HL Deb 21 July 1905 vol 150 cc471-577

rose "To call attention to the speeches of Mr. Chamberlain at St. Helen's on June 3rd, and at the Albert Hall on July 7th, and to the Resolution of the Tariff Reform League passed on the latter occasion; and to move to resolve—(1). That this House disapproves of any proposal to establish a general or penal tariff; (2). That this House disapproves of any On Question, system of Calonial Preference based on the taxation of food." The noble Duke said: My Lords, I am only too painfully conscious that many of your Lordships are by this time so weary of discussions on the fiscal question that it is probable that some natural impatience is felt at any attempt to renew discussion of it; but, in my opinion, it is a question of such vast importance and one of which it is so necessary that clear ideas should exist in the minds of the electors, and at the same time one on which there still exists so much obscurity and confusion on the part of some of our leaders, that I do not. think that much excuse is required from me if I ask your Lordships once more to consider the subject.

The Resolutions I have to move are not intended to raise, and I think do not raise, any issue as between His Majesty's Government and the Opposition. I understand that His Majesty's Government intend at the next election to submit to the country some scheme of fiscal reform which will involve assent to the principle of retaliation, and will also involve some further examination of the question of colonial preference. To both of those policies I believe the Opposition are opposed. These Resolutions do not raise that issue. The issue they are intended to raise, and which I think they do raise, is one, not between the Government and the Opposition, but one between the different sections of those who support His Majesty's Government; and my desire is to make one more attempt to discover to the opinion of which section of their nominal followers His Majesty's Ministers at present incline.

It may be said that this issue is solely of Party interest. I think it is of wider interest. Although it does not appear very probable that His Majesty's present advissers will be in a position after another election to submit any legislative proposals on the fiscal or any other question to the country, still it must be a matter of deep interest and importance to the country to know what course will be taken by the Unionist Party in Parliament and in the country in the more or less prolonged period during which they may find themselves excluded from office. I am afraid that, whether in power or in opposition, after what has occurred the Unionist Party must for a considerable period be a divided Party. But, in my opinion, great as that evil is, it is a lesser evil than that the Party should have a semblance of unity when in reality unity does not exist, and a lesser evil than that the Unionist Party should be the one which is pledged to a policy which is retrograde and unsound.

The position the Unionist Party will take after the next election will be greatly decided by the advice they receive from their responsible leaders; and I propose to-day to attempt, not by putting Questions to His Majesty's Government, but by inviting His Majesty's Government to give a clear "Aye" or "No" to certain definite propositions, to obtain an expression of their opinion on a subject on which, in my judgment, that expression of opinion has been too long delayed. In the last discussion that took place on this question my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gave the House to understand that, although it was not impossible, it was extremely improbable that what is called the ordinary Colonial Conference would be called together to deliberate next year; that in June next we should be within measurable distance of the time for a dissolution; and he told us to consider whether, at such a time, the Government would be inclined to issue, or the Colonial Premiers would be willing to respond to, an invitation to attend a Colonial Conference.

Since that discussion, and even since I put my notice on the Paper, circumstances have somewhat changed. We now know that, if the Government is still in power when Parliament meets next year, it is their intention to submit to Parliament a scheme of electoral reform which will, with the ordinary business, probably occupy the whole session, and which, if passed, may render necessary the preparation of a new register. Therefore, the period before the dissolution may be longer than my noble friend thought when he last addressed the House, and it is quite possible that there might be time during the present Parliament for holding another Colonial Conference; and it seems to me not altogether inopportune to ask my noble friend whether the Government have taken any steps, or intend to take any steps, before Parliament meets again, for the purpose of summoning the ordinary Colonial Conference, and, if so, whether they have considered the subjects which it would be competent or desirable that that conference should discuss.

Another point left in some obscurity at the last discussion, which I think my second Resolution may help to clear up, was whether those supporters of His Majesty's Government who give their adherence to the policy of calling together a free and unfettered conference for the discussion of our fiscal relations with the Colonies thereby commit themselves to any approval of the policy of colonial preference based on the taxation of food. That is the subject of my second Resolution, and I think the vote which your Lordships may give upon it may provide a more satisfactory Answer than anything that has yet been obtained by asking Questions. If we were to put a Question we should no doubt be told that by assent to a free and unfettered conference no one is committed to anything, and that, if any conclusions should be arrived at at that conference, those conclusions will have no effect until they have been submitted for the approval of another Parliament. That may be a good answer before the conference has met; but what will be our position after the conference has met and has discussed our fiscal relations, and possibly come to some conclusion? If that conference is able to agree on a plausible scheme of colonial preference founded on the taxation of food, we shall inevitably be told that it is too late to raise the question of principle on which the measure rests. We shall be told that, as reasonable men, we must take the consequences of our own action. We shall be told that we always knew that the only possible basis for colonial preference was the basis of the taxation of food, and that if we were irreconcilably opposed to that it would have been better never to have entered the conference at all. What we want is to be assured that after the conference, and after it has possibly arrived at some conclusion, we shall be as free as we now are to oppose what we believe to be an unsound policy and one which would provide an unstable foundation for closer relations between the mother country and the Colonies.

Desiring as we do the most intimate relations in fiscal as well as in all other matters with our Colonies, we desire above all things that there should be no room for misunderstanding between us and them. We do not want to enter into a discussion with them, possibly to arrive at some agreement based upon generous offers on their part, and then to be placed in the position "of having to turn round upon them and say we are obliged to reject those offers because the concession required on our part was one to which we are in principle opposed. I maintain that the time for us to make up our minds on the principle is before, and not after, the conference. When a principle is at stake it is not possible for us to preserve the open mind which we are invited to preserv. The second Resolution asserts in the clearest language the principle to which I and those who agree with me adhere; and we ask every Member of the House—I believe there are many on this side of the House, possibly including some members of the Government, who are strongly and definitely opposed to anything in the nature of taxation, especially taxation of a protective character, upon the food of the people—we ask them to make their opinion clear and remove the possibility of any misunderstanding.

I am not going to discuss the question of the colonial offer, or whether there was such an offer. What I think is perfectly certain is that, although many of the Colonies might be willing, if we thought it was in our own interest to reverse our fiscal policy in the matter of the taxation of imported food, to make us generous and satisfactory offers, they have never invited us to reverse our fiscal policy on their account. They have always said that that was a question, we must first decide for ourselves, and that when we had decided it they would be in a position to discuss what they could give us in return. There is, however, a wider question which I desire to submit. I want to try to ascertain what is the present position of the leaders of the Unionist Party. I think I perceive with sufficient clearness, though not perhaps as clearly as I could wish, what is the position in which the Prime Minister would like to stand. I understand that the Prime Minister desires to obtain a mandate from the country to reverse the maxim which has hitherto prevailed in our fiscal policy, that duties are never to be imposed except for the purpose of revenue; but, so far as I can understand him, he desires to obtain this mandate for the purpose of negotiation alone. He has said that the idea of entering into a tariff war with all the protective nations of the world never entered his mind. He has discarded the intention of proposing general tariffs or penal tariffs. The most definite declaration which the Prime Minister has ever made on this subject was that which he made when he first unfolded his policy at Sheffield. Having regard to the practice of other nations, he said— I contemplate no such procedure with regard to this country. I think it would involve too great a disturbance of our practice, and might risk the disorganisation of our trade. But I see no such objection to our proceeding, so to speak, from the other end; and if we thought we could do it without disadvantage to ourselves, which is, after all, the guiding consideration in these matters, we might inform any foreign country which we thought was treating us with outrageous unfairness that, unless they modified their policy to our advantage, we should feel ourselves compelled to take this or that step with regard to their exports to our markets. I am not aware that the Prime Minister has ever in any of his speeches advanced beyond that position. The complaint we have to make is that he has allowed others to attach a different interpretation to his words. As to colonial preference I will do the Prime Minister the justice to say that I do not think he has ever expressed any objection to the taxation of food on principle, but he has expressed the very strongest opinion that in the present state of public opinion it does not enter into the field of practical politics. I think the Prime Minister has to a certain extent modified that opinion. I think he has now persuaded himself, or been persuaded by others, that if this question was discussed in a free conference with the Colonies it is possible that this objection on the part of the people to the taxation of food, which he once thought insuperable, might be overcome. This, very generally, is what I understand to be the policy that the Prime Minister. would desire to place before his followers and the country at the next general election. But unfortunately he has not had a clean sheet upon which to inscribe his own policy. Another statesman had been in the field with fiscal reform before him, and, in my judgment, so far at all events as the Unionist Party are concerned, that other statesman holds the field. There is another policy besides that of the Prime Minister, a larger and more extended policy.

As to retaliation, Mr. Chamberlain nominally accepts the policy of retaliation. He cares nothing more for the word retaliation than for the word Mesopotamia. He accepts the big revolver of my noble friend behind me, but he intends to load that revolver himself, and to load it with a general tariff, a scientific tariff, and, if need be, a penal tariff. That has been stated more clearly than ever in the last speech which Mr. Chamberlain has made. He said— 'Retaliation' is an excellent text, so is Mesopotamia. What do we mean by retaliation? We mean an effective engine to force a fair trade policy upon the nations with which we exchange our products—or, failing that, to take up our own independent position, and, if we cannot exchange our goods with theirs, to keep for our own people our own demands. What is that but a tariff war? Mr. Chamberlain went on to say— We want the big revolver when we meet the men who are armed at all points.…. What is the use of a revolver which is not loaded? We will load our revolver with a general tariff. That tariff must be moderate, in my opinion. It, will he a tariff principally for revenue. It will be a tariff which contains a large free list of articles which are necessary for the spread of our commerce, and on which, therefore, we should be foolish to put any duty. It must be a scientific tariff, and when we have it we must ask at the same time for a mandate from the electorate of this country that the revolver is not given to us as a toy—that it is meant for use; that its charge—this general tariff of which I speak—may be turned at a moment into a penal tariff in the case of those nations which will not meet us on equal terms. The policy thus expounded by Mr. Chamberlain is a policy of a revenue tariff, a general tariff, a scientific tariff, and, if need be, a penal tariff. This is a policy of fiscal revolution to which I think no encouragement has been given by the Prime Minister or any member of his Government, unless encouragement can be found in the silence with which the speeches of others have been accepted. Clearly there have been two policies before the country. The question to be considered is whether there are still two policies before the country or whether they have been merged into one; and, if they have been merged into one, whether it has been through the retirement of Mr. Chamberlain to the position of the Prime Minister, or through the advance of the Prime Minister to the position of Mr. Chamberlain. One thing, at all events, is certain; no Government and no Party can deal with the fiscal question as a whole without taking into account the existence of Mr. Chamberlain's policy and the policy of the Tariff Reform League. I submit that it is the duty of our statesmen and leaders not to concern themselves only with the views and the policy which they have evolved for themselves from their own studies and their own philosophical meditations, but to take into account all the facts of the case, and the existence of Mr. Chamberlain and the Tariff Reform League are facts. They may be convenient or inconvenient facts; pleasant or disagreeable facts, but they are facts with which in any consideration of the fiscal question we have to deal and which it is impossible for us to ignore. The policy of the Prime Minister up to the present time in regard to Mr. Chamberlain and the Tariff Reform League has been to ignore their existence. But he will find that they cannot be ignored. The agitation is in the hands of a resolute and determined statesman who will have an answer from the country, and will obtain that answer whether it be in his favour or against him. I am not very much surprised, in view of this negative attitude which the Government call its policy, that Mr. Chamberlain should have put forward the somewhat audacious claim that the Prime Minister's policy is one with his own.

On the last occasion on which the House discussed this subject, I called attention to the speech of Mr. Chamberlain at St. Helen's, in which he put forward this claim. I do not think my noble friend the Foreign Secretary quite understood the object of the Question which I then put to him. My noble friend said that he had not given minute attention to the matter, that he had not compared the speeches of Mr. Chamberlain with those of Mr. Balfour, and he seemed to think that my object in putting the Question or in referring to those speeches was to detect some differences between them. That was not my object at all. My object was to call the attention of my noble friend to a definite claim which had been made by Mr. Chamberlain that the policies of Mr. Balfour and of himself were practically one, and to ask him whether he assented to that claim. That claim was put forward at the Albert Hall in a more extended form, because it covers not only the question of colonial preference, but also of penal tariffs. Mr. Chamberlain said— Meanwhile I rest myself upon the actual words of the Prime Minister. I make no comment, but in my judgment they constitute a declaration which justifies the hope that I have already expressed, that when the great trial of strength comes the Unionist Party, which through the mouth of all its popular and representative men has declared itself in favour of the policy which we have proclaimed, will find its leaders shoulder to shoulder, and placing themselves ready at the head of a movement which offers to this country its only constructive and fighting policy. Is it possible that a claim can be put forward in stronger language that the Prime Minister is a supporter of Mr. Chamberlain's po licy than that which I have just quoted?

The question for the House is whether this claim can be made good. I am not going to put any Question to the Government. I know that the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack has a strong objection to being asked Questions as to his intentions which are based upon the declarations of other people. I am not going to ask the Government whether they assent to this claim of Mr. Chamberlain's or not; I must look for the evidence to other quarters. If Mr. Chamberlain des red to prove this claim he could being forward a good deal of evidence. He could point to the sympathetic letter of the Prime Minister on his resignation; he could point to the retention in the Government of his son, an avowed supporter of his policy; he could point to innumerable letters and messages addressed by the Prime Minister to tariff reform candidates in the constituencies wishing them success; he could point to the Parliamentary manoeuvres of the present session in the other House designed to shield Mr. Chamberlain from a hostile vote on the part of the followers of the Government; he could point to the continued silence of every member of the Government in the face of these repeated challenges; he could point to the presence at the Albert Hall of 150 supporters of the Government who listened to this claim and who uttered no protest and made no sign; he could point to their acceptance on the same occasion of a resolution which was so framed as to convey the impression that the claim that, the two policies were identical could be maintained.

I do not say that all this evidence—and I think a good deal more could be produced—is conclusive. It may be that when the policy of the Government is placed before the country we may find that the Prime Minister has not advanced one step beyond the policy of the "Economic Notes on Insular Free Trade "and his Sheffield speech, but if that be so, I ask, What chance is the Prime Minister giving to his own policy, and what is the position in which he is placing those unfortunate members of his Party who, while they are prepared to support everything which he himself has ever said or proposed, are not prepared to go one step farther? These unfortunate followers get all the kicks and mne of the halfpence. What has Mr. Chamberlain to say about them? He had something to say about them at the Albert Hall. Mr. Chamberlain said— I know very well there are men on both sides of politics who, when some great forward movemen. is in progress, are led by excessive modesty to creep to the rear. They are the men who tell you that too rapid advance should be avoided. —I think I remember some sentences of that sort in the speech of the Prime Minister— They are the men who are afraid of committing themselves prematurely, and it is only when the battle has been fought and won that they emerge to congratulate the victor. We want 'The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.' We have a clear understanding as to every part of our policy, and we will not allow these gentlemen"— Those are the gentleman who support the Prime Minister and no more— I think myself the constituencies will not allow them, after having done everything in their power to thwart us in the commencement, to come bask after our victory as nominal supporters, but who have the full intention of preventing us from securing what ought to be the natural results. For whom, my Lords, were these jibes intended but for the supporters of the Government policy if not for the Government itself. And while they are exposed to these taunts I can recall no word of encouragement which has been addressed by any member of the Government to these men who are fighting as well as they can for what they believe, from the declarations of the Government, to be the policy of the Government.

I read the other day a rather interesting article in the Standard. That article, of course, I do not quote as having any authority, but I quote it for a reason which I will explain in a moment. It was an article on the organisation of the Unionist Party, of which the writer had a good many complaints to make, but I find in it this sentence— It is absurd, for instance, when a constituency is known to be on the whole decidedly favourable to the policy of Mr. Chamberlain, to bring forward a candidate who declines to move one step ahead of Mr. Balfour's programme. It is equally unwise when local feeling is preponderatingly suspicious of food taxation to solicit its suffrages for a gentleman who makes preferential tariffs a prominent feature in his address. I admit that this article has no authority; I quote it only because it appears to me to describe exactly, not to say cynically, the game—for I can call it nothing but a game—which is being played before our very eyes—a game which in the opinion of the writer is not being played so well as it might be, but as to the soundness and the honesty of which there does not appear to be in his mind the smallest doubt. According to this writer it does not matter whether a Unionist candidate is a supporter of the policy of the Government or of the policy of Mr. Chamberlain so long as he calls himself a Unionist and is pledged to a fiscal change of some kind or another. It is true that this advice was given in respect of candidates for vacant seats. But the spirit of the advice applies equally to the seats of sitting Unionist Members, and it is being applied—though perhaps not so satisfactorily as the writer could wish—but it is being applied to those constituencies. Greenwich, Croydon, and Middlesex, to take examples, are supposed to be constituencies which are favourably disposed towards Mr. Chamberlain's policy. The sitting Members representing those constituencies are willing to support the policy of the Government, but to go no further. Therefore, either they have been forced out, or they will have to fight for their seats.

I do not ask the Government whether they endorse this advice. The Answer which they will give to the Resolutions which I move will supply in the best fashion the Answer to that Question, Neither of the Resolutions controvert in any particular the policy of the Government. They controvert solely the policy of the Tariff Reform League, the policy which has been emphasised in the speeches which I have just quoted. The acceptance, or rejection, or the evasion of the definite propositions which I have put to the House will enable the House better to judge than any Answer can enable them to judge whether it is the intention of the Government to stand by their own supporters who cannot go beyond their own policy, or whether they are prepared to hand those supporters over to the tender mercies of those who have spoken of them in the language which I have just read.

Now, my Lords, I have only to say one or two words about the Amendments to my Motion which have been placed on the Paper. The House may have observed that since it was first placed on the Paper I have made a slight alteration, not in the words or the purport of the Resolution, but of its arrangement, The original Resolution contained two propositions dealing with two different branches of the fiscal question. In its altered form those propositions are now separated. As it is my desire in bringing forward these Resolutions to give to the Government and every Member of your Lordships' House the opportunity of making his position on the fiscal question clear, I think it may be for the convenience of the House if these Resolutions could be put separately. But on this point I am in the hands of the House, and I must be guided by the opinion of the authorities of the House. But I have already privately suggested, and I now publicly suggest, to my noble friend Lord Minto, who has given notice of an Amendment, that his Amendment applies solely to what is now the Second Resolution on the Paper. He objects to the Resolution because in his opinion it will restrict the freedom of the Colonial Conference. But that objection can only apply to the second Resolution; it cannot apply to the first Resolution, which deals only with the subject of general or penal tariffs. That is a purely domestic question for ourselves with which no Colonial Conference can possibly concern itself. Therefore, I suggest to my noble friend that he would make his position more clear if he were to consent to move his Amendment on the second Resolution. For reasons, some of which I have already endeavoured to explain, I am afraid I cannot accept his Amendment, even if it applied only to the second Resolution; but if he should succeed in amending the second Resolution as he suggests, I should be grateful for small mercies, and I hope it may be possible for him, seeing that his Amendment applies solely to the second Resolution, to support the first Resolution as it stands on the Paper.

But there is another Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Camper-down; and I confess that I find some difficulty in understanding the object with which he has put down the Amendment, and still more difficulty in understanding why, as I have seen it stated, the Government should intend to support it. If they take that course they will show themselves to be more obstructive even than the Government have shown themselves in the other House. It is true the previous Question was once moved by the Government to a Resolution somewhat similar to the second of my Resolutions, and it was moved on the ground taken by my noble friend Lord Minto, that it would hamper the freedom of the conference. But since the previous Question was moved to that Resolution, on four different occasions the House of Commons has passed, I will not say without the protest of the Government, but without direct opposition or without the interposition of the previous Question, four Resolutions dealing with the fiscal question; and I want to know why your Lordships' House is not to be permitted as much as the other House of Parliament to discuss, and not only to discuss, but to give its vote upon, the questions which have been raised before the country.

It is quite true that these Resolutions have not influenced in the slightest degree the agitation which has been carried on by Mr. Chamberlain and the Tariff Reform League. I do not suppose that those Resolutions will have much influence upon the policy of the Government when they come to propose it. But it does not follow that those Resolutions will be altogether without influence on the country, or that the country will altogether disregard the fact that in one of the Legislative Chambers in which they have have a large majority they have either not dared or not thought it prudent to meet those Resolutions by a decided and distinct negative. In your Lordships' House His Majesty Government have a still larger majority than in the other House, and it is supposed—I do not know with what truth—that the following of Mr. Chamberlain is larger in this House than in the other House of Parliament. If that be so, I shall be much surprised if the tariff reform Members of this House will be disposed by voting for the previous Question to declare that it is inopportune to express a judgment on the policy which has been put forward by their leader, which has been discussed in the other House of Parliament, which is being discussed in every part of the country, and which in no very distant time must be decided by the country. As I said at the outset, these Resolutions do not and are not intended to controvert the policy of the Government as defined by themselves. They are intended to, and I think they do, offer a distinct condemnation of the policy of the Tariff Reform League which Mr. Chamberlain in his last speeches seeks to fasten on the shoulders of the Government. They are intended to afford to the Government and to every Member of your Lordships' House means which, I think, are simple and effective of asserting whether they are prepared to stand by their own policy, or whether they are willing that it should be put aside and superseded by one which is absolutely and essentially of a different character.

