests.2183 I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not forgotten that statement. Then the speaker went on to deal with the effects—the deplorable effects—of the Ottawa Agreement policy. He said—If you look at the position of Australian trade with Britain you will find that for many years after the time of the depression what took place was this: We used to spend in Great Britain in purchasing goods every penny we received from the exports we sold to you"—
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Are we to understand that a document of this kind which is sent to hon. Members, not in confidence, is not to be quoted in the House of Commons?
§ Captain CROOKSHANK
I am asking the hon. Gentleman whether on the document there are not the words "Not for circulation." If so, it is obviously for the information of Members privately.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I will not quarrel with the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the point. If, as he says, and I have no means at the moment of confirming the statement, this document is for private circulation and private information alone, I shall set it aside, and I shall use the argument in vacuo, so to speak—at all events without reference to this document. The argument is this: Australia has met the dividends on British investments in Australia out of foreign trade balances. Australia has traded with Germany and has not had an adverse trade balance until last year, but has had favourable trade balances and out of the surplus has been able to meet her financial commitments to British investors. But that process has gone. There is now an adverse trade balance with Germany, attributable to the Ottawa policy. You cannot have an Ottawa policy without retaliation, and it is to that fact that the right hon. Gentleman must pay attention.
2184 Because of the inadequacy of the time available I depart from that very tempting aspect of the subject for the time being and come to the crux of the problem. It is clear that neither unrestricted Free Trade, nor a tariff policy on the lines of the Ottawa Agreements, or in any other fashion, can cure the ills to which reference has been made in this Debate. On that we challenge the Government. We heard the melancholy and doleful tale of the coal trade. But did the hon. and gallant Gentleman prescribe any remedy? He said that the Government was not to blame and that it was the result of economic depression, lowering of prices, falling exports and the like. But no remedy whatever is suggested. What a Government! What about shipping, with which the right hon. Gentleman is familiar? That is the last thing for the Government to talk about. Let it not be forgotten that because of the tariff policy of the Government, shipping suffered, and because it suffered the right hon. Gentleman and the Government came to the assistance of shipping with £2,000,000 last year, and £2,000,000 this year, and heaven knows what it will be in the future because subsidies for shipping are in the air.
What about shipbuilding? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us where shipbuilding has benefited as a result of the tariff policy? He talked about the amount of work that was going to be provided for shipbuilding yards, but he did not give us the proportions of civil shipbuilding and Government shipbuilding intended for war purposes. The fact of the matter is that the shipbuilding yards are doing very well because of the Government's armament policy.
I venture to come, without further ado, to the tendencies in our industrial situation as I see them. The right hon. Gentleman made a very valuable admission to-day, which I hope hon. Members in all quarters of the House noted. It arose out of the general controversy. He said he intended, through the medium of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, to demand something in the nature of an examination of the steel and iron trade and its implications, and in particular he said he would advise that committee to consider the social implications. That is a very valuable advance. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to apply the same principle and method in relation to 2185 rationalisation schemes as a whole. Let him apply that principle in Lancashire. Whenever there is a prospect of a mill being closed down, let him consider the social implications. Let the Secretary for Mines apply it to the mining industry. Let him demand that, before a mine is opened, the social implications should be considered, whether it is wise to open it, its relation to industry as a whole, its relation to other mining undertakings; and let him demand that before it is closed, if it has been opened, the social implications should be considered. That is rationalisation for social purposes. Therefore, I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman speak in that fashion this afternoon. Our contention is that rationalisation tendencies as they exist to-day are bound to produce unemployment, and I was about to ask, before the right hon. Gentleman made that admission, what the Government remedy was, so that I was very glad to have that observation from the right hon. Gentleman.
Now I will speak of another tendency, equally irresistible, and that is State assistance. Is it not remarkable that day after day appeals come from hon. Members supporting the Government for assistance for this industry, that industry, and the other? The fact is that capitalist industry is no longer capable of standing on its own legs. Regulation, reorganisation, inspired by Governmental legislation and financial assistance, and more often than not it is financial assistance without any regulation or Government control—that tendency, I say, is irresistible and welcome to hon. Members on this side. It is a process of evolution, but clearly the end is inevitable. State assistance, State organisation, State inspiration, and the like inevitably mean State control, and effective State control implies State ownership. That is where we are leading, and the only question is whether we can lead you in that direction more rapidly than you are disposed to go.
