HL Deb 06 March 1911 vol 7 cc303-20

*LORD AMPTHILL rose to call attention to the proposed Reciprocity Agreement between Canada and the United States, and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope I may be allowed, although I am only an insignificant member of this House, to give expression to the feeling, which I am sure is shared by every member of the House, of deep regret at the absence of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, and particularly at the cause of that absence. Circumstances upon which it would not be proper for me to dilate have imposed upon the noble Earl an intolerable burden of work and responsibility, greater, I believe, than any man could have borne, and we have all admired in the most unfeigned manner the great gallantry with which he has devoted himself to that task and the cheerful equanimity with which he has borne the burden until health and strength failed him. We condole with noble Lords opposite on the temporary loss of their Leader, and we hope that the period of his absence will be very short indeed, because we all—I am sure noble Lords on this side will allow me to speak for them—equally feel the absence of the noble Earl from the discussions in this House. I also regret that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition is not present this evening owing to indisposition, for I am sure your Lordships will agree that there is no member of this House whose opinion, on this particular subject, is more valuable or more important.

I must first safeguard myself against misapprehensions and misrepresentations on the part of noble Lords opposite, which experience of former discussion in this House leads me to expect. I am well aware that the Dominion of Canada is under responsible government and that Canada has the right, as much as we have the right, to make any commercial Treaty or arrangement which she pleases. Nothing, therefore, is further from my intention than to make any complaint against the action of the Canadian Government. I cannot, however, agree with those who suggest that the arrangements which any of the Dominions may make in regard to their external trade are no concern of ours. Canada would be the last to make that claim, for no other Dominion has so fully and generously recognised the mutual obligations of partners in the Empire. It would have been impossible to take a more loyal and friendly view of that partnership than that which Canada has persistently taken for forty years and more, in spite of the coldness with winch we have received her advances. When therefore, Canada finds herself obliged to make a Treaty with a foreign nation which will lessen the advantages which she has been giving to us, surely it is the strangest perversity to say that there is nothing which we could do or could have done to dissuade her.

Canada has freely given us preference in commerce which is admitted by all to be a great advantage to us, and although we have given her no preference in return she has made no complaint and no urgent demand. She has merely expressed, with exceeding modesty, her hope that some day we might see our way to do so. For thirty years past it has been the policy of Canada to direct her trade towards the British Empire rather than towards the United States, and her whole economic development has been shaped to that end. This is how that great Canadian Statesman, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, described Canada's "National" policy at the Imperial Conference in 1907— If we were to follow the laws of nature and geography between Canada and the United States, the whole trade would flow from South to North and from North to South. We have done everything possible, by building canals and subsidising railways, to bring the trade from West to East and East to West, so as to bring trade into British Channels. And, again, he said— There is no boundary line except a purely convential one over the whole Territory of North America. Their habits are the same as ours, and therefore we are induced to trade, and cannot help it, by the force of nature. But so far as legislation can influence trade, we have done everything possible to push our trade towards the British people and against the American people. No response was made by the British Government until Mr. Chamberlain became Colonial Secretary, and, with his farsighted statesmanship, pointed out to us the immense potential advantages of a United Empire. The Treaties with Belgium and the German Zollverein were then denounced, and Canada in 1898 adopted the policy of British Preference, which became the cardinal principle of the Canadian fiscal system. At the same time she abandoned the standing offer of reciprocity in national products with the United States which had appeared in every Canadian Tariff Bill for a generation.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, at the Imperial Conference of 1907, said in regard to the Preference— We have told the British people that there is a way or doing more. There is the preference of mutual trade, and this is what we had in view when we adopted in 1902 the Resolution of that year. In these circumstances it is fatuous to say that the present startling change of policy is something which we could not have prevented and which is no concern of ours. Canada has been forced, either by the inaction or the action, we know not which, of His Majesty's Government, to abandon this national policy and to offer to the United States some of the advantages which she has been so freely giving to us and for which we have hardly thanked her. This change of attitude must have far-reaching effects on the trade and policy of the British Empire of which His Majesty's Ministers are the responsible guardians. The most important of those effects are—(1) the entire removal of the preference on certain British commodities such as galvanized sheets, rolled sheets, Canada plates, glycerine; (2) the material reduction of preference on other. British commodities, such as cutlery, confectionery, biscuits, plate glass, motor cars and parts, certain leather goods, and cement; (3) the increase in the area of British competition in the Canadian market by reason of the "most favoured nation" obligations, which compel Canada to extend to a number of foreign countries the concessions which are to be granted to the United States; (4) the subjection of British goods in the United States market to higher rates of duty than are granted to competitive Canadian goods. In the year 1909–10 the amount of the goods which will be affected if the Agreement is ratified was £2,999,000. This last is the most startling change of policy, for it introduces for the first time a differentiation between the several States of the Empire in their trade with a foreign country.