Moved to resolve, "(1). That this House disapproves of any proposal to establish a General or Penal Tariff; (2). That this House disapproves of any system of Colonial Preference based on the taxation of food."—(The Duke of Devonshire.)

their Lordships divided:—Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 73.

Argyll, D. Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.) Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Bedford, D. Templetown, V. [Teller.]
Manchester, D. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Wellington, D. Abinger, L. Monck, L. (V. Monck.)
Battersea, L. Monkswell, L.
Ripon, M. Brassey, L. Overtoun, L.
Braye, L. Rathdonnell, L.
Carrington, E. Burghclere, L. Rosmead, L. [Teller.]
Chesterfield, E. Congleton, L. Sandhurst, L.
Crewe, E. Crofton, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Devon, E. Davey, L. Shuttleworth, L.
Durham, E. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.) Sinclair, L.
Hardwicke, E. Denman, L. Stanmore, L.
Howe, E. Ellenborough, L. Thring, L.
Kimberley, E. Farrer, L. Torphichen, L.
Lauderdale, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.) Tweedmouth, L.
Lonsdale, E. Grimthorpe, L. Wandsworth, L.
Mansfield, E. Hamilton of Dalzell, L. Welby, L.
Spencer, E. Herschell, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Northesk, E. Blythswood, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) (L. President.) Onslow, E Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)
Rosse, E. Kinghorn.)
Scarbrough, E. Calthorpe, L.
Devonshire, D. Stamford, E. Chelmsford, L.
Marlborough, D. Strafford, E. Clonbrock, L.
Portland, D. Waldegrave, E. [Teller.] Crawshaw, L.
Rutland, D. Westmeath, E. Digby, L.
Dunboyne, L.
Ailesbury, M. Churchill, V. [Teller.] Glanusk, L.
Lansdowne, M. Cross, V. Hastings, L.
Linlithgow, M. Falmouth, V. Hatherton, L.
Zetland, M. Goschen, V. James, L.
Hill, V. Kenyon, L.
Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain.) Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
Abingdon, E. Lurgan, L.
Cadogan, E. Knutsford, V. Monk Bretton, L.
Camperdown, E. Milner, V. Muncaster, L.
Dartmouth, E. Sidmouth, V. Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Dartrey, E. Redesdale, L.
Denbigh, E. Bangor, L. Bp. Robertson, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) St. Oswald, L.
Allerton, L. Sandys, L.
Feversham, E. Amherst of Hackney, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Haddington, E. Avebury, L. Suffield, L.
Malmesbury, E. Balfour L. Windsor, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Belper, L. Wynford, L.
Minto, E. Bellew, L.

, who had given notice to move as an Amendment to the Duke of Devonshire's Motion, 'To leave out all the words after 'any' and to insert 'attempt to impose restrictions upon the scope of the inquiry to be conducted by the next Colonial Conference,' "said: My Lords, in rising to reply to the speech of the noble Duke, I can assure your Lordships that I do so with the greatest respect for the past services he has rendered to the Empire and to the public life of this country; and in what I have to say I should like to dissociate myself as far as possible from any Party feeling, for, in my humble opinion, in a discussion of this great Imperial question we should all do well to divest ourselves of political bias or pre-judice. I would gladly believe that, whatever our political inclinations may be, we are all of us united in the one wish to maintain the integrity of the Empire, and that if we differ, we differ only as to the best means of assuring its future.

The noble Duke has drawn attention to certain changes which he has made in the original form of his Resolution, changes of which he very kindly gave me notice, and he has suggested that I should confine my remarks to the last clause dealing with the supply of food stuffs from the Colonies.


I did not suggest that the noble Earl should confine his remarks to any part of the Resolution. What I suggested was that he should alter the position of his Amendment.


The noble Duke suggested that I should alter the terms of my Amendment so as to meet the second clause of his Resolution; but the principle and the machinery embodied in both clauses—though I confess the first clause refers particularly to home taxation—seemed to me in some ways to be so akin to each other and so certain to overlap in the future, that I thought I was entitled to take the Resolution as a whole. I can assure your Lordships that I gave notice of my Amendment with no wish to enter into a tariff debate in your Lordships' House, and I do not feel called upon to follow the noble Duke in the analysis of political Parties in this country, nor to dispel the fears which he apprehends from the result of future conferences, whilst I certainly need not, in any way, attempt to explain the future policy of the Prime Minister.

Before going further I think it is due to your Lordships' House to say that after I had given notice of my Amendment I became aware that my noble friend Lord Camperdown was anxious to move the previous Question, and although, in many ways, I personally would wish for a decided decision on the Amendment which I had ventured to place on the Paper, I cannot but feel that the Motion of my noble friend is, under present circumstances, best, and more suitable on broader grounds. I, therefore, shall not move the Amendment of which I have given notice. All the same, I feel called upon to explain to your Lordships the reasons which originally induced me to give notice of it. As I have already stated, it was due to no wish to discuss or to analyse the most difficult question of tariffs, for I felt that there were far deeper Imperial questions involved in the noble Duke's Resolution than any consideration of the advantages or disadvantages of tariff readjustment or of inter-Imperial trade.

I felt, my Lords, that such a Resolution emanating from a statesman of such eminence, and going forth to the world with the weight of approval of your Lordships' House, could only be accepted in one light by our kinsmen in the King's possessions beyond the seas—namely, in the light of a cold rebuff, to much courteously expressed and deep-seated colonial sentiment, and that it would fetter free discussion at some future conference on points as to which the people of this country have as yet expressed no decided opinion, but as to which our fellow-countrymen in the King's distant possessions have expressed themselves in no ambiguous voice. For they have told you that, in their opinion, these questions of tariff reform and inter-Imperial trade are vital to the future of the Empire, and that they believe them to contain, to a very large extent, the solution of those difficult questions which surround their closer connection with the mother country. The effect of such a Resolution could not but be mischievous and far-reaching, and I, personally, cannot see how, with the weight which it would derive if accepted by your Lordships' House, it could fail to hamper, if it did not altogether prevent, free discussion at future Colonial Conferences.

It would appear to me that the noble Duke, dissatisfied with the very clear Answer he recently received from my noble friend the Secretary of State tor Foreign Affairs as to the free discussion which His Majesty's Government thought desirable at this conference, is now endeavouring, by persuading your Lordships to sanction this Resolution, to cripple that discussion which His Majesty's Government have just declared to be essential.

The noble Duke appears to me scarcely to appreciate the importance of these Imperial family gatherings, these gatherings between the motherland and her offspring States, which meet on terms of equality to discuss affairs of the Empire. The noble Duke forgets that parental autocracy disappears with the nursery—that it is the administration of babyhood—that these offspring States are now rising nationalities full of ambitions and hopes and growing power; and that though they are as devoted as ever to the land from which they sprang, they claim their right to speak freely at Imperial discussions.

I may be accused of looking at the question from a colonial point of view alone. I should like to say that I am looking at it from an Imperial point of view. I should be sorry to feel that I was looking at it from a point of view associated simply with the future career of Parties in this country.

The noble Duke has formed his own decision, actuated by, perhaps, an over-loyal affection for the system of tariff legislation which many of us who have wandered much beyond the precincts of these Isles think to be now out of date and unsuited to the requirements of our great Empire. Or the noble Duke may, perhaps, have been influenced by a want of acquaintance with the feelings, the sentiments, and the requirements of our kinsmen beyond the seas.

That want of acquaintance is answerable for much. It is answerable for many incorrect statements, for many random assertions; and I hope your Lordships will not think I am beside the mark in trying to give some illustration of the feelings and the forces which exist on the other side of the Atlantic, and which, whatever people at home may think, must greatly influence our policy in this country.

I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to give illustrations elsewhere of what I consider to be the state of of affairs in our colonial possessions, but I hope, even at the risk of some repetition, your Lordships will allow me to state them again here, for words spoken within these historic walls are likely to carry much more weight throughout the country and throughout the Empire than what may be said in other places.

We must recognise that Imperial statesmanship cannot now-a-days afford to be parochial. We cannot afford to look at things from an insular point of view. We must remember that while there are great interests at home which we cannot afford to ignore, there are the interests of our kinsmen far away that we must not ignore either, and that if we wish to continue to build up the future of this great Empire we must be prepared to share in those interests.

As your Lordships are aware, I had the honour of representing our Sovereign for some six years in the Dominion of Canada. The period of my appointment was an eventful one. It was a period of immense development, the development of vast resources and increasing wealth; and in the midst of all this came a great war and a rush to arms of British subjects throughout the King's dominions—a demonstration to the world of the value of Imperial strength and Imperial unity. Following on this came the conference of 1902, that much debated conference, the results of which created a great effect in Canada, and then Mr. Chamberlain's pronouncements on inter-Imperial trade.

All these factors combined to accentuate much deep feeling, to bring to light many ideas that had hitherto lain in embryo. Men began, as the term now goes, to think Imperially, and to wonder whether all these great resources and all this wealth could be directed into British channels, or whether, without a leader, they were to be left to wander we know not whither. In Canada the idea of preferential trade, rightly or wrongly, was the idea which most fascinated the population, and which gave, in their opinion, the solution of the difficulties to which I have already alluded. It was, I think I may say, unanimously accepted as that solution throughout Canada, for before I left the Dominion chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and manufacturers' associations had unanimously passed resolutions in favour of it; and it must be remembered that these associations in a highly protective country contain the very people whom individually you would not expect to encourage a further per-ference for British goods. Their resolutions represented the general wish of the people of Canada.

Besides that there, were resolutions unanimously passed by several of the provincial Parliaments, whilst the Dominion Parliament did not take that course simply for the reason, as the leading statesmen of Canada have frequently declared, that tariff reform having become a Party question in this country, they did not think it right to step into the political arena.

I came home to find that many false conclusions had preceded me, conclusions based on very superficial knowledge and obtained from very doubtful sources. I came home to find much ignorance, geographical ignorance, ignorance of Canada's sea-ports, ignorance of the possibilities of Canadian transport and railways. I was told that there was no genuine wish in Canada for preferential trade, and that no offer at all had been made on the part of the Colonies.

I have already told you of the influences which had caused me to form a somewhat opposite opinion; but now, if your Lordships will allow me, I will venture to give rather more detailed information, which I think cannot fail to be of interest and of great value as putting forward the colonial position. I do so largely because statements which I myself make are often taken as merely personal assertions of no great value and are disregarded and forgotten, whilst the information which I should to place before your Lordships is official and reliable, both as regards the figures and the source from which it is derived.

There seems to be in this country very little idea of the enormous resources of the North-West of Canada, and as that part of the Dominion is the great food-producing part of the Empire and likely to be very much more so in the future, I think it is only right that I should place before your Lordships its capabilities, which I think for Imperial reasons ought to be known. Professor Saunders, the Director of Experiment al Farms in the Dominion, says that— He reckons that in Manitoba and the three provisional territories, Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, there are 171,000,000 acres suitable for cultivation; still further, that in the AthAbasca and McKenzie districts there are respectively 155,000,000 and 340,000,000 acres of land which have not yet been fully reported on agriculturally, but where considerable quantities of wheat have already been grown. Of the 171,000,000 acres of agricultural land referred to, only about 4 per cent, has yet been brought under crop; but supposing that a quarter of this 171,000,000 acres was under wheat crop annually, and taking the average production per acre of Manitoba for the last ten years, Professor Saunders estimates that the total wheat crop would be 856,000,000 bushels annually, which would place Canada in the position of being much the largest wheat-producing country in the world. And these figures deal only with a portion of the West and take no account of the wheat-growing areas in the Eastern provinces. It is also interesting to note in the same report the difference between the average present wheat yield per acre of the United States and Canada. The average yield of the United States for the preceding ten years was 13.53 bushels per acre, whilst in Ontario and Manitoba, which are the only provinces from which Professor Saunders found available statistics, the average winter wheat crop for the last ten years was 21.52 bushels per acre and spring wheat 16.64, and for the same period in Manitoba, where only spring wheat is grown, a little over 20 bushels per acre. The fairest way to make a comparison between the wheat-growing capabilities of the Western States of America and the Canadian North-West is to take the average yield for ten years of the States bordering on Manitoba, viz.:—Minnesota, 14.33; North Dakota, 12.87; South Dakota, 10.67—as against 20 bushels per acre in Manitoba. The following is, I think, very impressive—the total wheat crop of the United States for 1903 was 637,821,835 bushels, and was grown on less than 50,000,000 acres. The wheat-growing lands of the United States are not what they were, and a comparison between the above 50,000,000 acres and the enormous acreage I have quoted to you as the wheat-growing area in the Canadian North-West alone is very striking. The total imports of wheat and flour into Great Britain in 1902 were equivalent in all to about 200,000,000 bushels of wheat. Were one-fourth of the land said to be suitable for cultivation in Manitoba and the three provisional territories under crop with wheat annually, and the average production equal to that of Manitoba for the past ten years, the total crop would be over 812,000,000 bushels. This would be ample to supply the home demand for 30,000,000 of inhabitants (supposing the population of Canada should by that time reach that figure) and meet the present requirements of Great Britain three times over. This estimate deals only with a portion of the West, and it leaves the large Eastern provinces out of consideration altogether. From this it would seem to be quite possible that Canada may be in a position, within a comparatively few years, after supplying all home demands, to furnish Great Britain with all the wheat and flour she requires and leave a surplus for export to other countries. With a rural population on the Western plains in 1902 of about 400,000, over 67,000,000 bushels of wheat were produced. Add to this the wheat grown in Ontario and the other Eastern provinces and we already have a total of over 93,000,000 bushels. These figures are full of promise for the future of Canada as a great wheat-exporting country. I should like also to read another extract. In this case it is taken from the Campaign Text-book of the Democratic Party of the United States— Regarding reciprocity with Canada. This great country on our Northern border, one of the largest and finest on the globe, has a land area slightly larger than that of the United States, and perhaps little inferior to it in the vast variety and value of its resources. It is surrounded and indented by seas that teem—to a degree beyond all others anywhere—with the wealth of ocean, and they, in conjunction with its mighty system of internal transportation, afford a splendid basis for maritime and commercial enterprise. Its population, now rapidly increasing, is practically identical in origin, customs, religion, institutions, and Customs requirements with our own. Only a political boundary, an imaginary barrier, separates this Imperial domain, this land of inestimable promise from us and others.… From a decrease of 60 per cent, from 1873 to 1897 the preference tariff has aided British merchants and manufacturers to sell more than 100 per cent, more goods in Canada in 1904 than they sold in 1897. In the three years ending in 1903, the sum of 8,464,590 dollars in duties has been saved to British sellers by the operation of preference. Says Mr. George Johnston, the able chief statistician of the Dominion: 'The conclusion I feel warranted in drawing from these figures is that the preferential tariff has saved a business which, before the adoption of that tariff, was rapidly dwindling, and has, in fact, so greatly increased it that there is a reasonably sure prospect that the palmiest period of the trade in the past thirty years will be over-shadowed in the near future.' Increases like this were made, of course, chiefly at the expense of the United States.… Great Britain has not been unmindful of the change in Canadian sentiment with respect to the United States, and the so-called Chamberlain plan as promulgated in February, 1903, has entered as another element threatening closer relations between the United States and the Dominion.… This plan proposes in a nutshell the restriction of the greatest market in the world, the British Empire, to the countries composing that Empire, to the exclusion primarily of the United States and of all other countries, except upon such terms as might be secured through the breaking down of tariffs. It implies that Great Britain has reached the limit of patience in permitting a free market for the wares of high protectionist countries, and is determined to do a little trade for herself along lines suggested by her rivals. Should this policy of Mr. Chamberlain's succeed—and it is the general opinion both here and in England that notwithstanding temporary set-backs eventually it will—its importance to the United States cannot be overestimated. That, my Lords, is American opinion, which was largely circulated at the time of the last Presidential election, and, though issuing from the Democratic Party, anyone who followed the American Press at the time could very easily detect that the Republicans were quite ready to take a leaf out of the Democratic note-book.

I now come to the Resolution at the conference. That Resolution is so well-known to your Lordships that I think it unnecessary for me to read it. It is denied over here that any direct offer was ever made on the part of the Dominion to this country, and I can only say that to my mind the offer appeared very distinct. If it is thought best to term it an overture rather than an offer, I am quite ready to accept the change. But there is one point always overlooked in this country,—the rider added by the Canadian representatives to the Resolution, to the effect that— The Canadian representatives are prepared to recommend to their Parliament preferential treatment of British goods on the following lines—viz., the existing preference of 33⅓ per cent., and an additional preference on lists of selected articles—(a) by further reducing the duties in favour of the United Kingdom; (b) by raising the duties against foreign imports; (c) by imposing duties on certain foreign imports now on the free list. I should have thought that if that was not an offer it was something very nearly approaching one. The question is so very important that, at the risk of wearying your Lordships, I am anxious to place the Canadian view distinctly before you, and I would venture to read an extract from Mr. Fielding's Budget speech of June 7th this year. Mr. Fielding said— We have found ourselves in this position in regard to the question, that the matter has now become one of Party controversy in the mother country. It is not so with us in Canada. We may differ in detail, but I think I am justified in saying—and I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will not find fault with me in saying—that practically the two great political Parties in Canada are a unit to-day in favour of the principle of preferential trade. Though they may differ as to particular items of detail, or as to the best method of bringing it about, there is practically no difference in Canada. A question of that character, which has an Imperial side to it, and a question which enlists the warm and enthusiastic support of a man of such ability and force as Mr. Chamberlain, is certainly not going to remain a dead letter, although in the early future we cannot expect any great results from the movement. What should be our own action in the matter? We may be influenced in our own preferential policy by what may occur in the mother country in the hereafter. We should retain a free hand in that respect. But, for the present, we think it is wise policy to adhere to the preferential system, in the hope that it may be adopted more generally throughout the Empire, and that by-and-by a better understanding may be come to in the mother country, and that it will be adopted there as well. It has been sometimes said that Canada should take some further action in endorsing that principle. I do not think we are called upon to take any step beyond that which we have already taken. The attitude of Canada has been clearly laid down at the Colonial Conference, and while every phase of the Government policy has been discussed in this House, there has been practically no exception taken to the position assumed by the Government at the conference on the question of preferential trade. Now that the matter has become one of Party controversy in England we naturally hesitate to take an active part in it. We are free to say what we think is best for Canada, we are even free to say that we think this system of preference is capable of doing good to the Empire. But when we know the matter has become one of Party strife in Great Britain, I think it would be unseemly on our part if we were to attempt to throw ourselves between the two political Parties over there and take any active part in the movement. We must be content with stating our position as it has been stated in the past. We, on this side of the House, accept the principle of preferential trade. We believe that, while differing in some details, hon. Gentlemen opposite will not differ from us on the principle, and therefore we say to the English people that Canada is practically a unit in support of the principle of preferential trade. We must be content to leave the matter at that for the present. Following on that speech came the general election in Canada. In that election there was not very much notice taken of preferential trade policy; but when the question of inter-Imperial trade was alluded to by Sir Wilfrid Laurier he expressed his opinion so clearly that again I cannot resist reading an extract to your Lordships. Speaking at the Manufacturers' Banquet at Montreal last September, Sir Wilfrid Laurier said— Differences in civilisation and climate make it impossible that you can have the same tariff for Canada as India, the same for India as Australia, and the same for Australia as South Africa. But what is possible, I believe, is that we can have between the motherland and the Colonies treaties of commerce, if I may so speak, and the expression is not too strong or extravagant, whereby we can sit down and, by mutual concessions, by giving and granting to one side and the other, develop the trade between Great Britain and the Colonies to the mutual advantage of all.…We cannot have the same tariff for Canada and Great Britain. I will not say what they should have in Great Britain, that is their own look-out; tut when they have chosen their policy, and we have chosen our policy, it shall always be possible to sit down and come to some conclusion by giving and granting where we can still further extend and strengthen the relations which exist between us. And at Sorel in the same month Sir Wilfrid Laurier said — Are you going to continue that policy? On that point the answer is easy. It has been before the country for two years. Both for this country and for the whole Empire. It was not given in Ottawa nor on Canadian soil, but in the heart of the Empire at London at the Colonial Conference, when I declared to the Empire that I and my colleagues of the Government were ready to make a trade treaty. We are ready to discuss with you articles on which we can give you a preference and articles on which you can give us a preference. We are ready to make with you a treaty of trade. Mark those words coming from a colony to the mother country without offence being taken. What stronger proof could you want of the immense development we have made in our legislative independence when we say to the British Government we are ready to negotiate with them. My Lords, that is my case. It is the case for the Colonies.