I come now to the final observation which I wish to make. Something has been said this afternoon about planning. I know that hon. Members opposite are very critical of observations of that kind. They dislike the phrase, and I share their dislike. The phrase is of little value unless it conveys something practical, something which can be applied. What 2186 is meant by economic planning? I am not speaking in terms of the policy laid down by hon. Members on this side, which means State ownership in industry. I rule that out for the time being. It will come, but for the moment it is not here, and we have to work within the four corners of the capitalist system. As I understand it, planning implies in existing circumstances an industrial survey, and, if you like, a social survey. For the moment, however, I content myself with the industrial aspects. Already a beginning has been made through the Import Duties Advisory Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman revealed this evening. There should be an industrial survey, an examination of the nation's resources to begin with, and then an examination of the nation's needs, followed by an examination of their proper relations. That is the first step in economic planning—it is the framework in which it should be carried out.
Then there should be the removal of the gap between production and consumption, to which reference has been made over and over again. When are the Government going to move in the desirable direction of increasing purchasing power? I would remind the Government that there is valuable evidence contained in a Government document—which this time is not confidential. It is a document, which I got from the Library with the, assistance of the Librarian, relating to the economic conditions of the Argentine Republic. It is a report by the Commercial Councillor of His Majesty's Embassy in Buenos Ayres. He speaks of the need for expansion to enable the Argentine to meet its financial obligations to the British investor, and he says:Some idea of what the satisfaction of this insufficiency"—he is referring to the insufficiency of food in Great Britain among the working-class population—would mean to agriculture in the Argentine can be formed from an estimate which has been made that if every family in the United Kingdom spent as much on food as those having a weekly income of 25s. per head, the total expenditure on that item would be increased by £200,000,000 sterling annually.That is one of the means of escaping from the dilemma, that is, to increase purchasing power and to give a much needed stimulus to trade. One proceeds 2187 naturally in the inevitable direction that if you are to increase purchasing power you must control prices. You must bridge the gap between wholesale and retail prices. If, therefore, we are asked for our version of what economic planning implies, I would venture these observations. I repeat that we must accept as an accomplished fact the tariff policy. If a Labour Government came in, they could not remove tariffs as a whole; it must be a gradual process. We must consider world economic implications. I recognise that. [Laughter.] Obviously, if the Government had recognised and considered world economic implications, they would not have done such foolish things as they have. It is part of economic planning to consider the effect of your policy on the world, and the reactions and repercussions of your policy. In spite of the glowing statements and the eloquent periods of the right hon. Gentleman, his complacency and self-assurance, his patting himself on the back and being so happy about it all, we are far from being contented. We have in our minds, much as we deplore it, the spectacle of unhappy and discontented people and impoverished homes in many parts of the land. They are unhappy and discontented people who are the victims of an economic system which the right hon. Gentleman upholds. A change is bound to come, and nothing the right hon. Gentleman can do or say or that his supporters can do or say can prevent it taking place in due course.
§ 10.41 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel C. KERR
I followed with great interest the forcible speech of the hon. Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell). He made one or two admissions at the end of his speech which I think are of the greatest importance. I should have liked to interrupt him, but I knew he would not wish to be interrupted. I wish to say only a very few words. If I had not thought the hon. Member did not wish to be interrupted I should have asked him whether, if the Opposition were to come into power, they would immediately remove all tariffs and open the ports; but I was glad to find that before he had ended his speech he did answer the question I had proposed to put to him by saying that he would not, under world conditions as 2188 they are, do such a foolish thing. Hon. Members opposite, my erstwhile comrades, are smiling. They are still diehard Free Traders. I put the same question to them. Would they, if they occupied these benches to-morrow, remove all tariffs and put on Free Trade as we understand it? There is no answer. Of course they would not. They know it would be quite impossible.
I wish to get back for one moment to my own constituency. The senior Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) mentioned the dreadful condition which is now about to come there and which has come to the jute industry in my own division. In one of my boroughs the best factory has had to shut down because of the imports of jute materials into this country. An hon. Member opposite was rather scathing in his remarks about the senior Member for Dundee in regard to her wish to improve the industry which is established in both our constituencies. He knows as well as I know that the reason why we are in such distress in the jute industry—and I should not have thought he would have approved of it—is that the goods which are being imported into this country to-day and which are wrecking the jute industry are produced uneconomically at wages of which he cannot approve. In view of that surely he cannot be so scathing, and rather sneering, at those who are interested in jute trying to get better terms for the industry.