But, my Lords, this is not all. It is not merely a commercial matter; it is also a political matter. The commercial union of Canada and the United States must inevitably lead to their political union. Our Statesmen, Canadian Statesmen, American Statesmen, and the present British Ambassador at Washington have all foreseen and foretold that consequence. We have had actual experience during the former Reciprocity Treaty between Canada and the United States, from 1854 to 1866, to prove the correctness of those views. And now what is the astounding situation with which we are confronted, and which would arouse shame and indignation throughout this country if it were properly understood? The situation is this. The responsible Statesmen of a foreign country have spoken openly, without protest from His Majesty's Government and without fear of such protest, of the future annexation of a portion of the Dominions of the Crown. That is the pass to which the action or inaction, whichever it may be, of His Majesty's Government has brought us. No such outrage would be possible as between any other two countries, and if such an outrage had been perpetrated it would have been the matter of immediate protest. There is—thank Heaven !—no ill will, indeed nothing but goodwill, between the people of the United States of America and ourselves. These remarks were the remarks of individuals, but since those individuals were responsible Statesmen they ought to have been made the subject of dignified protest. But His Majesty's Government have remained silent, and the British Ambassador is said to have laughed. I can well believe that the disruption of the Empire might be a cause of satisfaction and merriment to Mr. Bryce in his personal capacity if that calamity were the necessary consequence of Radical Party policy. But Mr. Bryce is British Ambassador, and the guardian in America of British honour and the integrity of British interests. I can well believe that His Majesty's Ministers would view with unconcern the dismemberment of the Empire just as they contemplate the disruption of the United Kingdom as necessary to their Party aims. But they are the King's Ministers, and responsible, first of all, for national and Imperial interests.

What we want to know therefore, and what we must know is whether this humiliating and disastrous situation has been brought about by anything His Majesty's Government have clone or by anything they have left undone, whether it has been deliberate or the accidental result of shortsighted and blundering statesmanship. Thus far the Government have kept us in the dark. Their replies to questions have been evasive and inconsistent. They have not taken the people of this country into their confidence. They have withheld information, which they ought to have published long ago, until they have been forced by public pressure to publish it. What is the meaning of this secretive action and want of candour in a matter which vitally concerns the nation and the Empire? We want to know what instructions the Government gave to the British Ambassador. We want to know whether they have informed Canada of the bearing of reciprocity on Empire policy. We want to know whether they have endeavoured to obtain the same terms in the American market for British manufacturers and exporters in the United Kingdom as will be granted to British manufacturers and exporters in Canada.

But first of all we want to know why the country was not informed of what was going on? Why was there first reticence and then reluctant dilatory and shuffling response to inquiry? What has been the difficulty about giving information? What on earth is the Board of Trade for, and why have they been unable to do what a non-official body like the Tariff Commission, with infinitely smaller resources and facilities, have been able to do? Traders and manufacturers all over the country have been complaining that they cannot get information, and the obvious thing which ought to have been done was to hold consultation between the Commercial Committee of the Board of Trade and the Chambers of Commerce to ascertain the bearing of the alteration in the rates of duty. Why was this not done? We have a right to some explanation. Perhaps you will say that you have published three White Papers. Well, let us go into that. Lord Grey's cable message, which contained a very good summary of the schedules, was received on January 27, but it made no public appearance until a fortnight later and then only in an obscure Board of Trade Journal. The first White Paper, which was a reprint of that cable message, was not published until three weeks after the cablegram had been received. The second White Paper, which was published two days after that, contained merely the addition of the schedules. The third White Paper, which was not published until March 3, gave us at last the very important letters explaining the Agreement. Thus the country was kept waiting for five weeks before any real information on this most important matter was disclosed, and it was only given then in response to great pressure in Parliament and in the Press.