I do not think, as I said at the commencement of my speech, that we can afford to consider these great Imperial questions without a full acquaintance with the sentiment of our kinsmen on the other side of the water, and I maintain that the evidence which I have put before you embodies a mass of British sentiment, colonial feeling, and hard-headed business and official opinion which it is impossible to disregard. I turn to the Resolution moved by the noble Duke, and I say distinctly that the terms of that Resolution are framed in opposition to all the evidence I have placed before the House. I say it is an attempt to induce your Lordships to record an opinion on matters which in an Imperial sense are still sub judice, and I say that it is calculated to destroy that free discussion of Imperial subjects at Colonial Conferences which the people of the Empire have a right to expect. One hundred and thirty years ago we had a lesson as to what a want of sympathy might cost us. I hope we have taken the lesson to heart. I beg to thank your Lordships for your kindness in listening to me so long.


, who had given notice, on the Motion by the Duke of Devonshire being proposed, to move "the previous Question," said: My Lords, the noble Duke at the commencement of his speech said that he had only one or two Questions to ask the Government, and that the main part of his speech would be directed to the Resolution which he was asking the House to adopt. As his speech went on he departed from that course, because by far the larger part of his speech was addressed to the relative position of Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain, and to other matters which were connected with the Government. He asked the Government, several Questions which he told them he would give them an opportunity of answering. With the earlier part of the noble Duke's speech I do not propose to deal, but I wish to address myself to the latter part, in the course of which he said he saw that I had put down a Motion for the previous Question, and he did not understand the reasons why I had done so. I will endeavour to explain in as few words and as clearly as I can the reasons which led me to take that course; but before doing so I cannot avoid saying that I greatly regret not to be able in this matter to agree altogether with the noble Duke. No one in this House is more sensible of, and I think no one is less likely to forget, the services which he has rendered at times of great stress and difficulty to this country, and, therefore, when I say that on this occasion I differ from him, I am sure he will understand that I mean exactly what I say.

Now, my Lords, what is the Resolution which the noble Duke has moved? He has alluded to certain speeches of Mr. Chamberlain which were delivered in the country. I think he correctly stated Mr. Chamberlain's position, and he asked this House to express disapproval of that position. I venture to submit to the House that it is very difficult indeed—so far as I know it is not possible—to find a precedent for such a course. If there is one rule in this House which is well known it is that a private Member has no right to address a Question to, or demand an opinion from, other Members of this House. It is, of course, in the right of any Member to bring in a Bill and ask the House to approve or disapprove of it. It is, of course, perfectly within the right of any Member to ask His Majesty's Government a Question, but to put forward a Resolution which does not refer to matters which have taken place in this House, which refers to no Bill which is before this House, which refers to nothing which is before Parliament—well, all I can say is that, so far as I know, there is no precedent for such a course.

I venture to say, moreover, that such a course is by no means convenient. Let us for a moment suppose the proceedings reversed. Suppose it were the noble Lord, Viscount Ridley, who, I believe, is chairman of the Tariff Reform League, who had asked this House to express its approval of the proceedings or the position of Mr. Chamberlain. I, for one, should have taken exactly the same course with regard to that Motion as I am now taking in regard to this one. I think it is entirely inconsistent with the regulations and with the rights of this House, and I venture to submit that if your Lordships were to accept this Resolution you would be not merely accepting it but doing a great deal more. Mr. Chamberlain is not the only person who has spoken in the country on this matter. The noble Duke and those who agree with him have also delivered speeches in the country. They have formed views which I will call the views of the free-importing school. They have stated opinions which are quite as extreme in their direction as Mr. Chamberlain's have been in his. Those speeches are before the country, as are Mr. Chamberlain's, and it is for the country to deal with them; but when the noble Duke proposes in this House that we should disapprove of Mr. Chamberlain's proceedings, I venture to think that if this House were to agree with him, the country, which is not apt to draw fine conclusions, would say that by disapproving of Mr. Chamberlain, you had approved of the noble Duke.

A great many questions have been dealt with by the noble Duke and by those who agree with him. They have argued very strongly against anything in the nature of retaliation. They have gone even so far as to argue against any interference with bounties. I do not wish to enter into those questions now, because they are not the matter before the House, but what I do wish to say is that this fiscal question is not altogether so simple as they think. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why either the free-traders, so-called, or the tariff reformers should assume that their position. and their position alone, is possible and that it is perfectly simple to be understood. I believe there are a great many people in this country, of whom I confess I am one, who feel a great deal of difficulty with, regard to this question, and who at different times and under different conditions would vote differently on the same matter.

I am not alone, and those who agree with me are not alone, in that matter. I could give your Lordships an illustration. Take the case of the sugar bounties. Those bounties have been denounced. The Convention which abolished those bounties has been denounced all over the country as having been the cause of the rise in the price of sugar which took place last autumn and last winter. What has happened now? The price of sugar has fallen and is falling every day. Those who were unable to believe that the Convention was the sole cause, or even the chief cause, of the rise in price are surely not wholly without reason when they observe that although this Convention still exists yet the price of sugar is falling. Is that a question on which every Member of this House is prepared to vote "Aye" or "No," or express a positive opinion? There are many others who have differed at various times on questions of this sort. I will quote a rather celebrated occasion Viscount Goschen, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1890, reduced the duty on currants; and this is what he said— I propose to reduce the duty on currants from 7s. a cwt. to 2s. The Committee will ask why I have selected currants while the tax on raisins remains as before. Currants come chiefly from Greece, and Greece attributes such an immense importance to this reduction that she is prepared in return to make a substantial offet of reduction on British manufactured goods… These reductions will relieve the British trader of duties which are calculated at from £50,000 to £60,000 a year. Currants have been specially selected this year. I should be extremely glad if the countries exporting raisins, such as Spain and Turkey, could see their way to meet us in a similar manner on a future occasion. I merely give that illustration to show how one person may entertain different views at different times, and regard these duties and what I may call the retaliatory principle from different points of view. I think I have made quite clear to your Lordships the grounds on which I propose to move the previous Question. I think the noble Duke's Motion is contrary, in the first place, to the practice and rules of this House. There is no Bill before the House; there is nothing before Parliament; there is nothing to which Parliament can appeal; and it seems to me that if your Lord- ships were at this moment to declare a positive opinion with regard to this matter, you would be entering a judgment on the fiscal question without having heard all that is to be said with regard to it. The noble Duke said in the last words of his speech that by his Resolution he would enable the Government to show that they adhered to their own opinion, and not to that of Mr. Chamberlain. I can only say, having read the Resolution very carefully, that I cannot conceive that there is anything of that kind in it. It appears to me it would be far more natural, if your Lordships were to pass this Resolution, that the country should say that you had not only disapproved of Mr. Chamberlain's position, but had also approved of the position which is taken up by the noble Duke and by those who agree with him.

Amendment moved— That the previous Question be put, whether the said Question shall be now put."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)


My Lords, your Lordships have heard the line which is to be taken by the champions of His Majesty's Government, and I venture to think there will be a sense of profound disappointment in all parts of the House. Unquestionably we have arrived at a very grave crisis in the history of this country. One of the most prominent men of the time has directly identified Ministers with his own proposals. He has challenged their disclaimer of those proposals, and what is it now proposed that we should do? That we should agree to a Motion that the question be not entertained by the House of Lords at all. Why, my Lords r the position of my noble friend opposite seems to be this. He will pile up and accumulate all sorts of technical objections; but the one thing he will not do is, he will not face the broad issue raised by the noble Duke. We are told that it is most unusual and unpardonable that the House should be invited to consider utterances of a private Member of Parliament, and that the next thing will be that the opinions of my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire will be pilloried and challenged for discussion in the House of Lords. They may be, if and when the noble Duke announces that he is standing shoulder to shoulder with the Government; then, and not till then, will there be a parallel between the case which the noble Earl has figured and the case with which we have to deal to-night.

I have said that this is a grave crisis in the history of the country, and I will state in a word why. For two years vague opinions have been floating about, and they have been industriously circulated in favour of some form of protection. These suggestions have been met by His Majesty's Ministers up to the present time with various Answers, but what is common to each and every Answer is this: a disclaimer of a general system of protection. That is the universal characteristic of all the speeches of Ministers. One has said, "Let us try retaliation and negotiation. What is the harm of that?" Another has said, "Would it not be well, at all events, to encourage the Colonies by having some form of colonial preference?" But each person who has said that has coupled with it a denial of the proposal to establish a system of protection. Now what has happened in Mr. Chamberlain's speech is this: that a full-blown system of protection is offered to the country, and, what is more, every one is ruled out of alliance with Mr. Chamberlain unless he goes in for what has been called "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." That, my Lords, is stated in the most explicit terms, and Mr. Chamberlain in his speech uttered words of defiance which I beg my noble friends on this side of the House to take to themselves. He has said in words— Let no one join with us who does not agree with the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. I want to ask noble Lords on this side of the House who lined Mr. Chamberlain's platform the other night whether they are for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.




Of course, my noble friend Lord Blythswood is an out-and-out protectionist, but I have not heard any other response. The proceedings at the Albert Hall acquire an additional significance. Here is Mr. Chamberlain's message for my noble friend Lord Minto— It is no use for a man to come down to the country and profess to be an advocate for preference with our Colonies, to put forward the importance of unity with our Empire, and at the same time to boast that he is unwilling to pay the price. And the price, observe, is the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. That is a challenge to the Ministry, and I want to put this explicitly and directly to the Leader of the House. Is it true that you are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Chamberlain? If so, I really think the time has come to say it. It is not fair to Mr. Chamberlain and, as I am going to show presently, it is not fair to the Conservative Party, that an attitude should be adopted of indisposition to answer Questions which are vital to the prosperity of the country. If my noble friends on the Treasury Bench, however, are not going to stand shoulder to shoulder for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, then I hope they will remember that the shafts of satire that were aimed at the people who would not pay the price, but wanted to stand in with the venture, are directed at them. I should like to know whether the noble Lords who were on the platform the other night intended the cheers that greeted this sarcasm about half-hearted supporters to apply to their own leaders.

In a matter of this kind you cannot have it both ways. Either you are entitled to the honour and credit of standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Chamberlain, or you ought to break off frankly and say you are not going to do so, and disclaim these predictions. It is quite true that Ministerial utterances have been somewhat vague; but at the same time I certainly give the Ministry credit for the fact that on no one occasion in public has there been the slightest justification shown for Mr. Chamberlain's prediction that they were going to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. I do not know what warrant he had for this statement. I do not know what has passed between him and Ministers, but as a loyal member of the Tory Party I have a right to know whether there is anything more than what has appeared publicly. I have a right to know whether the Party is or is not to be ruined by being identified with a general and penal tariff.

My noble friend Lord Minto, addressing himself, of course, from the Colonial point of view, has uttered a great many very admirable sentiments which are extremely popular, and never fail to elicit cheers, but I cannot help saying that not merely does he fall within the bann of the message which I have delivered to him from Mr. Chamberlain, but he also incurs the responsibility of identifying patriotic sentiments, which all of us share, with a fiscal scheme which most of us regard as quackery; and should that fiscal scheme come to grief, as it will come to grief sooner or later, are you not imperilling those noble sentiments of alliance and kinship which the noble Earl has given expression to? We are told also—it is expressed in the noble Lord's now abandoned Amendment—that we ought not to discuss this question, but leave it intact and unimpaired for the consideration of Colonial Conferences. But it has already been said by the noble Duke, with great force, that unless you go into a Colonial Conference with definite ideas as to your own interests, you are leading both the Colonies and your own fellow-subjects at home into a mire and a morass.

You have no right to go into a Colonial Conference without having your mind made up as to the extent of your mandate, and the suggestion that we should have a Colonial Conference which should treat at large of questions of this kind—such a question as whether we are going to have a general penal tariff—seems to me to be the wildest piece of madness that ever was entered into by statesmen. But I want to ask another Question. I have great respect for the Colonial Conference, but I have also some respect for the British Parliament, and I want to know why everybody, why all men in both hemispheres, should have a right to meddle with this subject of British trade, and should be invited to meddle with it, and the British Parliament alone be barred from touching it. That is the position which the Government are asking us to take up to-night by this Amendment. It is that we are to hand over to A, B, and C, to the end of the alphabet, this question of vital interests of British trade, and all the while muzzle both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. I do not know to what propitious accident we owe even the presence of His Majesty's Ministers on that bench to-night. According to the recently-established constitutional practice the custom is that Ministers go out and never reappear during a discussion on tariffs. It has come to this, that they have allowed the House of Commons, elected under their auspices and kept going at their express desire, to pass a Resolution expressly and in terms condemning the avowed policy of the Prime Minister.

I must own that to me—and I boldly say I am a loyal and devoted supporter of the leaders of the Unionist Party—it is a little hard to find out how that tenure of office is justified in the eyes of men of honour. Has it not come perilously near to propter vitam vivendi perdere causas? Is it not the case that the relegation of the House of Commons—I am happy to say not of the House of Lords—to a position of political obscurantism is rather an ominous beginning, especially when we are nearing the end of a Parliament. I myself have no doubt whatever that the present occasion is merely a call to the Conservative Party to purge itself of these heresies and to go to the country on broader and far sounder issues.

I have said that trade was involved; but there are more things than trade involved in these proposals. I regard the danger of a general tariff as a danger which affects the soundness of politics and the stability of the institutions of the country. And I will tell you why. No one who knows this country of late years, no one who knows London, can doubt that there is a vast amount of irresponsible and speculative wealth ambitious to interest itself in our politics. That is certainly one of the features, and, J think, equally certainly-one of the dangers, of the times. £, Men who have acquired wealth in those ways are to a large extent ousting from the House of Commons men of moderate means who cannot afford to be their rivals in the competition for seats; and if you set up a general tariff we all know what it will mean. It will mean not merely that the speculators will flock into Parliament, but that Parliament will be the proper place for them.

But, my Lords, behind that danger there is another, about which I feel very strongly, and I do hope my noble friends around me will feel strongly upon it also. If you have, what I will for shortness call a gambling Parliament, you will find—if you have not got them already—unscrupulous people who are very ready to lead the dance, and then the institutions of the country will be merely assets realisable at some stage of the game to buy off people who make claims on the general tariff. Then the Church, then the House of Lords will be merely looked at as things which you may deal with to-day or to-morrow or not at all, but which no scruple will withhold you from dealing with when occasion requires. I have heard it said that these are merely developments of modern society, about which it is idle to repine, and which it is impossible to resist; but I do hold that the overt and active introduction of this ruinous system of corruption is one which ought never to be taken in hand by the gentlemen of England. That kind of work may be very suitable for other people, but it is not suitable for the Tory Party. I need hardly say that I do not refer to the Party opposite, and I would merely suggest that, in some of the byways of politics, you may possibly discover some one more likely to enter upon these dangers.

Now, my Lords, I have one or two words, strong and, I hope, direct, to address to my leaders. In English history there has only been one justification recognised as constitutionally lawful for rebellion, and that is the abdication of the Sovereign; and I want to ask whether, in the case of the present Prime Minister, the Party is not perilously near that crisis. I cannot understand a theory of Party loyalty by which we should be bound to Mr. Balfour and his assigns. It is a personal tie, a tie of honourable obligation; but it is not transmissible to any third party or nominee, and I, for one, decline altogether, on a vital question of this kind, to look elsewhere than to the Prime Minister for a declaration of policy. It seems to me, further, that never was there an opportunity more admirably adapted than the present for the reinstatement of the Conservative leaders and of the Party in the eyes of the country. If you are not now going to make it clear that you are not the tools of Mr. Chamberlain, when are you ever going to do so? The ruin of the Party is complete unless we have now an explicit declaration from the Front Bench.

I have the most unbounded respect and admiration for the Leader of this House, and, although my noble friend is a Liberal Unionist, and I myself am a Tory, I venture to claim him as one of those at whose feet I lay my appeal. Is my noble friend content that his great fame as a successful and trusted Foreign Minister should be blurred and vitiated by this ignoble alliance? But I will turn to the Prime Minister himself. I remember that twenty years ago, I followed a leader in the House of Commons whose name was also Arthur Balfour, but the Arthur Balfour whom I followed, and whom I remember with enthusiastic admiration even after that lapse of time, was a leader whose yea was yea and whose nay was nay. We were then never offered the remainder biscuit of obscure passages in speeches which might read one way or the other at the pleasure and taste of the reader. We had the most frank utterances. Our leader was in the centre of every battle, and we followed him. What was the result? He cowed sedition in Ireland. He raised the Conservative Party to such a pitch of popularity in the country as it had never seen before since the days of Mr. Disraeli. That is the leader whom I desire, and if I could see him once again I would rejoice and be glad. In those days no bleak shadow of an interloper fell between him and his followers.

What do we see now as the result of these transcendent talents applied in the present day in the House of Commons? Well, I am bound to say we see a succession of the most marvellous clevernesses. We see every rock cleared, every eddy carefully steered out of, but the pilot seems to have no notion whatever of the ultimate destination of the ship. For the Conservative Party to feed itself upon successes of that kind, and at the same time to be claimed by Mr. Chamberlain as his adherents, the insult to it being offered publicly, is enough to turn the hair grey of any one who has seen the triumphs of the Tory Party. We have seen the leaders of the Party allow Mr. Chamberlain to capture the Party organisation, and to equip constituencies with candidates like the gentleman who was sent down to Wales some time ago as a Conservative candidate, and who was going to vote for disestablishment and Home Rule. Where are your Conservative principles to be if all this is allowed to go on, and a free hand given to those disastrous conditions which a reign of corruption would form under a general tariff?

I have spoken strongly, but I hope not too strongly. My noble friends on this side grievously err it they think that this general tariff which is now offered to them has any of the signs of modern Toryism upon it. Mr. Disraeli would have regarded with horror a proposal to subject the Party, not to the old honourable corn laws, but to this ignoble general tariff. I would remind my noble friends also that this proposal of a general tariff is vaunted by its author as having been offered to the Party opposite. We were told at the Albert Hall that this was not a Party question at all, and that he had offered it to everybody, but it was merely because the other side would not have it that he now came and offered it to you. I hope the Tory Party have pride enough, at all events, to refuse to live on the leavings of the Party opposite. I hope, in a word, that the result of this great and striking lesson may be that our leaders will once more come forward and lead the Party in the paths of honour; that we shall see an end to this reign of quackery, and the inauguration of a reign of reason and honour.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down has expressed a considerable amount of apprehension whether Mr. Balfour is still Prime Minister, and he has in the course of his remarks pointed to the various speeches which Mr. Chamberlain has made—speeches which he finds in strong conflict with the speeches of the Prime Minister. We want to assure him that we, the members of the Government, regard Mr. Balfour as Prime Minister, and as Leader of the Tory and Unionist Party. The Motion of the noble Duke is not exactly what it is represented to be. The Motion appears to me to be one of those innumerable pegs which the procedure of this House willingly and generously affords on which to hang discussions on such questions as: How far and in what respect are the views of the Prime Minister the views of Mr. Chamberlain, one of his distinguished followers? Does Mr. Balfour, or does he not, agree with Mr. Chamberlain? Are there not two policies? That was roughly the refrain of the speech of the noble Duke, and in order to support his contention he examined the speeches of these two statesmen with an unusual amount of skill, vigour, and precision.

Let me remind the noble Duke at once that the Prime Minister has said in the most definite terms that he is prepared to be cross-examined on his own political utterances, but that he totally declines to be cross-examined on the interpretations placed on those utterances by anybody whatsoever. Surely, if the Prime Minister is unwilling to be cross-examined on the interpretation placed upon his words by others, how much more should we, the members of his Government, decline to submit to that process? The noble Duke, in the course of his remarks, said that although the Prime Minister had expressed continuous views, and had laid down a definite policy, he had allowed a totally different impression to prevail. After all, the leader of a great Party in the State has other duties to perform than that of dissociating himself from the views of one of the most powerful and loyal supporters of his Government.

But let us consider for a moment the position of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong. It is a matter of common knowledge that the views of the Liberal Party and those of the Irish Party are by no means in harmony or in conformity the one with the other. It is also matter of common knowledge that the views and aspirations of the Labour Party are by no means in conformity with those of the Radical Party. But, my Lords, we do not come down here and ask that the views of the noble Lords opposite and those of Mr. Redmond and Mr. John Burns should be collated and examined in order to find out whether they are in agreement or not. We are more or less indifferent, because we know perfectly well that, whatever differences exist, in view of a possible political conflict in the future, noble Lords opposite would allow them to sink, and that before a general election takes place they will be united on common ground to fight their political opponents. Noble Lords, therefore, may rest assured that if these are the political tactics pursued by one great Party in the State, the probabilities are that very similar tactics will be pursued by the other great Party in the State, and if there are any divergencies or differences of opinion in the Unionist Party, although I am not aware that there are any, the noble Duke may be perfectly assured that before the general election comes the members of the Unionist Party will rally behind the Prime Minister, and support the policy which he has consistently and continuously upheld—the policy on which he has stated on many occasions that he means to go to the electors of the country at the time of the next, general election.

Now, my Lords, the noble Duke in the course of his remarks said that Mr. Chamberlain, in his speech at St. Helens, claimed that his policy was one to which Mr. Balfour subscribed. I must confess that the views of the noble Duke and my own are totally different with regard to that speech of Mr. Chamberlain's, What did he preface his remarks by saying? He said that he heartily subscribed to the policy of the Prime Minister. as adumbrated at the Albert Hall; lie thanked the Prime Minister for the lead which he had given; and, if my memory serves me right, he added that he agreed with the policy of the Prime Minister especially, because it was one totally different from that of noble Lords opposite. Therefore, I confess that I cannot understand the interpretation placed upon that speech by the noble Duke and others.