The position is that the whole of the jute imported into this country from India is only, I understand, at most 4 per cent. of the jute production of India. India imposes a duty on cotton goods going from this country into India. Cannot our own jute industry be allowed to manufacture what it can sell here? If not, a very slight duty on what is coming from India would make all the difference to the question of whether that industry is to shut down, because that is what it means. I have in my Division, in Forfar, one factory which is shut down. It is the finest factory in the country. As regards machinery it is bang up-to-date, and immense sums of money have been sunk in it. Now, 750 people have been shut out of work. That may not seem a very big number to those who deal with thousands of people, but it means that that borough has become a 2189 special area. I urge the Minister to consider this matter. A very little help to the jute industry would put it on its legs again, and I trust he will do his best to see what he can do. If we are suffering from duties put upon our imports to India, although they do give us a Preference, surely a little tit-for-tat which would save the jute industry, is an admissible thing to ask for.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD CAMPBELL
The hon. Member who spoke for the Opposition seemed to think that by shouting he was going to get everybody to imagine, not only in this Committee but in the country, that the Protection policy of the Government has not been successful. He has only to remember the position in which we were, some four or five years ago, when his party, funking the issue that was before the country at the time, ran away from their duty, and left the National Government to take over a ship which was nearly sunk. [An Horn. MEMBER: "Who was the captain of it!"] [Laughter.] You may laugh to-day, but for four years you were out of the House and not laughing at all. These benches and the majority of those benches were filled with Conservative Members. You Labour Members had failed to do your duty and were taking a very long holiday. During that time, you have seen the House of Commons—
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that his remarks are supposed to be addressed to the Chair.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I apologise for addressing the hon. Gentleman opposite instead of yourself. In any case, Sir Dennis, I am sure that you recollect that for four years the Government have carried on step by step, and have built up a Protection policy which has put hundreds of men into employment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Subsidies."] Yes, we have employed subsidies. Perhaps I may be allowed to give an example of the subsidy. Last year—[Interruption]—hon. Gentlemen talk very often and I talk very seldom—I was in New Zealand. I had gone from Australia to New Zealand in a ship subsidised by an American company.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
On a point of Order. Are we not to have a reply from the Minister to the speech which has been made from this bench?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Further to that point of Order. I am speaking not for myself but for hon. Members behind me when I point out that my hon. Friends have put questions to the right hon. Gentleman which deserve a considered answer.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a point of Order. An hon. Member is at the moment in possession of the Floor.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I am glad that I was doing so well that the Opposition did not like it. I did not think that my speech was having such an effect upon them that they would prefer to have a Front Bencher rather than myself. I was saying that I travelled from Australia to New Zealand, and was compelled to travel in an American subsidised steamer. It is impossible at present for the Australian and New Zealand Governments to supply ships on these routes owing to the tremendous subsidy to shipping which is paid by America. They told me that these steamers lose no less than £30,000 on each voyage. The money not not allotted to the shipping companies, but is part of the Navy vote in America and is allotted to each steamer.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member should not raise a point of Order on which I have already given a ruling.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
When foreign countries subsidise their merchant ships it is necessary that we should do the same thing. The policy which this country has adopted has been shown to have been beneficial to all people in this country. The Opposition should be really more keen on protection than we are. Are they not eager to protect the labour of people in their trade unions? That is what our policy is intended to do. Instead of subsidised goods made in foreign countries by cheap labour being imported here, it is much better that those goods should be produced by British labour, and so more money be put into the 2191 pockets of the working people of this country. I have lived abroad for a great number of years and I know that this is the one country in the world where labour is protected, and where men get decent wages. The Government was accused by the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Opposition Bench of having a wrong policy, but the policy which this Government has brought in is appreciated by everybody in the country. If our Protection policy is not of benefit why should so many foreign countries seek to make arrangements with us in order that they shall be able to do business with England.