The case is even worse than that. The Government must have been in possession of both the Agreement and schedules before the announcement on January 26. The Prime Minister stated, in the House of Commons on February 8, that— The Agreement was made with the knowledge of His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington, who reported to the Foreign Office before it was signed. That statement was cautious and indefinite, but if we compare with it the statement made by M. Lemieux, the Canadian Postmaster-General, to the effect that the British Government had approved of the Agreement, we see that you must have had it. Why, then, did you not publish it? There could have been, and there ought to have been, simultaneous publication. Perhaps you will say, as the Prime Minister has suggested, that this is a purely Canadian matter. If you do, we can only regard such an answer as nonsense.

This Agreement involves a tremendous change in the policy of the Empire. It means that for the first time within fifty years a State of the Empire will receive a preference not enjoyed by Great Britain. It is well to remember that in 1892 Canada declined a similar Agreement with the United States which would have given her special advantages. Nor can you say that it is small matter, for the volume of trade affected amounts to nearly three millions. To that extent, therefore, work and wages in this country will be affected, and our working classes will be paying for a preference accorded to a foreign country. You say that you object to Imperial Preference because, according to your obsolete Cobdenite superstitions, it would raise the price of food in this country, but it is your refusal to accept mutual preference which is going to make the British working man's food cost him more. And with it all you are going to make the first breach in Imperial unity, and you are doing this with your eyes open, for there are no two opinions as to the inevitable consequences of this Agreement. The opinion held by all Statesmen is the same as that of your own Ambassador given as a fully considered prediction in his book on the American Commonwealth, and repeated in the new edition which was published while these negotiations were actually going on. The material growth of Canada" [wrote Mr. Bryce] "would probably be quickened by union, and the plan of a Commercial League or Customs Union which has lately been discussed might, if carried out, lead to a political union; indeed, it is hard to see how otherwise Canada could have her fair share in adjusting such tariff changes as might from time to time become necessary. Are you quite sure that the British people are willing to sacrifice Imperial unity to those worn-out superstitions, those bogies of so-called Free Trade, which have been serving the Party purposes of Radicalism? Are you sure that the people of this country would have wished to force this complete change of national policy on the sister Dominion of Canada rather than raise a finger to help her?

In any circumstances you ought to have asked the people. You knew what was going on during the election. Why did you not ask the people then? That was an opportunity which you would have taken if there had been any courage and sincerity or any forethought and statesmanship in your counsels, if you had not openly and flagrantly proclaimed that with you Party interests come first. You did not do so; yon pursued a policy of deliberate silence and secrecy because you knew that if you had put the case fairly and squarely before the electorate they would not have approved of the game which you were playing. It is on a par with the rest of your policy, which is to deprive the people of any fair opportunity of forming an opinion on your measures. Do you really suppose that the working classes are so devoted to the abstract doctrine of Free Trade that rather than abjure it they would see supplies of food turned away from these shores and work and wages which they might have had given to the Americans? The idea is ridiculous.

My Lords, His Majesty's Ministers, by their unaccountably secretive conduct in this matter, have exposed themselves to grave suspicion. They have laid themselves open to the most serious charge which could possibly be brought against Ministers of the Crown—the charge of having deliberately and for their own ends jeopardised the integrity of the Dominions of the Crown. The Prime Minister himself has let the cat out of the bag by the indecent jubilation with which he remarked— I think that we are celebrating the obsequies of that which used to be called Imperial Preference. That, and the subsequent observation that Imperial Preference is— one of the greatest and most disastrous of political impostures of modern times is a nice polite way of addressing the Statesmen of the Colonies who have been offering us their hands across the seas. It is those remarks, utterly unworthy as they are of British statesmanship, which justify our suspicions, and leave us little room to doubt that His Majesty's Ministers have acted in accordance with the infamous boast of their egregious colleague and once more "banged, barred and bolted the door" in the face of the Colonies.