Then, my Lords, I should like to dwell for one moment on the question of the taxation of food. The noble Duke asked as in the course of his speech what would happen if a Colonial Conference decided to express its views in favour of the taxation of food. I need hardly remind him, in parentheses, that the Prime Minister has said most distinctly that, in the event of a conference coming to any decision, that decision would be submitted to the electors of this country. But there seems to be an inconsistency in the noble Duke's remarks, because having stated his fears that a Colonial Conference might express their views in favour of the taxation of food, he proceeded to assert in another portion of his speech that the Colonies would on no account give any preference to this country until we settled among ourselves whether or not we were prepared to tax the food of the people. If that is the case, how is it possible for a Colonial Conference in the near future to come to the conclusion that they desire to tax the food of the people of this country? Then I am reminded that the noble Duke himself was a party to imposing a shilling duty on corn—that is on the food of the people. On his own argument, he thereby raised the price of food to the poorer classes of this country, this no doubt with a view that they should contribute to war taxation, which all classes should bear in proper proportion. No doubt the noble Duke may tell us that that taxation was imposed as war taxation, and that it was not to be employed in any way as a preferential tax. But the point I wish to establish is this—that the effect of a shilling duty on corn is precisely the same upon the poorer classes of this country whether it is employed as a war tax or as a preferential tax, and it cannot have been of much comfort to the humble individual, who, according to the noble Duke, paid a higher price for his bread in consequence of that Is. duty, to be assured that although the price was higher yet the noble Duke, in being a party to sanctioning the imposition of the tax, had been able to preserve in their entirety the principles of his economic belief.

What is the task which we are invited to perform this evening? We are asked to say that if it is a question of imposing a tax on food for the purposes of paying for a war, for whch the British public get no return except the knowledge that they have shared the liabilities which this country has to bear, then according to the noble Duke it is a sound, just, and sacred tax. But if the very same policy is suggested at a future Colonial Conference with the possibility that the British public may reap from it considerable advantages—advantages in the shape of increased markets for their manufactured goods, the development of large tracts of land which at present are unproductive, the increase of inter-Imperial trade, and the probability thereby of tending to break down commercial barriers which exist between our Colonies and ourselves—then the noble Duke asks us, indeed implores us, to condemn that policy at once, before those who are most interested in it have even had an opportunity of discussing it, as a pernicious doctrine, and a vile and unclean thing with which we must have nothing to do.

I trust, however, that noble Lords generally will not misunderstand me. I do not desire to-night in any way to say whether or not I think the taxation of food is advisable.


Hear, hear !


Noble Lords opposite cheer that remark. I presume that underlying their cheer there is a certain amount of satire. I should like to remind noble Lords opposite that the last time I had the honour of addressing your Lordships on this particular question two political organs in the Press which support the Party of noble Lords opposite—the Daily News and the Daily Chronicle—took different views on the matter. In one paper I was accused of being an out-and-out protectionist, while in the other a considerable amount of satisfaction was expressed that I, on behalf of the Government, had entirely re- pudiated the views and aspirations of Mr. Chamberlain.

But what I wish to point out to your Lordships, with every feeling of respect to the noble Duke, is an apparent inconsistency in his argument. According to the noble Duke, if you call a tax a revenue tax, no matter how much inconvenience or discomfort it may inflict upon the poorer classes, it is a just and proper tax; whereas, on the other hand, if you call it a preferential tax, no matter how great the possible advantages may be, it is a wicked and pernicious tax. If I understand the position of the noble Duke and those who agree with him correctly, the question resolves itself into this—whether food shall be taxed to pay for a war or whether food shall be taxed to maintain the Empire; in other words, whether food shall be taxed to protect the Empire, or whether food shall be taxed to preserve the Empire. The noble Duke thinks for the purposes of war the tax is legitimate, but in the other case-it is illegitimate. That appears to me to be a metaphysical scruple rather than a practical argument for dealing; with one of the most complicated and urgent problems. Surely when our practical differences are so small and, I think, chiefly imaginary, and when the possible advantages are so considerable and so real, we may with some justice pause before we come to a decision upon this important and difficult problem until we have placed before us all the information which only the deliberations of a Colonial Conference can give us.

Now, my Lords, what are the reasons which warrant us in thinking that it is unwise to express any definite views, before this conference is summoned. Your Lordships are aware that the Colonies themselves have expressed no definite concrete opinion upon the value of any particular tax, although they have conveyed their views in general terms. Surely we ought to pursue a similar policy. I think it would be very unwise for us at this date to say that we will exclude certain taxes from the consideration of the Colonial Conference. We on this side of the House believe that we foresee the great possibilities of the future, and we are of opinion that to express our views now in a premature way would have a most injurious effect upon the Colonies themselves, especially in view of those Resolutions which they have passed at Colonial Conferences, to which Lord Minto at an early period of the debate referred.

Noble Lords are perfectly well aware of what is the policy of His Majesty's Government. It is the policy of having a free and unfettered conference. The effect of the noble Duke's Motion would be to limit the scope of that conference, to muzzle the conference and prevent it from discussing the one topic upon which the members of it are so anxious to express their opinions. The Motion, if we were to sanction it, would, in my humble opinion, transgress the political functions of your Lordships' House. This House is essentially an Assembly which represents the permanent as opposed to the transient opinions of this country. It is essentially a House of Revision, and that we should be called upon prematurely to record our views in terms of disapprobation of a policy of which many in the Colonies are in favour, seems to me to be an attempt to associate this House with a constitutional prerogative which it has seldom if ever laid claim to. Moreover, it would administer a political rebuff to a distinguished follower and supporter of the Government; and, finally, it would deliberately assert our disapproval of a policy the principles of which the representatives of the Empire have expressed their willingness to discuss. Therefore, since the Government are not willing to follow a course which they deem to be unwise, imprudent, and impolitic, they will resist with the full force at their disposal the Motion which stands in the name of the noble Duke.


My Lords, as I had a Motion on the Paper of your Lordships' House very similar in terms to the Amendment which has not been moved by Lord Minto, perhaps I may be permitted to offer a few observations on the present occasion. I am one of those who think that it would be a matter for great regret if the conference which was to have met in 1906 were not permitted to assemble next year, and I had hoped that we would have received some intimation that His Majesty's Government would call that conference together. The noble Duke, and those who act with him, seem to be very much-afraid of the meeting of that conference. The noble Duke says that it ought not to meet before a general election. I, for one, think that it would be a matter of great regret if it were postponed until after a general election. For what is the conference to do? What did it meet for on the last occasion? It discussed three most important questions—Imperial defence, political relations, and commercial interests. Why should we not have a conference meeting next year to discuss our commercial relations?

Then, my Lords, the noble Duke referred very frequently to the taxation of food. I should like to remind him that he was a member of the Government which retained the 1s. duty on corn for many years, both under Lord Palmerston and under Mr. Gladstone. We never heard the noble Duke say at that time that the Is. duty was a tax on the food of the people. It was considered a registration duty. Then, too, the noble Duke was a member of tne Government which reimpcsed the 1s. duty on corn. We were never told then by the noble Duke that it was a tax on food, and all that Mr. Chamberlain has proposed is that we-should have a duty of 2s. instead of a duty of 1s. Do the noble Duke and noble Lords opposite contend that the difference between a Is. and a 2s. duty measures the difference between the taxation and the non-taxation of food? It is very misleading to the people of this country to say that a small duty of that kind is any real taxation on food at all. It was found when the Is. duty was re-imposed a few years ago that it had no effect whatever on the price of corn; therefore, we may assume that the 2s. duty would have hardly any effect. Mr. Chamberlain has said that if it did have any effect, all it would do would be to increase the price of the quartern loaf by ¼d., andthat, in that case, he would reduce the duty on other articles of first necessity to counterbalance the increased price of bread. The fact is that this cry of the taxation of food is misleading; it is playing to the gallery, and it is unfair to the people of this country.

But, my Lords, I really think that, for the sake of maintaining and consolidating the great interests between the mother country and the Colonies, the people of this country are prepared to make some sacrifice, and I submit that it is not fair to them to say that they shall not have the advantage of knowing what the views of the Colonies are on the question. I join issue entirely as to the time of meeting of that conference. The people of this country have a right to know what are the views and opinions of the colonial representatives before they are asked to come to a decision on this great and important matter. Why do you wish to shut the mouths of the Colonies and thus prevent the people of this country from having that knowledge and information which they ought to possess before they come to a decision on this vital question? Light is always better than darkness, and I think we ought to take every opportunity of informing public opinion in this country on the great question of colonial preference and tariff reform.

What is the condition of the country? Are noble Lords opposite satisfied with the general condition of the country? Have we not had large numbers of the labouring classes thrown out of employment—so much so that a Bill has been introduced by the Government to give greater employment to the people of this country? Are our manufactures so flourishing, and is agriculture so prosperous, that we do not require some change and some reform? Mr. Chamberlain proposes to remedy this condition of things. What remedy do the noble Lords opposite propose? Nothing but adhesion to the old system of miscalled free trade, which was all very well fifty or forty years ago, but which now has proved to be inconsistent with the general prosperity of the country. Holding these views, I cannot possibly vote for the Motion of the noble Duke, which would leave us just as we are without any power to deal with the difficulties and the distress in the country, and which provides no remedy but simply binds us to carry on an antiquated system which, as I say, in this twentieth century is inconsistent with the general prosperity and happiness of the country.


My Lords, I crave your Lordships' indulgence for two reasons, first, because I am absolutely sincere on the subject now under discussion, and I know that your Lordships always grant the greatest indulgence to. anybody who is sincere; and, secondly,—I know this will commend itself to your Lordships—because I intend to be very brief. I desire to confine myself almost entirely to answering the arguments put forward against the Motion of the noble Duke by the Duke of Marlborough, who spoke on behalf of the Government. The noble Duke stated that he was unaware that there were any differences of opinion between different members of the Government, and he also alluded to something which he described as "common knowledge." If one may adduce, as he adduced "common knowledge," I think it will be at least permissible to suggest that it is common knowledge that the Party which he defends are at any rate in some degree divided in their opinions. He said, further, that even if there were some slight division they would, when it came to an election, meet together on common ground, rally round one flag, and have one heart and one mind and one defence against the common enemy, which I take to be the Party sitting on this side of the House. But, my Lords, will the noble Duke's Party have one common ground and one flag when the time comes for us to defend, in the face of the electorate, what I may perhaps call the bridge of I free trade? Will there not be something like the incident of which we are told in connection with ancient Rome, when, of the attackers, although common enemies of Rome— Those behind cried 'Forward'; and those in front cried 'Back.' Is not that very much the position even at the present moment? Is not the figure-head, the very fine figurehead of the Government, the Prime Minister—I say it with all due respect—crying "Back" on the question of fiscal reform, and is not he whom we have heard described as "the power behind" crying, in unmistakable terms, "Forward?" How, then, can it be said that they are going to have one cry and one flag?

Then, too, the noble Duke said that our Party were divided on many subjects, and he cited the names of Mr. Redmond and Mr. John Burns. But neither Mr. Redmond nor Mr. John Burns, even if we grant that they have the power with our Party that Mr. Chamberlain has with the Party opposite, has proposed a new measure so sweeping and so vital to the interest of this country as Mr. Chamberlain has done, and will undoubtedly propose to the electorate when they go to the country. I maintain that Mr. Chamberlain has proposed a most revolutionary measure. It is a measure which strikes at the very heart of the economic principles of our Constitution, and it is one on which the other side will, undoubtedly have to go to the country. I submit that in our case the same position does not arise. We are not going to the country on any revolutionary measure proposed by Mr. John Burns.

The noble Duke furthermore stated that Mr. Balfour had refused to be cross-examined as to the meaning placed on his words by others; he was willing to answer questions as to what he said, but not as to the meaning which others might place upon it. Nobody wants him to be cross-examined as to the meanings placed on his statements by others. All we ask is that he should give some definition of policy that can have only one meaning, that no one can mistake, and upon which no other meaning can be put; and that, as I understand it, is what he and his loyal followers refuse to do. They refuse to make any statement of policy which is so clear and unequivocal as to admit of only one meaning.

Then the noble Duke complained bitterly of the unkindness and unjustness of two daily papers in not understanding his meaning on a previous occasion. It may be my stupidity or my unkindness, but I must say that I equally fail to understand a great part of the noble Duke's speech to-night. Perhaps as a young Member I have no right to criticise the Front Bench opposite, but it seems to me that the speech of the noble Duke was quite on all fours with what we have learnt to expect from responsible members of the Party opposite. When we were learning geography we used to be told that an island was a piece of land completely surrounded by water. I am almost tempted to say that the speeches of the Government on the fiscal question are composed of nothing surrounded by platitudes; they are certainly surrounded by evasions of the main question at issue.

The noble Duke also said that this House had no business to take this question into consideration at all, that we were merely a House of Revision. I maintain that the term "a House of Revision" as applied to this House is an absolute misnomer. We have no real power to—at least we never would—revise anything that the people obviously wished for. I maintain that the functions of this House are to put a stop temporarily on any piece of legislation that we think would be contrary to the public wish, until the public have had an opportunity of passing judgment upon it; and if this is not a case in which we should exercise that right I cannot conceive one. The Party opposite propose, with a waning majority, without going to the country first to get a direct mandate for the purpose, practically to bind the country to some form of discussion in a Colonial Conference which it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to repudiate, and when we attempt to exercise the undoubted right that we have to say. "No, you shall first go to the country and get your mandate," we are told that this House is merely a House of Revision, and can only use futile words afterwards in condemnation of an accomplished fact. Surely, my Lords, it is better that such a lamentable conclusion should be avoided. Prevention is surely better than an attempted cure. Therefore, I sincerely ask your Lordships at any rate to give this matter serious consideration, and to say that the feeling of the country—which to our minds is apparent enough—should be officially tested before any such important step as going to a Colonial Conference with a free hand is permitted.


My Lords, Lord Minto. who speaks with so much authority on colonial matters, told us in his interesting speech that Canada was united in favour of preference. But what kind of preference do they mean, and what is the case as regards our trade with Canada at the present moment? We admit all Canadian produce free of duty; Canada, on the other hand, charges us some 16 or 18 per cent. Surely before we can talk of preference we ought to be placed upon an equality. I am glad to be able to quote in support of that contention the high authority of the Tariff Reform Association itself. In their "Handbook for Speakers" they say that fiscal union and commercial reciprocity is the only possible foundation of Imperial federation, and they give with great force the examples of the United. States, the German Empire, the Australian Federation, and the Dominion of Canada. I do not know what the noble Marquess will tell us later on in the debate, but, so far as my information goes, I am afraid there is very little chance of Canada or our other great self-governing Colonies placing us upon the same footing as that on which we have placed them. No doubt; they give us a preference in the sense that they charge foreigners more than us. But it is very little use their locking the door against us, and then double-locking it against the foreigner. Our real competition is with their manufacturers, and as compared with them we are placed at a great disadvantage. At the same time we appreciate very much the friendly feelings which induced them to give us a preference, over foreigners, but I am afraid we cannot but agree with the opinion expressed by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on March 7th— I said—I wish I could withdraw the statement—that I was not aware how it was possible on such a basis to found any great scheme of preferential duties. Mr. Chamberlain, as he has gone on with his campaign, seems to have become more and more protectionist. When he began his great object was the very noble endeavour to bind together the Colonies and the mother country—an object with which we must all heartily sympathise. But since then he has gone more and more in favour of general protection, and he continually makes the assertion that in his belief the duties which he proposes to put on will be paid mainly by the foreigner. In the Board of Trade Memoranda it is made very clear indeed from the statistics of countries which have heavy duties on grain that the price in those countries is raised by the duty. This it is true is not always the case in France, because in some years France imports very little grain, and of course when there is no import the duties have no effect on prices. But directly there is a bad harvest in France, then the price goes up even more than the duty, and the evil of a bad harvest is aggravated by the duty.

But there is one set of facts which I think will prove to your Lordships even more than figures that the consumer really pays the duty. No comparison of prices is really necessary in order to prove that duties raise the price. The course of trade proves it. When wheat comes from abroad—say from Argentina—the vessel "calls for orders" at Queens-town, Plymouth, Havre, Southampton, or some other European port. The merchant carefully compares the prices at the principal markets, calculating all the expenses—freight, insurance, port dues, etc., including, of course, the Customs duty—to a fraction. If he finds that the highest price, including the duty, is at Berlin, to Berlin it goes; but it will not go to Berlin until the price there has risen to cover all the charges, including the duty. If, after allowing for all other charges, the price in London and Berlin is the same, the wheat will of course be sent on to London. There being no duty in England, no wheat will go to Berlin until the difference in price exceeds or, at least, equals the German duty. It is obvious, therefore, that the consumer pays the duty.

I do not deny that protection in other countries is bad for the trade of the world, but I submit to your Lordships that the countries which suffer most by protection are the protectionist countries themselves. Man for man, and head for head, we export more than any of the great protectionist countries. The United States export £2 18s. 0d., per head, France £3 7s. 0d., Germany £3. 15s Od., and the United Kingdom £5 19s. Od. Take, again, the case of Canada. What are the two great things which Canada requires?She has a cold climate, and millions of acres of virgin soil; her people require warm clothing to protect them from the severities of the winter, and cheap railway facilities to bring their produce to market. But what is the policy of Canada? It is to make her people pay 20 per cent, more than they need for their clothes, and, by raising the cost of rails, to discourage the creation of fresh railways. I can quite understand that a country may wish to give some advantage to agriculture and thus to tempt "people out of the great cities into the country; but why any country should wish to tempt people from the rural districts into the great towns I cannot imagine.

We cannot have a clearer illustration of the injury which protectionist countries impose upon themselves and the advantages which we derive from free trade than by taking the case of the shipbuilding trade of the world. Last year the United States built 469,000 tons of shipping, France 106,000 tons, Germany 102,000 tons, and the United Kingdom 980,000 tons, or more than Germany, France, and the United States put together. Why was this? Because our shipbuilders were able to get their raw mater al and the other articles which they required so much more cheaply than the shipbuilders in other countries. The German trades which are not protected are continually complaining of the evil effects of protection on their industries.

As an illustration of the injurious effect of protection upon the trade of protectionist countries in neutral markets let us take the case of India. India gives us no preference; our manufacturers pay the same duties as those of other countries, and yet out of the total imports of India, amounting to £52,000,000, no less than £39,800,000 came from the British Empire, and most of the rest consisted of articles which we do not produce. Compare our £39,800,000 with the imports from some of the principal protectionist countries, whose policy we are advised to follow. The imports from Germany were only £1,500,000; from the United States, £800,000; from France, £900,000; and even of these comparatively trifling amounts a substantial proportion consisted of articles such as wine and oil, which we do not export. Moreover, our preponderance is increasing. In the last five years our exports to India have risen £3,400,000; those of France, £250,000; of Germany, £300,000; of Belgium (part being German), £500,000; while those of the United States have actually fallen £100,000 ! If it be said that India is part of the Empire, let us take Argentina. According to the last Foreign Office Report, our exports to Argentina in 1904 were £12. 900,000; those of Germany, with 16,000,000 more people, were under £5,000,000; those of the United States, with nearly double our population, were even less than those of Germany!. Nobody can doubt, I think, that the great amount of our commerce in Argentina is due to our free-trade policy, and that other countries so handicap themselves by their protectionist policies that they are quite unable to compete with us in neutral markets.

The case of India is very interesting from another point of view. We are sometimes told that India is a conspicuous example of the advantages of retaliation. The Secretary of State for India, speaking at Shere on December 14th, said that India— got infinitely more consideration from foreign countries for her products than we did for British products. The reason was that our hands were tied here, and that they were untied in India. The noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, spoke with more moderation, but in the same sense. He also maintained that India has an advantage, because she— enjoys an amount of freedom which is denied to the mother country. This liberty is one which this country did at one time enjoy, but it was taken away. The result, he went on to say, is that Indian products are, as a general average— subject to duties ranging between 1 and 11 per cent. while British products are— subject to duties averaging between 13 and 35 per cent.—a very considerable advantage accruing to Indian products as distinguished from the products of this country. In France, Indian products are subject to duties averaging 5 per cent, as against an average of 34 per cent, paid by British products. My noble friend did not actually say that this was due to the supposed freedom enjoyed by India, and I believe he would not say that it was, but he has been so understood, and I suppose he does maintain that her so-called freedom gives India a substantial advantage.