When we lived under so-called Free Trade we were in the hands of the foreigner. When we ship goods to a foreign country, they have to pay a duty, but when the foreigner ships goods to our country they came in free of duty. Since the adoption of the policy of this Government, the contrary has happened, and foreign countries which formerly dumped goods here are now coming hat in hand to the President of the Board of Trade and asking him whether he will make some arrangement so that they can carry on the trade which they used to carry on before. If hon. and right hon. Members of the Opposition do not believe that to be true, they have not studied the arrangements which we have made, and which have given us a great chance of bargaining with foreign countries.
I have always realised that such questions as commerce and trading generally are not very well understood by Members of the Opposition—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where did you learn?"] I have been through the mill. I dare say I have had as much commercial training
§ as anybody in this House, and any success I have gained has been gained through hard work. I think it is a great pity when we hear speeches from the Opposition Benches like that of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. One would imagine that he did not realise the facts of the case, but thought that, as long as he was speaking to the Members of his party in this House, he was speaking to the whole world. I am sure, however, that people outside this House will confirm my statement that the present Government have done a great deal of good for the country, and will realise that they not only have done and are doing it, but will continue to do it. The hon. Gentleman said that they were gradually working up to Socialism. That may be, but I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that it will be a jolly long time before they accept Socialism. The hon. Gentleman has stated his own opinion, but in my view it is a wrong opinion.
§ Mr. R. C. MORRISON
I sent to the right hon. Gentleman's Department notice of the two questions that I put to him. Would he have the courtesy to answer them?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I have already addressed the Committee twice, and my hon. and gallant Friend also has made a long speech. I did not understand that there was any necessity for any further reply.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 208; Noes, 127.2195
|Division No. 289.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Channon, H.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Blindell, Sir J.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Chorlton, A. E. L.|
|Albery, Sir I. J.||Bossom, A. C.||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Boulton, W. W.||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Brass, Sir W.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Apsley, Lord||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'rS.G'gs)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Craddock, Sir R. H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bull, B. B.||Craven-Ellis. W.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet)||Burghley, Lord||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Balniel, Lord||Butler, R. A.||Crooke, J. S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Carver, Major W. H.||Cross, R. H.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Cary, R. A.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Rankin, R.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merloneth)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Keeling, E. H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Denville, Alfred||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Drewe, C.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rowlands, G.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Latham, Sir P.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Runciman. Rt. Hon. W.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Leckie, J. A.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Liddall, W. S.||Salt, E. W.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lindsay, K. M.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Emery, J. F.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lloyd, G. W.||Selley, H. R.|
|Entwistle, C. F.||Loftus, P. C.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Errington, E.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||M'Connell, Sir J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Flides, Sir H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||McKie, J. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Furness, S. N.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Magnay, T.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Ganzonl, Sir J.||Maitland, A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Gibson, C. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Giedhill, G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Markham, S. F.||Spens, W. P.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Storey, S.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll.N.W.)||Moreing, A. C.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Hannah. I. C.||Munro, P.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Nall, Sir J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hepworth, J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Penny, Sir G.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Petherick, M.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Plugge, L. F.||Wragg, H.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|Hunter, T.||Ramsbotham, H.||and Mr. James Stuart.|
|Jackson, Sir H.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||John, W.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Foot, D. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Frankel, D.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Gallacher, W.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Gardner, B. W.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Lathan, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Leach, W.|
|Batey, J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lee, F.|
|Benson, G.||Grenfell, D. R.||Leonard, W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Bromfield, W.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Lunn, W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Cape, T.||Groves, T. E.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Cassells, T.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||MacLaren, A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Maclean, N.|
|Chater, D.||Hardie, G. D.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Marklew, E.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Marshall, F.|
|Dagger, G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Messer, F.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Milner. Major J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)|
|Dobbie, W.||Hollins, A.||Morrison. R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Ede, J. C.||Hopkin, D.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Jagger, J.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Paling, W.||Shinwell, E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Parker, J.||Short, A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Parkinson, J. A.||Silkin, L.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Silverman, S. S.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Potts, J.||Simpson, F. B.||Westwood, J.|
|Price, M. P.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Pritt, D. N.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Riley, B.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Ritson, J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercilffe)|
|Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Rowson, G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Seely, Sir H. M.||Thurtle, E.|
|Sexton, T. M.||Tinker, J. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
Question put, and agreed to.