Now., my Lords, I entirely deny, first, that India enjoys any freedom which Great Britain does not enjoy, and secondly, that her fiscal system has given her any such, advantage. We are just as free as India to put on or remit any duties we please. Indeed, I think the noble Marquess the Leader of the House will admit that the real difference is not that India has any freedom which, we do not enjoy, but that while the Government of India can modify duties by its own authority, the Government of the mother country can only do so with the consent of Parliament, it is not that India is freer, it is the Government of India which is freer; it is not that any power has "been taken away" from this country, but that the Government are not permitted to alter duties without the consent of Parliament; it is not our hands that are tied, but that the Government cannot act without the assent of Parliament. Parliament is as free as ever; the country is as free as ever; and it is quite misleading, then, to say that we have given up any freedom. If I might, I would ask my noble friend to tell us when he replies whether he really proposes to give the Government power to alter duties without the consent of Parliament. Lord Goschen has asked that Question more than once, but has not yet received any clear Answer. If the Government do not propose to ask for power to alter duties without the consent of Parliament, what becomes of the imaginary freedom which India is supposed to enjoy?

Then I come to the question whether India has any advantage over us. The noble Marquess referred to the case of the negotiations which took place between India and France in 1903— This," he said, "was a clear case of a transaction highly beneficial to India, and which India would not have been able to accomplish had she not been in a position to offer something in exchange for what she required from a foreign country. What are the facts of the case? France has two scales—a minimum scale and a general or higher scale, and she proposed to place certain Indian products on the higher scale. India, in order to induce her not to do so, made a certain concession which amounted to only £300 a year, and France gave way, but in their Blue-book the Indian Government explain that the real reason that France did so was not on account of that minute concession, but because the French Chancellor of the Exchequer would have gained little or nothing if he had insisted on making the proposed change. Therefore, this transaction, so far from, being one of any great importance, was really one of very small magnitude.

But this is not all. I was surprised to find when I looked into the matter that this advantage which India secured by a concession to France we already enjoyed, without any concession, in consequence of our free-trade policy. We are already on the minimum scale under the most-favoured-nation clause, and what India secured by her concession were only advantages which we already enjoyed. In fact, our goods are all on the lower scale, while some of the Indian products have to pay at the higer iate. We are, therefore, better off than India. We are told, however, that we are paying on an average 34 per cent., while India is only paying from 1 to 11 per cent, on her exports. But I am sure my noble friend the Leader of the House will admit that this has nothing to do with the fiscal system of India. The rates of the foreign and colonial duties on Indian produce are no lower than those on British produce. The reason of the difference in the rate paid is that the exports of. India are mainly raw materials, while ours are mainly manufactured articles. The difference is not in the duties, but in the character of the goods. If we exported the same goods as India we should pay only the same, and, in some cases, lower duties, and if India exported to France the same goods as we do, the duties charged would be the same, and in some cases higher than those we have to pay. I think I have shown the House, therefore, firstly, that India enjoys no freedom which we do not possess; and secondly, that so far from having infinite fiscal advantages—as stated by the Secretary of State for India—she has no advantage whatever which we do not ourselves enjoy, while in some cases she is actually liable to pay heavier duties, for whereas all our goods are admitted on the minimum scale, India is in some cases charged on the higher scale. India, therefore, with all her supposed freedom of retaliation, is in a less favourable position than we are under our free trade. Freedom of retaliation, in fact, has obtained for India less than free trade has secured for us. I submit, then, to the House that there is no ground to suppose that a return to protection on our part would have any effect in breaking down the duties imposed by foreign countries; that duties raise prices and are paid by the consumers; that protectionist countries place themselves at a great disadvantage in neutral markets; and that a protectionist policy would be irjurious, and, if the duties were high, disastrous to our commerce and manufactures.


My Lords, I venture to ask your indulgence on this, the first occasion on which I have ventured to address you. I do not propose to claim your attention at any great length, but it might be thought that some explanation was necessary as to why, after sitting on the benches of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons for twenty years, I should speak from these benches on the present occasion.

Were it not for the fact that we have no constituents to consider and are responsible for nobody but ourselves, the need for a personal explanation would be almost entirely eliminated. But from the first I have been a consistent, and, as far as I could be, a strenuous opponent of the tariff policy put forward by Mr. Chamberlain. For two years I have hoped that that policy, which from the first received some countenance from the Prime Minister, would, as the folly and mischief of it became apparent, be thrown over by the Prime Minister, and that the poison with which it had contaminated the Tory Party would in course of time be eliminated. I confess that that fond hope has turned out to be a vain delusion. So far from the Prime Minister, as I had hoped would be the case, swallowing Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Chamberlain seems to have swallowed the Prime Minister, and in the alliance between them he seems to be emphatically the predominant partner. Under these circumstances I think it becomes necessary for every Tory free-trader to consider his position. Personally, I think it has been a great misfortune that the Prime Minister, instead of giving countenance to Mr. Chamberlain's proposals, did not stamp them out at the offset. As he failed to do that, those proposals have grown and spread until they have leavened the entire Conservative Party.

It is true, as has been pointed out by the Duke of Devonshire and others, that there are differences between Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain. Men of such widely divergent characters must necessarily differ, and differ widely. At the same time, what do those differences amount to? We all know that parallel lines may continue indefinitely without ever meeting, but if those lines run in the same plane, in the same direction, and towards the same object, it does not matter very much whether or not they overlap. In the same way it seems to me that, at varying paces and in different ways, Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain are running strongly in the same direction. They are both engaged in the attempt to undermine the cause of free trade, Mr. Chamberlain by open, strenuous, and forcible methods, and the Prime Minister by what I may call more subtle and sinister methods. Still, both of them, as it seems to me, are engaged in the attempt to undermine the integrity of free trade in this country.

But even if the leaders differ, to what extent do their followers differ? Leaders, such as they are, even with their authority and power, have still, to a certain extent, to follow their own followers. How do their followers differ? The Duke of Devonshire has pointed to some most remarkable instances which seem to show that neither leaders nor followers differ very much. If you are to define their difference I think it may be described as a difference of key rather than of tone. One may say that Chamberlainism is Balfourism screwed up to concert pitch, and that Balfourism is Chamberlainism toned down to a minor key.

I need not dwell upon the illustrations given by the Duke of Devonshire, but there is one other which. seems to me to be rather a significant one. I have no doubt that Members of this House receive—certainly Members of the other House do—a monthly pamphlet entitled National Gleanings. Notional Gleanings is a somewhat ambitious title, considering that the gleanings come from only one-half of the nation. National Gleanings is a compendium of wit and wisdom collected from the utterances of the leaders of the Tory Party, and I have observed with some interest from month to month that these national gleanings are gathered up only in the broad acres of protectionism, and that the utterances of the leaders of the Tory Party in favour of free trade, such as there are of them, are absolutely ignored. I think that points to the fact, either that the utterances in favour of free trade are so few as to be practically negligible, or that the Tory Party are permeated with protectionism and do not care to receive any other opinions.

I think it is pretty well admitted—I do not know what Members opposite think of it—that the Tory Party at this moment is protectionist at heart. ["No."] It has been captured by Mr. Chamberlain, and although, for electoral or other purposes, especially when they are addressing large popular audiences, the members of that Party may think fit to tone down and dilute their protectionism, and therefore to call themselves by other names—perhaps because they think that protection under the name of retaliation will smell sweeter in the nostrils of the electors of this country—nevertheless it seems to me that in spite of this they must be protectionist. It defies the wit of man to draw logical distinctions to show how a policy of retaliation or of colonial preference can possibly be carried out except through the medium of a protective tariff. It cannot be done. It is all very well to say that Mr. Balfour's policy of retaliation differs from Mr. Chamberlain's policy of protection, but retaliation cannot be imposed except by a penal tax, and colonial preference cannot be imposed except through the taxation of raw materials in some shape or another, and when you begin to impose a penal tariff it becomes protection, call it by what name you will. Lord Minto in his interesting speech practically admitted that, and I think it is a great admission for him to have made. Referring to the noble Duke's Resolutions he said that they were akin one to another, and that the machinery overlapped. What does that mean? It means, that the policy of colonial preference is akin to the policy of a penal tariff, and that the machinery of the two overlap. The noble Lord let out the truth, whereas candidates in the country try to disguise it. It is the fact that the two are akin and overlap. The policy of: protection is recommended to the country through the medium of colonial preference, and colonial preference lends itself to fine phrases and fervid apostrophes. It lends itself to appeals to the patriotism of the country, and it hopes to stir the hearts of the people by recalling the possible glories of the Empire. But, after all, what does it mean? You must bring it down to the bed rock of business. Colonial preference seems to be on the part of those who talk of it preference for the interests of the Colonies rather than preference for the interest of the mother country.


During the whole time I was in Canada there-was never the slightest inclination displayed to disregard the interests of the mother country. Everything that was put forward was in the interests of the Empire, with a full regard for the interests of the people at home.


I believe that entirely on the part of the people in the Colonies, but I am talking of the people who speak for the Colonies at home. The noble Lord himself said he was speaking from the colonial point of view, and so do most of the people who get up on the platform and talk in large terms about the glory of the Empire and the duty we owe to our brethren beyond the seas. That is all quite right. We all feel the same about that. But I think we owe some duty to our people at home as well, and it seems to me that too often the interests of the people at home are forgotten. Look at the comparative numbers, to go no further than that. Canada does not contain more people than Lancashire, and Australia does not contain more than Yorkshire. Why should Canada and Australia be considered in preference to Yorkshire and Lancashire? I confess I do not see it. You talk of the high hopes and proud ambitions of the Colonies, but have not the people at home hopes and ambitions too? Surely it is not a wise policy to gratify the Colonies at the expense of the people in this country? You may say that you do not wish to do so, but if you are going to put up the price of the things the people here buy it is obvious that the conditions under which they live will be made harder than they are at present. You cannot get away from that fact. I have been both to Canada and to Australia and seen how the people live there. Life is much easier for the people of those countries than for the toiling millions in the slums at home, who I think, therefore, are entitled to the first consideration. Anyhow, they are entitled to some consideration. I regard it as one of the most unfortunate features in this movement that you are setting one against the other. You have on business to contrast one with the other. This movement makes for division and not for union, and that is one reason why we oppose it so strenuously.

What is colonial preference? Lord Minto has told us what the Colonies have done and what they are prepared to do. There is no wonder that they are in favour of preference, because for them preference is a case of "Heads I win; tails I do not lose." They have given England a preference of 33⅓ per cent, and the trade of England has expanded to some extent. But it has not expanded to the same extent as the trade of the United States, to which country they have not given that preference. They take precious good care that they do not injure their trade with the United States, and that this preference to England should not injure the interests of their manufactures either in Canada or in Australia.


I beg pardon for interrupting, but I hardly think that statement is strictly accurate. The trade of the United States in raw materials which come free into Canada has increased very largely indeed, but I am not aware that imports of manufactured articles from the United States have increased at all.


I wish I could quote the exact figures, but when I last looked at them I observed that there was a great increase in the import of manufactured goods from the United States. I think I am correct in that.


I do not think so.


Very well. Another point on which I join issue with my noble friend is when he says that the Colonies have spoken with no ambiguous voice on this question. He says there has been no decided expression of opinion at home. I should have thought it was just the reverse. I do not know where the Colonies have expressed so decided an opinion in favour of preference, and I should say that in every way in which we can gather it the opinion of this country is being expressed in the most decided terms against the reversal of our tariff policy at home. I do not know what more is wanted, but possibly we may have a still more decided opinion next year.

As I say, I am glad to have had this admission, that preference is bound up with a penal tariff, and that the two cannot be separated. What is a penal tariff? According to Mr. Chamberlain, a penal tariff is to be imposed against those countries which treat us with outrageous unfairness. Now what countries do treat us with outrageous unfairness? If there is one country which does so more than another I believe that, according to figures, it is America—because "outrageous unfairness" is understood to mean the dumping in this country, under cost price, of surplus goods which other countries are unable to sell at home. I was in America last winter, and I heard a good deal about dumping, and all I can say is that I have heard dumping denounced in this country in language that could not be described as mild or moderate, but the denunciations of dumping in America are in language certainly less mild and less moderate than that which we hear at home. From the point of view of the Americans they say that it is an outrageous thing that they should be taxed in order that England may get her goods cheap, and they say that if they had to choose they would willingly change positions with England in that respect, and would be only too delighted if Europe took to dumping goods in America. That is outrageous unfairness from the other side of the question. I think we are pretty well agreed that dumping, so far from being a disadvantage to this country, is in many respects of the greatest possible benefit.

Another point that struck me in America was this. The protectionists say that by some extraordinary ingenuity you can compel a country to pay duties if you put on duties against the import of their goods. I do not think that argument will hold water. An interesting illustration of it came to my notice in America. The import of mineral waters into America is not very large, but Apollinaris water and some other mineral waters from Europe are imported to some extent. But there is an excellent water in America largely used for the dilution of whiskey called lithio white rock water. That water can be sold for five cents a bottle, but owing to the fact that a comparatively small amount of Apollinaris and other waters is imported it is sold at twenty-five cents per bottle. That shows the effect of duties on the price of articles at home. In view of this fact, what would become of the position of this country if we were to do what Mr. Chamberlain advised in the quotation read out by the Duke of Devonshire?

Mr. Chamberlain said that if foreign countries would not make terms with us we should refuse to exchange goods with them. I should like to know how we are to live if we refuse to exchange goods with foreign countries. It would be almost like a householder in London who tried to live upon his own resources without the assistance of the butcher and the baker. We cannot afford to refuse to exchange goods with foreign countries, because if you diminish the amount of goods you exchange you must diminish the amount of employment in this country. Mr. Chamberlain said— I am not thinking about prices; what I want is increased employment. I confess that it seems to me a very strange way of getting increased employment to curtail your foreign markets and put up prices of goods to your home consumers. I cannot understand how increased employment is to arise out of a state of things like that. In my opinion the more you inquire into this question the more you will find that this cry of increased employment rests upon no foundation whatever. It seems to me that Mr. Chamberlain has raised a great issue, and that great issue is before the country at the present moment. I think it is an issue which everyone will agree ought to be thrashed out in Parliament. We were all in favour of an inquiry at one time, and the inquiry took place, but the facts elicited were dead against Mr. Chamberlain's programme. In my view, if there is one place more than another where this question ought to be thrashed out it is in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. But what has happened? The Government have done all they can to stifle discussion in the Houses of Parliament, and they have done their best to evade the decision of the country upon this question. In order to accomplish this the Government have adopted the old familiar device of moving the previous Question. We all know that previous Question; it comes from Manchester.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon; it comes from the rules of this House.


If I may be allowed to say so, I think the idea of moving the previous Question in the Lower House was originated by the Prime Minister.


I do njt think that is correct. At any rate I had no idea that the Prime Minister ever moved the previous Question.


I am afraid that the noble Earl has not followed the proceedings in the House of Commons with very close attention, but I congratulate him upon having hit upon the same solution of the difficulty as the Prime Minister. What does the moving of the previous Question mean? It means that these tariff reformers who are so bold and so anxious to fight this question out, when the chance of fighting it is given to them run away. I am reminded very much of the familiar lines— He either fears his fate too much Or his desire is small, Who fears to put it to the touch To win or lose it all. That is the case with the tariff reformers. They always shrink from clear issues. The representative of the Government got up and congratulated himself, apparently, because from nothing he had said could they tell whether he was in favour or was not in favour of Mr. Chamberlain's policy. This ambiguity does not seem to me to be a thing to be proud of. What is the position of the Prime Minister? It is that he is—I will not say of malice prepense—in fact deceiving one part or other of his Party. One side believes that eventually the Prime Minister will come out on the side of free trade, whilst the other side believes that he will come out on the side of protection. Therefore, he must be deceiving and misleading either the one side or the other. Now is that a position which any man would wish to occupy who holds the high position of Prime Minister.? The position of Prime Minister itself imposes upon him the obligation of making his policy clear to the country, and of giving a clear lead to the Party. I have the greatest respect for the noble Earl who leads this House, and I would gladly have been a follower of his, but in view of the fact that the Prime Minister has taken up this position; in view of the fact that Mr. Chamberlain makes claims which are not repudiated by the Prime Minister; in view of the fact that Mr. Chamberlain says the policy of tariff reform is to be the policy of the Tory Party, and the Prime Minister allows that statement to go by and does not repudiate it or contradict it, I feel bound to conclude that the intention is that the Conservative Party must accept the dictum that the policy of tariff reform is to be adopted and acted upon at the next election. I feel, therefore, that it is impossible for any free-trade Conservative to continue to follow the Prime Minister without putting himself into a position of impotence, if not into a position of ignominy.


I had no intention whatever of taking part in this debate, but I could not allow the noble Lord's uncalled-for attack upon the Prime Minister to pass unnoticed. I differ entirely from my noble friend upon this question. I think there has been no ambiguity whatever about the speeches of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister fully explained the policy of the Government of which he is the head at Sheffield, Manchester, Edinburgh, and at the Albert Hall, and he declared in his first speech that the policy of the Party which he leads was that during the life of the present Parliament there should be no tax whatever upon food. To that the Prime Minister has strictly adhered. He has also declared that it is the duty of any Government to endeavour to make the best terms they can for the general good of this country in regard to bargaining with other countries. To that statement Mr. Balfour has adhered. In his speech at Edinburgh the Prime Minister declared—and his statement received, the approval of all the members of the Unionist Party—that it would be well that a conference should be held to consider how we could find a closer union with those Colonies who are so dear to us, and to whom we are so dear. But in making that statement the Prime Minister pledged himself to nothing.

To-night, my Lords, a fresh issue is raised. [Cries of "No, no!"] Oh, yes, it is. We are now being asked by noble Lords to bind the conference to a certain course of procedure. [Cries of "No, no!"] I venture to say that if you ask the colonials to meet us they must be allowed to have a perfectly free hand and be able to tell us freely and unreservedly what in their opinion is for the benefit of the Colonies they represent. Of course, it does not follow that we are bound by their recommendations. The Government maintains that the more openly the members of the conference are allowed to speak the better it will be for the whole country and for the whole Empire. The Prime Minister has said that the recommendations of the conference will not become the law of the land until the country has had an opportunity of declaring in favour of those recommendations. Upon this point there is absolutely no ambiguity with regard to the policy of the Prime Minister.

It has been stated by those who endeavour, I think very unjustifiably, to create a split in the Unionist Party, that Mr. Balfour one day plays up to the Tariff Reform League and another day he plays up to the free-fooders. In my opinion he has done nothing of the sort. He has distinctly stated that he will be no party to a tax upon food. I myself have the privilege of being a colleague of the Prime Minister, and if I thought there was any question of taxing the food of this country I would not remain a member of the Government for another day. But there is no such question about the matter. The country has to decide the question, and if the people decide that preference should be given by a tax upon food in this country, then I must bow to the opinion of the country; but, until that opinion is stated, I, for one, am opposed entirely and unquestionably to any tax upon food. I apologise for intervening in the debate, but I could not sit here and listen to an attack of this kind upon the Prime Minister without saying something in reply, although that attack might come from the most humble of his followers.


I confess I that to me the most deplorable feature of this debate is that we are compelled to revise our Parliamentary opinion of my noble friend who has moved the previous Question. I always believed that my noble friend Lord Camperdown was a very courageous politician, and I have had the honour of sitting with him in this House for nearly twenty years. The first time I was associated with him politically was when I had the privilege of sitting with him on a Private Bill Committee of which he was the Chairman, and it was then that I noticed the courage with which he was accustomed to speak, and how he used to roll over like ninepins the most experienced Parliamentary counsel. Ever since that time I have regarded my noble friend as a man of strong opinions, by no means averse to the strong expression of those opinions, and now I find it is my noble friend above all others who is to be found shivering and sheltering behind the ramparts of the previous Question. If this Motion had been moved from the Front Bench opposite none of us would have felt any surprise. What has happened here and in another place has enabled us to appraise pretty correctly the standard of Parliamentary courage of His Majesty's Government. That standard is, in fact, like that of the foreign gentleman who declared that he was afraid of nothing in the world except danger. His Majesty's Government, when the attack has been sounded, have only had one word of command, and that is "right about face." They have adopted the white feather as their permanent and authorised badge. I am sorry to see my noble friend on the Cross Benches wearing that badge, and we regard his collapse upon this occasion rather with sorrow than with anger.

I should like to appeal to the impartial people in this House—and I suppose that in this Assembly there are more impartial people than in most other political Assemblies—as to whether there is anything unreasonable or unfair in the noble Duke's desire to obtain from the Government a clear opinion upon this perfectly plain issue. After all, my Lords, what is the situation as it stands? On the one hand you have a section of the Unionist Party led by Mr. Chamberlain, whose views are perfectly well known, comprising colonial preference founded upon the taxation of food, and also comprising a general tariff and a penal tariff. Belonging to the same Party you have another body of men, of whom Lord Hugh Cecil is perhaps the type, who are not altogether opposed to the notion of employing retaliation, but who on the other hand are totally opposed to the views expressed by Mr. Chamberlain. Those two parties are not merely antagonistic, but they are to all appearances absolutely irreconcilable. They are, in fact, the two straight lines which will not meet. It certainly is a very remarkable fact that both those parties, owing to the nebulous character of the declarations made by the Prime Minister upon this question of free trade, are able to follow him side by side just as the Children of Israel followed the Pillar of Cloud through the wilderness. This particular pillar of cloud is certainly bound to land one section or the other ultimately into a morass. I do not want to dwell upon the moral aspect of the situation, but because something was said upon this point a night or two ago in this House, and I know it offended the susceptibilities of the noble Lord sitting on the Woolsack. Upon this point I will only repeat what was said by Lord Robertson, that it is marvellously clever of the Prime Minister to have induced two parties holding irreconcilable views upon this fiscal question to follow him side by side. I think it is quite as clever as though in 1886, Mr. Gladstone—I apologise to his memory for making the suggestion—had been able to make declarations which would have caused the noble Duke opposite to believe that he was an ardent Unionist, and at the same time to cause Mr. John Morley to believe that he was an ardent Home Ruler. On that point I will only say that if Mr. Gladstone had done so, and had obtained two or three more years of power by so doing, the eulogies and appreciations which, when his career was summed up, were expressed about him from both sides of the House It must also be remembered that the would, I venture to think, have been modified in some very essential particulars.

But amid all the mists of the Prime Minister's speeches he has made one perfectly clear declaration, and that is, that he is not a protectionist. In fact, he has said that if the Conservative Party became a protectionist Party, although he might not leave it, he certainly would not lead it. Now how far does that declaration take us? Does that necessarily involve any difference between his views and those of Mr. Chamberlain? Is Mr. Chamberlain a protectionist? I believe he says that he is not. I am bound to say that while he has travelled about the country. I have read utterances of Mr. Chamberlain in which, for instance, he has spoken of the decay of the watch trade at Prescot or the button trade at Birmingham, and those utterances lead me to suppose that he desires tariffs to be imposed in order to maintain small industries which otherwise might perish. There is also the fact that Mr. Chamberlain is never tired of alluding to the comparative prosperity of protectionist countries, apparently because they are protectionist. In spite of that I am quite willing to admit that protection is not the main object of Mr. Chamberlain's campaign. The main object of his campaign, I firmly believe, is to establish colonial preference. Still, I feel that if by introducing colonial preference and a general and penal tariff Mr. Chamberlain was to cause certain trades to be protected, thereby instituting a system of something like protection in this country, he would not regard it as a matter for regret, but as a matter for rejoicing. Mr. Chamberlain has never concealed this fact from the country. Have we any evidence that the Prime Minister would not do the same? Is there any evidence that if under the guise of retaliation and preference something like a preferential system was set up in this country, Mr. Balfour would regard it as a matter of serious regret, provided that it was not nominally and specifically called a system of protection? I think he would rather rejoice at this by-product of protection. It must also be remembered that the form of retaliation which, according to Mr. Chamberlain, uncontradicted by any member of the Government so far, is the only one which may be reasonably debated, that is to say, of a general tariff accompanied by a penal tariff, is undoubtedly a form of retaliation which must, if it is carried out, involve a very large measure of protection. For this reason, that it is certain in a great many cases that the foreigner would sacrifice some portion of his foreign trade to keep his home trade protected. If you come to a contest between two Powers in this matter of retaliation, the Power which is expressly protectionist and wants to keep up its duties in order to protect its own industry has a great advantage over the other Power which only wishes to retaliate in the name of free trade. That appears to me to be perfectly clear.

I will say one word as regards the question of the conference which was raised in the speech of my noble friend Lord Minto. I confess that I have never entirely understood what was the meaning of the phrase "free and unfettered conference" which is used so glibly by a number of speakers on this subject. If you can conceive a number of people meeting in conference with their minds absolutely blank on every subject which they could be called upon to discuss, it is evident that the conference must be simply inefficient and unbusinesslike. Surely it is a fact that whenever a number of people meet to confer upon any subject they either confer on preconceived lines, or else they have the authority of some other person or body who have delegated to them definite and explicit instructions; and, therefore, if this conference is to meet, one is bound to presume that the representatives of this country must have some explicit instructions upon which to go. If, for instance, tin conference is to be held before the present Government leaves office, it is impossible to conceive that Mr. Lyttelton, who I imagine would represent the Government, could ome before it and state that he was absolutely without instructions upon any question connected with preferential trade. The Colonial Secretary's opinions are well known, for he has stated them freely in public, and to imagine that he can be treated as having an open mind on this subject seems to involve a parody upon the whole business which really takes it out of the domain of practical politics altogether.

It is my opinion that this conference under no circumstances should be held before a general election has taken place. I have such confidence in the statesmanship of the men who hold high Ministerial office in the Colonies that I look forward with something like certainty to their suggesting that in view of the political situation at home they will not be prepared to join in a conference in the course of next summer, assuming that His Majesty's Government are in power at that time. But if the conference is to be held while the present Government is in power, it does not seem too much for us to ask that a preliminary declaration should be made that, so far as it. is possible to gauge the opinion of the people, this country is not now in favour of the taxation of food. I say this for two reasons. In the first place, my Lords, that is the system under which we are living at the present time, and the system of no preferential taxation upon food holds the field. Until the country expresses its opinion to the contrary it seems to me quite reasonable that the existing system should be put forward as that which the country at the present time favours. That is my first reason.

general election, and which then will be ruled out of Court as improper for discussion altogether. Nobody was more strong upon this point than Mr. Chamberlain himself, for he said at an early stage of these discussions that it would be a great misfortune if after a Colonial Conference the country were to turn round and say it would not entertain the conclusion at which certain people might arrive. Mr. Chamberlain foresaw that it would be a distinctly damaging thing to our colonial relations that this conference should take place, and that under the presidency of a protectionist Colonial Secretary certain conclusions might be reached which the country would desire to reverse. I hope by your votes to-night your Lordships will agree to state it as your reasoned opinion that it is unwise to submit this question to a Colonial Conference until the opinion of the country has been taken at a general election.


I think that the real point that is before your Lordships this evening is whether it is desirable in the interests of the country that not only Parliament, not only the Unionist Party, but the country should have a clear idea of what is the view of the Prime Minister and his colleagues upon some of the most important parts of the fiscal question. It is probable that an election is near, and I should have thought that those who are in favour of the Prime Minister's policy would have preferred before it is referred to the constituencies that it should stand out clearly by itself without the patronage of another policy which is not the same policy, but which seems likely to overshadow the Prime Minister's policy at the election. As one who is far more in favour of the Prime Minister's policy than of the other policy which is its rival, I regret that reticence and obscurity should give the opportunity to the rival policy to make progress in the country and, above all, in the Party itself. Noble Lords opposite may not be sorry if Mr. Balfour and his friends are tarred with the brush of being in favour of the taxation of food. It may be to the political interests of a Party that it should be thought that Mr. Balfour holds the view that a tax upon corn might fairly be brought into the discussion at the next Colonial Conference. That may be to the advantage of those who wish to weaken Mr. Balfour in order to have a better chance at the election, but it is certainly not in the interests of the friends of Mr. Balfour himself, and I think that he would do better for himself, better for his own prestige, and better for his own followers if he would let the country know distinctly by a plain declaration not only how far he goes, but how far he is not prepared to go. It is upon the latter part that the country is so ignorant.

I have placed before your Lordships what I consider to be the most important point that is before your Lordships to-night. It is the question of how far Ministers go, and how far they are prepared to give the limits of their policy so that it can be understood by the people at large. Before I enter a little more fully but briefly into that question, let me say a word or two on that part of my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire's Motion which refers to the Colonial Conference. It is, according to the Government, to be an unfettered Colonial Conference; that is the view which is held by His Majesty's Government, and there are to be no declarations which would fetter their representatives or which would at all limit the discussion at such a conference. Then I presume the conference is open to discuss taxation upon raw material. I would ask my noble friend the Leader of this House whether he assents to that view? Why should there be a distinction between food and raw material? I should like to hear from my noble friend a statement upon that point. Why should there be a distinction between food and raw material? If the conference is to be entirely unfettered, and that is the belief, then it is to be unfettered as regards raw material and the taxation of such articles as wool equally as it is with the taxation of food. I should be glad if my noble friend would signify even by a word whether I am right or not in my contention that the conference will be unfettered as regards either of these two subjects. I have no reply on that point from my noble friend, but perhaps I shall nave a reply later in the evening. Meanwhile I assume, in fact I am bound to assume, from the language which has been used, that the conference is to be unfettered as regards raw material. And why? Because no declaration, no positive declaration, has been made to the contrary. But if there has been a declaration as regards raw material and if that is the view of the Government, why should they not make a parallel declaration about the taxation of food. That is a serious question. Are our fellow-subjects, the Colonists, going to enter this conference, when it takes place, equally unfettered with ourselves? Are their public men going equally to declare that every subject is open for discussion? I have read many declarations of their public men, but I have not found one of them favourable to the admission of British manufactures into their colonies to compete on equal terms with their own manufactures. They are prepared to give us a preference, but they are not prepared to give us equal terms. That is to say, they fetter their representatives in advance by such declarations. If that is so, why should not we take the same course, and by a frank and unreserved declaration of our views put our representatives as regards the taxation of raw material and food in the same position as the colonial representatives will be as regards the admission of British manufactures on equal terms with colonial manufactures. Let there be reciprocity in this case. Let the representatives from both sides come on equal terms. From all that I have read of the views of our fellow-subjects across the sea I am perfectly certain that they will recognise the fairness of the contention which I have put forward; and I believe that they would prefer now to know what are the views of His Majesty's Government with regard to the taxation of food. I think it would be much fairer that they should know.

But who is to decide this? It is said that it is to be decided by the next election; but is no lead to be given to the electors with regard to the taxation of food? Or is the lead only to come The second reason is that the trend of public opinion shows that by-elections, which though they may not be considered a forcible argument for a change of Government, are forcible as showing the trend of public opinion. These by-elections have shown that the principle of the taxation of food by way of preference is not one which is accepted by the people of this country. Of course, if after a general election the country chooses to reverse its present fiscal system, it can do so. I may say that those of us who are in favour of free trade will, I am sure, fight up to the last ditch for its defence, but if the country chooses, after consideration, to say that protection is not a bad thing and that colonial preference is a desirable thing, then we must resign ourselves to becoming a country under a system of protection. On the other hand if, as all the indications go to show, this country means to adhere to a system of free trade, surely it must be a very dangerous and unwise thing to invite a discussion upon the one subject which ha? to be decided by the electors at the next from Mr. Chamberlain and not from the Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Tarty? Does the Prime Minister not consider now, after the discussion that has taken place, that the time has come when he can frankly declare for himself that he believes it is worth while taxing food for the purpose of colonial preference. I believe myself that he holds that view, and I have come to this conclusion after a careful study of his various utterances. A careful study of those utterances points to this conclusion, th it intellectually he would be in favour of that course, and he would be glad if the mandate of the people were to be to the effect that he might hold out to the Colonies that there should be taxation of food in this country. My Lords, I do not think we are here to-night to discuss the merits of the question of the taxation of food. I do not propose to enter for a moment into the question of whether corn ought to be taxed or not, or whether there ought to be a general and penal tariff. My noble friend the Duke of Marlborough entered into the question of the merits of the taxation of food, and whether or not it ought to be taxed. But that is not, so far as I can judge the matter, the main point to-night. Our object to-night is to elicit, if we can, some declaration from His Majesty's Government as to the policy they hold.

My noble friend Lord Camperdown has moved the previous Question, and, if he will permit me to say so, I do not think that he realises the importance of the present position, as it was put before your Lordships in the striking speech of his Grace the Duke of Devonshire. The Duke of Devonshire showed the importance of arriving at the truth, and I should like to impress upon your Lordships, if I were able to do so, the importance of distinguishing between the policy of the Prime Minister and the policy of Mr. Chamberlain. The Duke of Marlborough stated that there were few differences, in fact he said that he was not aware of differences between Mr. Chamberlain's and Mr. Balfour's policy. Now let me remind the noble Duke that Mr. Chamberlain is for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," and he will hear nothing of anyone who does not agree with him. Therefore, if there are no differences, it follows that Mr. Balfour also goes for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. I do not believe that that is so. I think my noble friend the Duke of Marlborough, in his effort to minimise the differences between Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Balfour, uttered a sentence which it would be difficult to confirm by evidence, and which Mr. Balfour himself would be sorry to see confirmed by evidence, because I feel positively certain, notwithstanding all the evidence that can be produced—and it is strong evidence—to the contrary; notwithstanding all the evidence that has been produced, I hold that there is a striking difference, a fundamental difference, a difference in essentials, and a difference in spirit and tone, between the policy of the Prime Minister and the policy of Mr. Chamberlain.

Evidence has been produced to this effect by the Duke of Devonshire, and I could produce further evidence if it were necessary. I am absolutely convinced that I understand Mr. Balfour, and I believe thatheisnotin agreement with the great scheme, the fine plans, and the magnificent structure of tariff reform which is the favourite theme of Mr. Chamberlain. Mr. Chamberlain has got a vast plan, "by which he sees that hundreds of thousands of British workmen are to find employment, and he is in favour of a plan by which foreign goods are to be excluded to the extent that employment on a vast scale is immediately to be ensured in this country. Mr. Chamberlain wishes to recast fundamentally the whole; of our trade, and he draws splendid pictures of the future of the country which is to ensue. I find nothing of that kind in the half-sheet of notepaper of the Prime Minister. That tiny document is not included in the great programme of Mr. Chamberlain. Mr. Chamberlain may fairly see—and I wish to be per fectly fair in this respect—that the greater includes the less, and as retaliation would fit in to a certain extent with his plans, he can, therefore, fairly say that he is not at issue with Mr. Balfour, because the greater includes the less. Consequently the tiny document may in that sense fit in with the magnificent prospectus. But the lesser often includes the greater, but I do not think that the half-sheet of note-paper includes the vast plans of Mr. Chamberlain. The Duke of Devonshire has given your Lordships evidence to that effect, and I will not endeavour to produce any special direct evidence in the same direction.

I wish, however, to put this before your Lordships, that the whole spirit of the speeches of the Prime Minister is utterly different from the spirit of the speeches of Mr. Chamberlain, not, I admit, as regards the Colonial Conference, but as regards tariff reform. I maintain that Mr. Balfour is not near Mr. Chamberlain in this respect and the whole of his speeches are different Here is one small piece of evidence. Mr. Balfour never alludes to the Tariff Reform Commission. The Tariff Reform Commission consists of a number of amiable and capable gentlemen who are sitting together and endeavouring to work out with great pains and at great expense a scientific tariff. Now I have searched in vain in Mr. Balfour's speeches for any reference to the labours of this Commission or any appreciation of the work they are performing, or any desire that that work should ever be concluded. There is no evidence whatever that Mr. Balfour appreciates the construction of a scientific general and penal tariff. I never see him using the arguments of Mr. Chamberlain and drawing those magnificent pictures of how by enormously increasing employment he is going to change the whole face of the industrial character of this country. Mr. Balfour says nothing of the kind. Mr. Balfour does not say that if we only exclude certain imports the working men will have so much more in wages per week themselves; in fact, his tendency is far more to endeavour to open the door of foreign countries to our merchandise than it is to shut our doors against the merchandise from abroad. Mr. Balfour is not so anxious to exclude all foreign manufactures, but he wishes by the power of negotiation to be able to force the door of other countries wider open.

Lord Grimthorpe stated that he saw no difference between the two, but I can see a vast difference between them, and I expect that a great number of the supporters of Mr. Balfour also see a great difference between them. The evidence in favour of this contention is very substantial evidence. I have no time, my Lords, nor have I any desire, to increase the volume of evidence in that direction, but nevertheless I maintain that Mr. Balfour is not in sympathy with Mr. Chamberlain on the penal and general tariff. I go further, and make the assertion that Mr. Balfour is airther removed from Mr. Chamberlain and his policy at the present moment than he was at the beginning; that he has not gone nearer but is more alarmed than he was at the dimensions of Mr. Chamberlain's programme. As a matter of fact, I believe Mr. Balfoar has been shocked to a certain extent by the economical phantasies of his right hon. friend, and in that sense he is more careful now against being carried away by Mr. Chamberlain. I feel certain that intellectually Mr. Balfour has not surrendered. As regards his will and other portions of his character, I am not sure how far the fascination of a strong man may not have affected him to a certain extent. I do say, however, that Mr. Balfour's silence when Mr. Chamberlain desires to annex him, and when he has declared that they are both agreed in essentials, is significant, and it is in my judgment absolutely deplorable. It is a silence that has done immense harm to the Party and has led to much mystification and confusion in the country. That silence, if it is maintained too long, will have the effect that his more moderate programme will be swept away by the mightier programme of his right hon. friend. I do not think Mr. Balfour is sufficiently bold in his illustrations and be confines himself too much to the half-sheet of notepaper.

As regards retaliation, Mr. Chamberlain gives great instances to illustrate his own position. He speaks of cement, straw-plaiting, glass, and tin-plates, and whatever industries he mentions he puts forward his case in a manner which is "understanded of the. people," as he says himself. Mr. Chamberlain himself says I make myself plain and I am understood. Mr. Balfour, on the other hand, has refrained on every occasion from giving any significant illustration of his policy of retaliation. He is too timid and two cautious, he does not place before his countrymen and his followers a clear case, and he remains too abstract, and, therefore, they do not follow him. Consequently you have on the one side Mr. Chamberlain with his clearness of utterance and his distinctness, and on the other side Mr. Balfour, who will not explain his views except by means of the half-sheet of notepaper and who, as we were told by the Duke of Marlborough, has got other things to do than to explain his speeches or to be cross-questioned with regard to the interpretations which other people have put upon those speeches. The result is, that Mr. Chamberlain is understood by everybody and Mr. Balfour is not. It would be to the advantage of the country and to the advantage of the Unionist Party if Mr. Balfour were understood, but he is not. On the one side you have the clear transparent speech of Mr. Chamberlain and on the other side you have the ambiguity of silence. On the one side you have the flaring poster that everybody can read, and on the other side you have the half-sheet of notepaper. On the one side you have the very lust of battle, and on the other side a leaning towards tactics and manoeuvres. Under these circumstances how can we be surprised if it seems as if the annexation of Mr. Balfour and his Party would be carried out.

Above all, the country desires to have plain utterances, and in this particular the clear policy will have an advantage over the obscure policy. What does Mr. Chamberlain say? He says, "We cannot afford to be obscure." Can the Prime Minister afford to be obscure? If he has been obscure, he has been called upon to pay a very heavy penalty. What has been that penalty? It is the obscurity of the Prime Minister that has helped to shatter the fortunes of his own Party. What are we to say of Mr. Balfour's supporters in the House of Commons, who sit silent while Mr. Chamberlain, justly or unjustly, makes an audacious annexation of their chief? They see the embarrassing embrace take place without a remonstrance. If they believe in the cause of the Prime Minister, do they believe in the half-sheet of notepaper and do they believe that the policy of the Prime Minister is a safer policy and more adequate to the requirements of this country? Do they believe that Mr. Balfour's policy is superior to the policy of Mr. Chamberlain? If they do why do they sit silent, and why do they not spring to their ieet when they hear Mr. Chamberlain say that there is no difference between his whole Bill and nothing but the Bill and the half-sheet of notepaper of the Prime Minister? It is inconceivable that they remain silent with a kind of chuckle of Party satisfaction because they are still able to show a majority in the division lobby and because their Party has been so managed that they still maintain a majority of about seventy. These heavy - hearted legislators issue from crowded lobbies to victories which are of no use to them whatever. I must say that these supporters of Mr. Balfour, who will not speak, and who do not show that they prefer his policy to that of Mr. Chamberlain, deserve the scolding and the scornful scolding which they received at the hands of Mr. Chamberlain the other day. Politicians he called them. He said— Pioneers we are, but they are politicians. This has been quoted to you already, and a more insulting phrase seems to me never to have been uttered in reference to the numerous followers of the Prime Minister. He told them that the time would come when they would creep round in order to claim part of the victory in which they had had no share. Whom did Mr. Chamberlain mean? He did not mean the free - fooders, he did not mean the Elliots, the Hugh Cecils, and the other free - fooders who have had the compliment paid them by Mr. Chamberlain that he was anxious that they should leave the Party; but as for Mr. Balfour's supporters, who had the cause of the Prime Minister in their keeping and custody, he is determined that they are to be dragooned into his camp. That has come in consequence of the silence of the Prime Minister, and how much longer is that silence to last? Is it not time that the nation should know clearly what the Prime Minister's views are upon this question? I shall be glad if the Government will take this late opportunity of giving us some light.

I think the Duke of Marlborough need not fear that a vote upon the previous Question in favour of either of the propositions of the Duke of Devonshire would be a rebuff to one of their valued supporters. I think the Prime Minister's followers have received sufficient rebuffs from Mr. Chamberlain himself that they need not be so very tender about rebuffs. We are told that Ministers should not speak to-night because it is unconstitutional lor a private Member to put Resolutions of this kind upon the Paper. I think the noble Duke said we were a body for revision, and ougnt not to take these leaps into future policy. I think, however, that our Notice Paper shows that there frequently are such leaps into the future. There is, nevertheless, this reply to be made: that if this is an unusual course it is a course forced upon us, and forced upon those like myself who do not enter upon this question in a Party spirit, and who are only anxious that the nation and the public should be fully informed upon this question. This is a course which has been forced upon us by what has happened in another place. If in the House of Commons I these Motions cannot be discussed, surely it is right and wise and opportune that an opportunity should be given in this House for Questions being asked, and if possible for those Questions being answered.

I feel certain that my noble friend the Leader of this House, if it were open for him to do so, would answer one of the Questions which my noble, friend the Duke of Devonshire has asked at once. The question I refer to is, Is the Government in favour of a general and penal tariff? Would any I harm be done by answering that Question? Let us leave the Colonies for a I moment out of the question. I ask again, would any harm be done by the Government telling us straight whether they are in favour of a general and penal tariff If they will not tell us that, what is the country to think? The country will go to an election, but what are the unfortunate followers of Mr. Balfour to say when they are tackled in their corstituenoies? They will be asked Is the Government in favour of a general and penal tariff?" They will reply, "I cannot tell you at all; they will not give us an Answer, in fact, they evade the Answer through the previous Question." What will they think? These refined excuses will not be acceptable to the country at large, because they desire that a straight Answer should be given. I will not say that my noble friend the Leader of this House holds the view that a general and penal tariff is possible, for, whatever he may think on other questions, I hold him guiltless of such a view. Nevertheless, it would be far better for himself and for his friends if he would give a clear Answer to that Question on behalf of the Government. Remember what Mr. Chamberlain has said. He has said— We cannot afford to be obscure. I say that the Government cannot afford to be obscure. By this obscurity the Government are driving a number of their followers into Mr. Chamberlain's camp, and this will be the inevitable result if they do not cease to be obscure. I am apprehensive that, if they do not break this silence, they will lose their hold upon their own Party and also their hold upon the country, and I will add that they must take care that they do not lose their hold upon themselves, and that they are not swept beyond the point to which they are ready to go by the strong tide of a mightier will than their own. Let them take care that they do not lose hold of themselves. I wish that it were possible, even at this last moment, for the Government to emerge from that region of silence and shadowy mist in which they have dwelt too long, and come out into the light of day. I hope the Government will come forward and clearly and plainly pronounce their policy and take the consequences like men.


Having moved the Blotion at the Albert Hall to which the Duke of Devonshire has called attention, I should be lacking in courtesy to this House if I did not offer a few observations upon that point in the course of this debate. I am a little ia doubt as to what branch of the two parallel lines I should address myself to. The Motion of the noble Duke contains some economic propositions to which we are invited to say "Yes'' or "No," and to which economic propositions a certain number of the speeches have been directed. On the other hand, the noble Duke himself, and a great numbsr of the speakers who followed him, devoted themselves to an attempt to confuse the policy of the Government, which, although I would wish to carry it further, is perfectly clear to me, and which, after all, the Government has no need to pronounce upon at the present moment, because that policy is not before Parliament. Let me be frank at once with the House. As regards the economic propositions put forward by the noble Duke, I see no reason why they should not be met by a direct negative. I would controvert every proposition which is contained in the Motion before the House.

What are the circumstances? Perhaps jour Lordships will forgive me if I dwell upon some economic arguments. We are faced with a situation in which j foreign tariffs increase and our own country remains without a tariff. We are faced with the situation whereby our own Colonies are developed on similar lines. At the same time we are constantly being told, and have been told for years, that the fiscal system of this country needs revision, if only from the economic need for broadening the basis of existing taxation. In short, my Lords, when we look upon what free trade has brought us during the period we have enjoyed the so-called blessing of free trade, I am tempted to ask what is the real meaning of free trade in the mouths of those who use those phrases. Have we really enjoyed the blessings of free exchange of goods with other countries, or are we going to enjoy it with our Colonies? What is free trade if it does not mean j some extension of the area upon which our merchants can have free trade? I would ask Lord Grimthorpe, who said that Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain were indulging in an attack upon free trade, to tell this House what free trade has brought us, and how we have extended the area of free trade. Is it not a fact that Germany and the United States enjoy a greater area of free trade for their manufactures than we do? They not only enjoy a great area in their own country but they very often penetrate into our own Empire and enjoy our markets as well as their own. I submit that some kind of a preferential system involving some kind of tariff will do more to extend our real area of free trade.

Lord Groschen dwelt much upon the point that we ound that our policy would not admit goods into our Colonies any more than into other nations, and that is perfectly true. Can the noble Lord, however, point to any countries which would admit our goods on fair and equal terms? He might be able to point to Turkey but to no other country. Neither he nor any other Member of this House can point to a single possibility of extending our area of free trade except under such a reform of the fiscal system as is now proposed. That is an analysis of the situation in which we are placed, and an analysis in which, let it be observed, Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain have never deviated one jot from each other, and which practically the whole of this House will agree to, whatever they may say as to the methods by which the situation is proposed to be changed. That being the case, the policy of the Government is to proceed by means of retaliation and by a Colonial Conference. Those who, like myself, belong to the Tariff Reform League have throughout accepted that policy. It is perfectly true that we have a larger and more complete scheme, but we see no reason to differ from the remedies which are proposed by the Government. I may say that I, for one, accept that policy whole-heartedly, and I accept it frankly for the reason that I do not believe you can apply retaliation or hold a Colonial Conference without its resulting in the practical application of some such tariff as that for which we are asking. I am perfectly frank with the House in that matter, and I will give one or two broad reasons for that view.

In the first place we are to a certain extent discussing the economic situation without the book. There ought to be in the Government Departments of this country a bureau which would constantly and thoroughly be investigating the conditions of trade between this country and foreign nations, and examining the current of trade. I may be told that the Board of Trade does a great deal in this direction, but it does not do anything like what similar Boards do in other countries. We have therefore very little evidence to go upon. We have got the statements of politicians and of economists each investigating from their own point of view. A considerable amount of evidence has besn brought forward before the Tariff Commission. I do not pretend to say that that Commission has been arranged by the Government, or that it has the same opportunities of investigation as a Government Commission would have. Let me here point out that the Tariff Reform League and the Tariff Commission are separate and distinct bodies, and have nothing to do with each other. The Tariff Commission is composed of a number of manufacturers, and not politicians, who are distinguished in their own branch of the subject, and whose interest it would not be to suggest a Colonial Conference or colonial preference unless it was their genuine belief that it would be beneficial, and they do not consider it from a Party point of view. They have collected evidence not from one quarter but from every quarter of the country, and the conclusion which they have unanimously come to is that the system which ought to be established is one involving a general tariff and not a large tariff. They consider that there should be a tariff for bargaining with foreign nations which would admit oar goods upon fairer terms, and also a tariff for preferential trading with our Colonies.

If your Lordships will deign to turn up the Report of the Tariff Commission, and there are few more valuable pieces of work that can be studied, you will find that only the iron, steel, and cotton trades have been reported upon, but they say that on general lines the system they have recommended should be pursued, and they say that unanimously. That is some evidence upon which to go. I admit this evidence will have to ba carried further, and noble Lords would doubtless like to establish their own Commission. At any rate, the evidence of the Tariff Commission Report is better than the unsupported word of politicians, however eminent, and they have decided in favour of a general tariff. A general tariff is not a new thing in this countiy. It is not exactly on the model either of protectionist countries like America and Germany and so forth, but it is practically the same system as is now being pursued by the Dominion of Canada. In Canada there is a general tariff with a lower scale for countries that admit its goods on favourable terms, and a still lower scale for British and colonial goods. If we institute a similar system we are only falling into line with the Colonies, we shall only have to assimilate our tariffs to the same general system, and there will not be half the difficulties which a great many noble Lords anticipate. So much for the evidence.

I will now come to further reasons for my views in regard to retaliation and colonial preference. What, after all, is retaliation? I hold that it will be impossible for many reasons to put retaliation into practice without a general tariff. I will give one reason which seems to me to be absolutely conclusive. To my mind retaliation is far more protective than any system which we suggest. Retaliation is intended to protect a particular industry at a particular time against a particular country. What can be more protective than that, Perhaps some economists can explain how you can put into force a particular duty upon a particular article against a particular country so long as the mostfavoured-nation clause exists. We can put on a general tariff without infringing the conditions of the most-favourednation treatment. If we are to have closer union with our Colonies it must result in some kind of system involving lower duties upon the goods they send us, and preferential duties in consequence upon foodstuffs which they send to this country. Therefore, I for one agree entirely with the Government and the method they propose to deal with the situation, and I am absolutely confident that those methods can only have one practical issue. That being so, I feel that there are other argu- ments to be considered besides the purely economic position. I do see, as the noble Earl of Camperdown observed, that there are a number of people to whom this question is by no means so clear as to some of your Lordships. Some noble Lords are perfectly certain of their views. One noble Lord (Lord Robertson) was so perfectly certain of what would happen that he drew a vivid picture of what would follow.


I said that that was one of the large and looming dangers of the situation.


The noble Lord said it was one of the great dangers of the situation, but why should it be a greater danger now than when we had a protective system. I do not remember that we were a very corrupt country in our protective days, or believe that France and Germany are more corrupt than we are in this country, but admitting that there may be a danger of that kind, I cannot admit that that is the final argument against the adoption of a policy which can be proved, if properly carried out, to be good for this country. The noble Lord seems to be equally certain that the shadow of a certain Gentleman stood between the Prime Minister and his Party and he called that statesman an interloper. I fail to see why Mr. Chamberlain should have earned that title from anyone belonging to the Party to which the noble Lord and I belong. It is perfectly true that Mr. Chamberlain and the noble Duke who moved this Motion allied themselves with the Tory Party not very long ago, but I should have thought that the services which Mr. Chamberlain and the Duke of Devonshire have rendered to the Tory Party would have prevented any member of the Unionist Party from calling either of those two statesmen interlopers in the Tory Party. Whatever divergence of opinion there may be upon the fiscal question I think we should be all agreed in recognising their services to the Party in the past.

I will not delay your Lordships longer with economic arguments, but I wish to say that there are at this moment many noble Lords and others who are not so certain of their views as Lord Robertson, or perhaps rny humble self, and there are a great many who are not so certain that the principle of the taxation of food is so absolutely repugnant to this nation. The noble Duke grounded his objection to a Colonial Conference on the fact that under no circumstances and under no set of circumstances could we consent to the principle of imposing a tax upon food, a principle which more than one noble Lord, and even the noble Duke himself, violated whilst a member of the Cabinet. Let me make one observation with regard to the taxation to which the noble Duke so violently objects. Are those who agree with him of opinion that a tax of 2s., even if it tells upon the consumer at all, which is denied, would absolutely ruin and impoverish the working classes of this country. Do they realise that on July 1st this year wheat was 5s. 3d. a quarter more than it was last year. Do they maintain that that rise in the cost of a quarter of wheat has brought ruin and pauperism upon the working classes of this country. Are they aware that in many of the big towns the working classes pay one penny per loaf more for bread than in some other towns, and do they know that the people of Middlesbrough andDundee pay one penny per loaf more than is being paid in Manchester and Oldham? Do they maintain that the working classes in Middlesbrough and Dundee are impoverished and living in hovels, whereas those in Manchester are prosperous through the blessings of free trade.

I think in regard to this 2s. tax upon corn you cannot deduce from a small tax upon food the inference that it is going to impoverish the working classes of this country, more especially when it is very likely that they may derive great benefits from it. I know there are noble Lords to whom this tax is objectionable, but there are others who are not bound to economic principles of that kind, and who are ready to say, "If you show us an advantage in a change of system; if you prove to our satisfaction that there is something to be gained notwithstanding the risk of making the change, we do not oare particularly for economic laws, which after all must be guided by the circumstances in which we live. If you will show us these advantages and prove that we have something to gain by the change then a great many of our objections to your proposals disappear." Lord Camperdown, in moving the previous Question, has got some title to do so. There are those who would prefer to wait until a Colonial Conference has shown them in concrete proposals what can be gained. We have been told that there is nothing to be gained, but let the conference tell us. We are told that there are thousands of difficulties in the way but let the Colonial Conference decide those things. Let us bring the Ministers of our various Colonies together and allow the conference to decide, and if that conference proves that we can get nothing from a change then I confess I shall be disappointed in my hopes and ambitions. Why should those who disagree with us not be equally ready to submit their views to a Colonial Conference and confess they were wrong if it can be shown that something can be gained.

There are other questions besides the mere questions of political economy in this matter. I do not think we have at this momsnt any particular need to consider the situation in which the Government has been placed. I only wish that this Resolution could have been met by a more direct contradiction, but that would be contrary to the pledges which the Government have made, and I feel bound to recognise that. That being so, I do not see what could be gained by committing this House for or against a Resolution which cannqt be carried into effect by any possibility, and at a moment when there are quite a number of noble Lords who for one reason or another have found it difficult to satisfy themselves as to their decision in regard to a change which I myself consider would be beneficial.


My Lords, before I enter on the general debate I wish to refer to the speech we have just heard. It is remarkable that there have been very few speakers to-night who have taken the view which the noble Viscount has. There have been only two Members of your Lordships' House who have taken this particular line. I at once admit that I understand the position of the noble Viscount. He made a speech clearly in favour of a protective tariff. I thoroughly understand that. I recognise the manly, straightforward manner in which Lord Ridley put forward his views in favour of a protective tariff, though I cannot agree with those views, believing that the many years of prosperity the country has enjoyed dates from the initiation of a free-trade policy.

I can assure your Lordships that we on this side of the House take up this question, not as a purely Party question, but with all our heart and strength, believing it to be one of the most momentous issues before the country on which clear and definite statements from the Prime Minister and the Government of the day are essential. Otherwise we might have left the debate in the hands of the noble Duke. We might have been satisfied with one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard in attack upon a Government from the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Robertson), who never speaks in this House without impressing it with his powerful arguments and his eloquence. I have seldom heard a more scathing denunciation of the Government than that of Lord Robertson this evening. I say that the debate might have been left in those hands, although I welcomed the first appearance of the noble Lord behind me who has lately come to this House, and who made a very clear and able contribution to the discussion. But I rise to say that we feel it is our duty to strenuously and strongly support the noble Duke and to insist on having clear declarations upon the great issues involved in his proposition.

Mr. Chamberlain's speeches, policy, and meaning we understand, but we do not understand the policy and declarations of the Prime Minister; and recently Mr. Chamberlain has placed interpretations on the Prime Minister's speeches, the correctness of which interpretations must be tested. The noble Duke said he was not going to ask any Questions, but relied on the vote of the House, and he said that that vote would show what was the opinion of His Majesty's Government on the two important questions which he has put before them. But since the noble Duke's Motion was moved the noble Earl below the gangway has moved the previous Question, and we understand that His Majesty's Government are going to vote for that Amendment. The urgency for Ministerial explanations is increased by their acceptance of the previous Question in this debate.

The position of Mr. Chamberlain, confirmed by the noble Viscount, is that retaliation cannot be carried out without a general tariff. That is what I have held. I have never understood how you could carry out retaliation without a general tariff. Mr. Chamberlain, therefore, says he wants a general tariff, a scientific tariff, and even a penal tariff. History has shown that retaliation has never been successful, and a very interesting Paper recently issued on this subject shows how ruinous tariff wars have been to countries abroad which have engaged in them. The joint loss to France and Italy through the tariff war is given at £120,000,000. That is an enormous sum, and I think far outweighs any benefits those countries may have received. The same may be said with regard to France and Switzerland. My view is that retaliation has never been a success but has cost the countries much more than any slight gain that may have been received.

Mr. Balfour has repudiated in the most-definite manner the idea that any general tariff is to be set up. That is in direct opposition to what Mr. Chamberlain said, and yet Mr. Chamberlain declares that Mr. Balfour's views and his own on that question do not differ in any respect-Then with regard to preference we have exactly the same thing. Mr. Chamberlain admits that it cannot be carried out without imposing a tax on food. Mr. Balfour, on the other hand, has declared most distinctly that, in the present state of public opinion, a tax on food is not within the limits of practical politics. I want to know are those the views which Mr. Balfour and His Majesty's Government hold now on retaliation and preference, or are their views identical with those of Mr. Chamberlain? In a debate last year Mr. Chamberlain said— From the beginning of this matter I believe the Prime Minister and myself in all essentials have stood on exactly the same platform. Hon. Members know well that although they are engaged in picking our speeches to pieces they will not find any substantial difference in point of principle between the Prime Minister and myself. It is of the utmost importance, not only for those who belong to Mr. Balfour's Party, but for the country at large, on great grounds of national policy, to know whether the Prime Minister and the Government agree in these matters with Mr. Chamberlain, or whether they adhere to the views put forward by Mr. Balfour in his speeches. As the Government have apparently resolved to support the previous Question, I feel the extreme necessity of pressing strongly and earnestly on the noble Marquess opposite to answer with clearness and candour the questions that have been put to him—namely, does he desire a general tariff, agreeing with Mr. Chamberlain, and is he willing, in order to obtain preference for the Colonies, to impose a duty on food? Those are two very simple questions which the noble Marquess could easily answer to the satisfaction of the whole House, and no doubt it would be greatly to the satisfaction of noble Lords opposite to know the views of the Government upon them. I would only add that it is of the utmost importance to the country to have direct and precise replies to those questions.


My Lords, this debate in some, though not in all, respects, bears a resemblance to those other fiscal debates which have preceded it. We have had the same laborious examination of the speeches delivered by members of the Government and by supporters of the Government. We have had the same exacting criticism, I mean the kind of criticism that expects, not only correspondence of language between one member of the Government and another, but also correspondence between the language of members of the Government and those who give the Government their support.

But, my Lords, we have travelled beyond, that this evening. The noble Duke at the very outset of his remarks announced to us that he did not desire merely to detect discrepancies between the views of His Majesty's Ministers and those of Mr. Chamberlain, and that his desire was, not to attack the Government, but directly to attack the Tariff Reform League. He went on to argue that because the Tariff Reform League has gone further than we have, we should denounce its doctrines by means of these two Resolutions, and that we should pass a kind of sentence of political outlawry on Mr. Chamberlain and those who act with him. I do not think that is exactly how we have been in the habit of understanding political life in this country. I am under the impression that within both the great political Parties there has hitherto been found room for divisions of opinion, room for co-operation between men differing, perhaps differing fundamentally, on certain points, but who are yet agreed upon broad and general lines of policy. An expression was once familiar to us which attributed a special amount of comprehensiveness to what used to be called Mr. Gladstone's umbrella; and I must say that it seems to me to come with rather bad grace from those who inherit the traditions of the Gladstonian Party that they should attack the Unionist Party because upon certain points of fiscal policy we are not entirely agreed.

The noble and learned Lord (Lord Robertson) spoke of our ignoble alliance with Mr Chamberlain. I cannot help thinking that upon reflection the noble and learned Lord who used that phrase will regret the epithet. Even those of us who differ, as many of us may, from some of Mr. Chamberlain's views, must at any rate recognise the splendid service which he has rendered to the Empire during the last few years. Those who sit round me, at any rate, will never regard co-operation with Mr. Chamberlain in any great national cause as deserving of the epithet "ignoble."


I referred to the alliance not with reference to Mr. Chamberlain personally, but with reference to the terms which he exacted from those who entered into alliance with him—that they should accept the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.


I am not sure whether I grasp the noble and learned Lord's explanation. The expression is evidently to be taken in what is sometimes called a Pickwickian terse. To my mind the arrangement which has so long obtained in this country under which each of the two Parties finds room for men of various opinions is far preferable to the only alternative system of which I am aware, that under which politicians are subdivided into a number of groups which occasionally combine and come together and sometimes conspire against one another with results not by any means advantageous to political stability or the continuity of national policy. We, at any rate, intend to stand by our supporters so long as they stand loyally by us, even though some of them desire, to go a little further and some of them not to go quite so far as we do. The noble Duke asked whether it was our intention to stand shoulder to shoulder by those Unionists who do not agree with Mr. Chamberlain and who go less far even than Mr. Balfour. I say we do desire to stand by any of our supporters who will stand by us. I think the condition is a relevant one. There must be reciprocal loyalty, and where that loyalty is shown to us we shall exhibit a corresponding loyalty on our side. I must remind the noble Duke that, unless we are very much misinformed, he was, if not the first, at any rate very early in the field in declaring war against staunch supporters of the Government because upon the fiscal question they went considerably further than he was prepared to go.

My Lords, we are confronted by various statements made by Mr. Balfour and by Mr. Chamberlain, and the noble Earl opposite appeals to us to say whether we are with Mr. Balfour or with Mr. Chamberlain. Let me say this, that wherever the ingenuity of noble Lords is able to find a varia lectio in the statements of these distinguished men, it is the text of the Prime Minister that must, in our opinion, prevail, and it is by that text alone that we consent to be bound.


What is it?


The Prime Minister's statement has been perfectly distinct. He has told the public that this question of colonial preference is to be referred to a conference, that that conference is to be a free and unfettered conference, and that the conclusions of that conference are to be placed before the constituencies of this country; and he has asked that, in the meantime, we should suspend our judgment with regard to some of these debated points. But the noble Duke suggested to us this evening that if once these questions are placed before the Colonial Conference it will be too late. He draws a picture of a conference which shall come to what I think he called unsound conclusions upon these questions, and he told us that, when those conclusions have been arrived at, it will no longer be possible for us to extricate ourselves from them. My Lords, does the noble Duke really believe so little in the strength of the cause which he pleads so eloquently? Does he believe in it so little as to suppose that a verdict upon these great Imperial issues could be snatched in such a manner, and could be incapable of being reversed by the mature and deliberate expression of the opinion of this country.

The noble and learned Lord told us that we must enter into this conference with a definite idea of the direction in which we were going; and my noble friend Lord Crewe told us that it was absolutely necessary that such a conference should receive instructions, and he wanted to know what the instructions were going to be. Lord Goschen asked more particularly whether the conference would be in a position to discuss the taxation of food and raw materials. My Lords, let me interject the remark that it surprised me a little to notice the extreme solicitude of noble Lords opposite as to the precautions with which the conference is to be fenced in. They scarcely ever address us in this House without telling us that public opinion has declared so strongly against us that the result of the next appeal to the constituencies must inevitably be to deprive us of the offices we now hold. Well, if that is so, need we so greatly concern ourselves at this moment as to the precise conditions under which the conference when it is assembled will undertake its labours? But whether that conference is held under the auspices of the present Ministry or not, we are of opinion that it would not be proper to intimate now and in advance that we intend to rule out certain questions as being of a kind which the conference should in no circumstances be allowed to discuss. Lord Minto told us something of the opinions which prevail in the great Dominion of Canada, with which he and I have had some acquaintance. Do you suppose that the Canadian statesmen, who have led the way in the matter of giving preference to this country, will care to take part in the deliberations of a conference of this kind if it is to be explained to them that there are certain subjects which are absolutely tabooed, and the very mention of which will render them liable to be called to order?

The timidity of the noble Duke, I must say, greatly surprised me. We know that conscience makes cowards of us all, and the Cobdenite conscience seems to me to produce a greater amount of cowardice than any other variety of conscience. Why, I am under the impression that the noble Duke was a member of the Government which allowed the conferences of 1897 and 1902 to meet in this city. I am not aware that the noble Duke objected to these meetings, and those who have studied their records are aware that at both of those conferences the question of colonial preference was discussed. I do not remember that while the noble Duke was a member of the Government he ever took exception to the giving of preference by the Canadian Government to this country, nor can I recollect that he was ever a violent opponent of that 1s. duty on corn to which reference has been made. My disappointment at the attitude of the noble Duke is the greater because we all know that he really deserves the credit of having been one of the British statesmen who have really been pioneers in the cause of Imperial union.

Let me remind your Lordships of an interesting association called the British Empire League. The noble Duke was its first president; he is even now one of its vice-presidents, and I notice amongst the names of the vice-presidents the names of Lord Aberdeen, Lord Crewe, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, Mr. Asquith, Mr. Haldane, and other distinguished Liberal statesmen. What are the objects of the British Empire League? Amongst them I find these— To promote trade between the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and India, and to advocate the holding of periodical meetings of representatives from all parts of the Empire for the discussion of matters of general commercial interest and the consideration of the best means of extending the national trade. To consider also how far it may be possible to modify any law or treaties which impede freedom of action in the making of reciprocal trade arrangements between the United Kingdom and the Colonies. That is a splendid and striking platform, but when the noble Duke comes to act up to his professions, and to consider what means should be taken for promoting these reciprocal trade arrangements which the British Empire League advocate his courage forsakes him, and he will not even allow the discussion of a Is. duty upon wheat or anything having about it the smallest trace or flavour of a protective tariff.

I will turn for one moment to the subject dealt with in the first of the noble Duke's Resolutions—I mean the proposal which has been put forward by Mr. Chamberlain that in order to facilitate retaliation there should be a general tariff. Mr. Chamberlain, in referring to that subject, announced to his audience that he had for the moment appropriated the weapon which, I believe, I am supposed to have invented, the big revolver; but he also explained very distinctly that the ammunition was his own. And I have to say that in no speech or statement made by the Prime Minister, or by members of His Majesty's Government, are there to be found any proposals pointing in the direction of such a penal tariff as was described in Mr. Chamberlain's speech. I believe I may go further. I believe in one of the Prime Minister's speeches he went out of his way to express doubt as to the wisdom of any proposal of the kind. I think the noble Earl had the extract in his hand and did not read it. Therefore, my Lords, I cannot see I why we are to be called upon, simply because a proposal of that kind has been put forward by a supporter of His Majesty's Government—no matter how distinguished—I do not see why we are to be called upon to ask the House of Lords to support a Motion condemning in the abstract any suggestion of this kind.

I observe that in the speech in which Mr. Chamberlain put forward this idea, he was careful to explain that, in his view, any tariff of the kind should be a moderate tariff, that it should be mainly for revenue purposes, and that the articles essential for the commercial prosperity of the country should be placed upon the free list. These seem to me to be very sensible and important reservations, and, if we were at closer quarters with this question, I should certainly be inclined to ask—What is meant by a moderate tariff? What do you mean when you say it is mainly for revenue purposes? And I should like to have a look at this large free list which is to include the articles most necessary to our commercial preeminence. But I confess I see no object in pursuing inquiries of that kind at this moment; no proposal of the kind is ripe for discussion, and no such proposal is likely to be before us for a long time to come.

That being so, I suggest to your Lordships that these attempts to impose unanimity upon us are attempts to be resisted, and that they come with very indifferent grace when put forward by noble Lords opposite, who belong to a Party which has been far from being a unanimous Party in the past, which, so far as I am aware, is at this moment very far from being a unanimous Party, and which will, so far as we are able to gather, in the future not be likely to be successful in clothing the whole of its supporters with that kind of sealed pattern orthodoxy with which they desire that we and our supporters should be invested. For these reasons we shall object to the Motion of the noble Duke as one which tends to bind the conference before the conference can take place, as one calculated to limit without sufficient knowledge of the facts the exercise of that right of retaliation which we desire to maintain, and as inviting us to pass judgment on an issue which is not yet before Parliament, and on which, therefore, there is no occasion to take a vote of the House.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not think that I am guilty of an act of personal presumption in asking leave to say a few words at this hour of the night, even although it is later than your Lordships usually sit. I believe it is acknowledged that those who propose a Motion, when an Amendment is proposed to it, have, in all the circumstances, the last word in the discussion. I can assure your Lordships that the duty which I shall endeavour to discharge is not one which I myself would have sought for. I should not have presented myself to it at this time if it had not been that a request was made to me by those with whom I am proud to act in this matter that I should undertake what I regard as a difficult but an important duty.

We have heard a great many curious things said in the course of this debate, but I venture to think that none of them have been more curious than the reasons which have been advanced in favour of the Amendment for the previous Question. Some of those who have spoken in favour of that Amendment seem not dimly conscious that it is rather a course which requires a considerable amount of defence. The noble Earl who moved it said there was no precedent for such a Motion as the noble Duke's. I always think that when anyone is reduced to an argument that there is no precedent for a course he is opposing he is very nearly at the bedrock of any arguments which he can find. Again, it is said that there is no Bill before us. Are we never to discuss an abstract question in this House? This is an financial question, and one which, if embodied in a Bill, would probably come before us in a form which it would be extremely difficult for us effectively to discuss. For these reasons I venture to think there is nothing in the argument put forward in favour of the previous Question, and, after all, whatever may be the advantages for some people of voting for the previous Question, the previous Question is not in itself a policy.

This is a definite and distinct policy put before the country by an eminent statesman. It has been described in "this House to-night as a fiscal revolution. Well, my Lords, are we at this time of day to have no opinion, or, if we have an opinion, are we to be afraid to express it, upon a matter which is described as a fiscal revolution, and which is, as many of your Lordships who have spoken to-night have said, now exciting interest throughout the country, and on which, without doubt, in no mean degree the approaching general election will turn. The noble Earl opposite, Lord Minto, suggested that to pass that part of the Motion which Seals with colonial preference would be a rebuff to the Uolonies. lam wholly unable to understand that argument. After all, it is a matter which concerns us at least as much as any of our Colonies. The course proposed, if taken by this country, would involve a greater departure on our part than would be involved by the acceptance of it on the part of our Colonies. Their fiscal policy is, almost without exception, in its nature protective, and therefore it would not be any great fiscal revolution if they were to adopt a policy of protection; but, as has been universally admitted, it would be for us a very considerable departure from our existing practice.

The noble Duke the Under-Secretary for the Colonies tells us that the Prime Minister means to lead. It is part of our case, it is part of the case of the noble Duke who moved the Motion now before the House, that we desire that the Prime Minister should lead. It is because we cannot get a definite lead from him that this Motion has been put on the Paper. The noble Duke went on to say that he was not aware of any difference of opinion in the Unionist Party. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House was, I think, more discreet and more nearly accurate when he admitted differences of opinion. He seemed to express the hope that they could be minimised, and to suggest the policy of what I think he called co-operation and comprehension. I do not know whether the noble Marquess thinks that if he ultimately does not accept the Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill, of Mr. Chamberlain, there will be any co-operation or comprehension for him. I venture to suggest that if the policy indicated in the speech at the Albert Hall meant anything at all it meant that the orator would not regard even members of the Government as loyal members of the Unionist Party unless they accepted the whole policy of the general penal tariff, colonial preference involving the taxation of food, and all the rest of it, without any reservation at all.

It may be said that those of us who cannot accept this policy are not loyal members of the Unionist Party. But in a debate in which the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Goschen, Lord Robertson and Lord Ridley have spoken I think it will be a very bold thing to say that at any rate on this matter those who represent various sections of the Unionist Party have spoken without any evidence of differences of opinion. No one denies the importance of the question. No one in the abstract denies the obligation on all men who aspire to lead to make their lead absolutely clear. But in spite of that I think there can be no doubt that obscurity does exist. The object which the noble Duke had in putting this Motion on the Paper was to make one more effort to clear up that obscurity. I am afraid I must say, after the two speeches which we have heard from the Front Government Bench, that the object for which this Motion was put down has failed.

The noble Marquess said that he and the Government will stand by all those members of the Unionist Party who stand by them, but I am left in as much doubt now as I was when this discussion commenced as to what it is that I am expected to stand by. Am I to stand by a general penal tariff, or am I not? Is, or is not, that penal tariff a part of the policy of His Majesty's Government? To that Question we have not had the shade of a shadow of a reply. We have not had an attempt to grapple with it, and we shall go away, if no other speech is made, in as great a state of ignorance on that point as if this discussion had never taken place. The noble Marquess asks us to suspend our judgment. May I suggest to him that that is a piece of advice which might be given to the noble Viscount behind me (Viscount Ridley) and even to Mr. Chamberlain himself? Are they suspending their judgment? Are they not from the housetops and on every possible opportunity proclaiming that they have made up their minds, and that all those who do not agree with them must go from the Unionist Party. I am finding no fault with them, although I do not agree with their views, for their honesty and directness of statement; but when we are appealed to stand by the Government we are entitled to ask what it is that we are expected to stand by, and what is the policy that we are to defend.

There is no doubt that there are two policies before the country. The noble Marquess himself has borne eloquent. testimony to that fact. In the debate on the Address last year he told us that the policy of Mr. Chamberlain was not; the same as that of the Government,; that if it led anywhere it led in the opposite direction to that of the Government policy. Many of us claim to be at least as loyal members of the Unionist Party as Mr. Chamberlain. We understand his policy, and what we want to know is whether, under any circumstance, the Government, as a Government, are prepared to accept it and stand by it.

We have had a perfectly frank and candid speech from the noble Viscount the chairman of the Tariff Reform League. I should have liked to analyse that speech at some length, but at this j hour of the evening it would be manifestly out of place, and I am not sure that it would be entirely germane to the point before us. But when the noble Viscount says that the countries of Germany and America are examples for us, and seems to imply that they are object-lessons to which he and his friends want to lead us, I think they forget this very important difference—that over both of these countries the Imperial taxing authority is one; and whatever you may hope for, I think you are sanguine indeed if you think that our colonial dependencies and ourselves will ever come under one uniform taxing authority. That at once seems to me to differentiate the two cases and to do so in a way which invalidates any analogy. The noble Lord said there could be no retaliation without a general tariff. It is for that very reason that I, and those with whom I have the honour to act, look with doubt and suspicion on this so-called policy of retaliation.

I do not understand how it is possible to reconcile the policy of a general penal tariff with the maintenance of the most-favoured-nation clause. The noble-Viscount (Viscount Ridley) says that the Tariff Reform Commission has been doing very excellent work, and that when the further volumes come out if we study them with attentive interest we shall all be converted. I am afraid I am bound to say that I think most of those on the Tariff Commission are more or. less interested parties. They are in the main producers; their interest lies rather in the direction of dearness and the exclusion of other manufactures than in that of general free trade, and at any rate it is a significant fact that without exception, I think, the members of the Tariff Reform Commission are supporters of Mr. Chamberlain's policy. I think I am entitled to say that I shall not be inclined to attach a very much greater weight to any Report which they may produce and any conclusions which they may draw than the noble Viscount would. attach to the Report of a Commission wholly composed of those who devote their allegiance to the cause of free trade.

There was one point in the noble-Duke's (the Duke of Devonshire's) speech to which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House gave absolutely no attention at all. I have no doubt the omission was entirely through inadvertence, but the first Question the noble Duke asked the Government was this—Whether in the circumstances as altered by these events it was intended that the ordinary Colonial Conference due-next year should or should not be held? That question was discussed some little time ago, and the noble Marquees returned an Answer, but I do not know whether it was clearly understood what was the policy of His Majesty's Government in the matter. Assuming that the Government intend to propose a considerable scheme of redistribution to the other House next year, then it follows that they believe that they will be in office in the summer of next year, at the time when the ordinary conference is due. The Question the noble Duke asked, and to which he received no Answer, was whether it was intended to take any steps before the assembling of Parliament next year to summon such a conference. We are entitled to have an Answer to that Question.

There is one point I wish to put distinctly to the House. What I want to know is this—Whether we have really got any light upon the important question of whether the policy of colonial preference, involving, as it is universally admitted to do, the taxation of staple articles of food, is or is not the policy of His Majesty's Government? I understood the noble Marquess the President of the Board of Education (the Marquess of Londonderry) to say with great emphasis that he was not in favour of that policy, that he did not intend to support it, and that it was very unfair to the Prime Minister to state that he had ever committed himself to it. But we know on high authority that unless you tax food there can be no colonial preference, and therefore I want to know whether in making that declaration the noble Marquess was speaking for himself or for the Government as a whole. The point was emphasised both by the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) and by the noble Marquess that their idea of policy was wrapped up in a notion of what they call a free and unfettered conference. One speaker—I think Viscount Goschen—asked whether, if it was to be a free and unfettered conference, there was to be any bat in the case of raw material. To that very pertinent Question the Leader of the House made no response, but it seems to me a very reasonable Question. If the conference is to be free and unfettered, why is there to be a bar against raw material and not against wheat? Wheat is a raw material in many industries, and it seems idle to draw a distinction between wheat as a raw material in one industry and wool or cotton in another. I personally do not think that this policy of a free and unfettered conference is worthy of the name of a policy at all. It is a means of finding out a policy, but it is not a policy.

Let me develop that a little further. If we who doubt the wisdom of a, tax on food enter into this free and unfettered conference and support it, are we to be held by the Government as accepting the taxation of food? If the Answer is in the affirmative, it would be better and wiser and fairer to say so at once. We should then know where we are, but of course it would put an end to the idea of a free and unfettered conference, because those who go into the conference would have to give some instructions to their representatives. But if the Answer is in the negative, and at present His Majesty's Goverment do not accept the policy of colonial preference involving the taxation of food, then just look at the danger which may befall us, the risk we run. To develop my point, I must make one or two assumptions. The probability of those assumptions does not seem to me to matter, but let us assume that the approaching general election upon the so-called policy of a free and unfettered conference results in the return of His Majesty's Government. Let me assume that the conference is held, that in that conference the decision is come to to recommend a scheme of preference which involves the taxation of food. What is the position of those of us who object to it in principle? We shall be deprived of the argument on broad general grounds from which we do not shrink that it is an unwise policy for this country to embark upon. I do not develop that argument at the moment, because it has been said that is not the point we are here to discuss; but suppose the conference results in such an agreement, it will be argued with great force that we are confined to the narrow ground of saying that the bargain made was not good enough, and we shall be debarred from entering on the general policy of whether it is wise to tax food or not. I understand the broad fiscal policy of the country at present is that it is unwise to lay any burden, however slight, on staple articles of food. Noble Lords thought they had made a point when they taxed us with having supported a shilling tax on corn. I was responsible for that, I supported it, and I do not believe that it materially raised the price of grain. I believe that the sole result was this, that to some extent it. might accentuate a rise of price and to some extent it might retard a fall. But that is a wholly different policy from one which is avowedly intended to restrict the market of this country as to staple articles, and to turn the market into certain channels to the exclusion of others. If that is not what is intended, what is the object of the policy? I believe it is to be one of the cardinal points of the policy of this country that we should draw our supplies of food, just as of raw material, from the best markets of the world, and object to the ruling out of Argentina or other corn-growing countries in order that certain colonies may gain the benefit.

The noble Marquess made some play with the programme of the British Empire League. He stated that the noble Duke had been the president and was still a vice-president, and that I and others had the honour to be vice-presidents. But he will not find in the objects of that association any suggestion that this country is to depart from its well-considered free-trade policy.

Devonshire, D. Spencer, E. Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Manchester, D. Hawkesbury, L.
Wellington, D. Cobham, V. Herschell, L.
Falmouth, V. James, L.
Northampton, M. Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.) Kinnaird, L.
Ripon, M. Goschen, V. Lyveden, L.
Hampden, V. Monk Bretton, L.
Monkswell, L.
Abingdon, E. Overtoun, L.
Beauchamp, E. Avebury, L. Ribblesdale, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Balfour, L. Robertson, L.
Carrington, E. Battersea, L. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Chesterfield, E. Brassey, L Sandhurst, L.
Chichester, E. Burghclere, L. Shuttleworth, L.
Crewe, E. Coleridge, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Durham, E. Crawshaw, L. Stanmore, L.
Kimberley, E. Davey, L. Torphichen, L.
Lichfield, E. [Teller.] De Mauley, L. Tweedmouth, L.
Lytton, E. [Teller.] Denman, L. Wandsworth. L.
Portsmouth, E. Farrer, L. Welby, L.
Russell, E. Grimthorpe, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Ailesbury, M. Albemarle, E.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) (L. President.) Bath, M. Bathurst, E.
Hertford, M. Cadogan, E.
Lansdowne, M. Camperdown, E
Argyll, D. Linlithgow, M. Carlisle, E.
Bedford, D. Winchester, M. Carnwath, E.
Marlborough, D. Zetland, M. Dartmouth, I
Northumberland, D. Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.) Dartrey, E.
Portland, D. Denbigh, E.
Rutland, D. Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain.) Devon, E.

There may be other ways of drawing the Colonies to us in commerce, as in other matters; but he will not find the slightest suggestion that this country is to depart from its free-trade policy. I end as I began. I apologise for venturing to speak at this time at all, but I do say that it is unfair—I say that it is grossly unfair—that those of us, whose whole lives have been spent in the service of the Unionist Party, are to be banned by one individual because we cannot conscientiously accept a new departure, which we believe to be unsound in principle, to be delusive in the promise it holds out, and to be fertile not in things which will draw us closer together, but, as history has proved in the past, and as we believe history will prove in the future, in things which will contain the seeds of difficulty and danger from which our free-trade policy is wholly free.

On Question, "Whether the said Question be now put," their Lordships divided:—Contents, 57; Non-Contents, 121.

Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Bangor, L. Bp. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Drogheda, E. Abinger, L. Kenyon, L.
Eldon, E. Addington, L. Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
Feversham, E. Allerton, L. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Fitzwilliam, E. Amherst of Hackney, L. Lawrence, L.
Haddington, E. Bateman, L. Ludlow, L.
Hardwicke, E. Belper, L. Lurgan, L.
Harrington, E. Bellew, L. Macnaghten, L.
Huntingdon, E. Blythswood, L. Monck, L. (V. Monck.)
Ilchester, E. Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.) Muncaster, L.
Lauderdale, E. Muskerry, L.
Lonsdale, E. Braye, L. Newton, L.
Malmesbury, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Mansfield, E. Burton, L. Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)
Mar and Kellie, E. Calthorpe, L. Rathdonnell, L.
Minto, E. Cheylesmore, L. Rathmore, L.
Morton, E. Clonbrock, L. Redesdale, L.
Northesk, E. Colchester, L. Rosmead, L.
Onslow, E. Congleton, L St. Oswald, L.
Rosse, E. Cottesloe, L. Sandys, L.
Saint Germans, E. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.) Savile, L.
Shrewsbury, E. Deramore, L. Sherborne, L.
Waldegrave, E. [Teller.] Digby, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Westmeath, E. Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.) Suffield, L.
Ellenborough, L. Tennyson, L.
Churchill, V. [Teller.] Forester, L. Tredegar, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Glanusk, L Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)
Hill, V. Hatherton, L. Vivian, L.
Hood, V. Herries, L. Windsor, L.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Hindlip, L. Wolverton, L
Hothfield, L. Wynford, L.
Ridley, V. Iveagh, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L
Templeton, V.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before One o'clock a. m., till half-past Ten o'clock.