Can we be quite sure that they have not been playing the same game elsewhere? Will the noble Lord who replies on behalf of the Government give us an assurance that no similar attempts have been made in Australia and South Africa to kill imperial Preference in order that the Radical Party may rejoice over further obsequies? His Majesty's Government can only clear themselves of suspicion by putting their cards on the table. We want to see every Despatch and every Instruction. If it has all been open and above board, why all this hesitation? Why is it necessary to make a selection of the Papers? Surely it cannot be that the delay is due to any necessity of bowdlerising the Despatches? We want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and it is with that object that I move for Papers.

Moved, That there be laid before the House further Papers relating to the proposed Reciprocity Agreement between Canada and the tinted States—(Lord Ampthill)


My Lords, we on this side of the House are very grateful to my noble friend for the tribute he has paid to the Leader of the House. The House well knows how deeply we on this sidle feel the prospect—I hope not for a long time—of Lord Crewe's absence from our deliberations, and it is evident that in every quarter of the House there is as deep a feeling as there is on this side of the loss that we sustain through the absence of his sagacity, his pleasant humour, and all the other gifts of which he is the possessor; and there never was a time when the absence of a Leader of Lord Crewe's qualities was felt to be a greater loss to the service of the House and of more unhappy detriment to the public interests.

Now, my Lords, I turn with no satisfaction to the speech with which my noble friend followed that opening. A long time ago a young man came to me and asked whether I could provide him with journalistic employment. I said to him, "What is your strong point? Have you any?" "Yes," he replied, "I have. My strong point is invective." I pressed him and asked "any particular invective?" and he replied, "No, general invective"; and that appears to be the master faculty displayed on the present occasion at all events by my noble friend. He has charged the Government with being insincere. That perhaps is not very grave nowadays. Then he said that we were playing a game"; that we were showing" a fatuous, blundering statesmanship," and that instead of being honest at the General Election and asking the constituencies whom our candidates were wooing whether they approved or disapproved of the action of a Colony, a responsible Colony—that that was "a trick" on our part. I should have thought very ill of any gentleman who was a candidate for the House of Commons who went to a constituency and tried to get votes, whether he belonged to the Party opposite or to our Party, by a denunciation of the policy of the Canadian Ministers at Washington. I pass over all that language, of which I cannot think that my noble friend's colleagues entirely approved.

I should like to give a plain and simple statement of the case which the noble Lord has painted in such extraordinarily lurid and not over-intelligible colours. The negotiations leading up to Reciprocity between the Canadian Government and the Government of the United States began nearly a year ago. The first step was a communication from the Secretary of the State Department at Washington to Mr. Bryce. And. by the way, 1 think I ought not to mention the name of Mr. Bryce without protesting with all the warmth of which I am capable against the tone and language of my noble friend about our Ambassador. It was entirely unjust, and even if it had been less grossly unjust than it was, it was not very becoming to denigrate the character of His Majesty's representatives abroad, especially when they happen to be of the eminence of Mr. Bryce. The first step was a communication from the Secretary of the State Department at Washington to Mr. Bryce, and Mr. Bryce referred the communication to the Government of Canada for their consideration. From then onwards the negotiations were continued directly between the Ministers of the Canadian Government and the officials of the State Department at Washington, and His Majesty's Ambassador rendered to the Canadian delegates all the assistance within his power in conducting their negotiations with the American officers.

Does my noble friend think that this is a new state of things—that the position of His Majesty's Ambassador ill a case of this kind is unprecedented? He is entirely mistaken if lie thinks anything of the kind. Mr. Bryce has frequently during recent years rendered to Canadian Ministers the assistance that he has lately rendered to the Canadian delegates, and they have expressed their particular gratitude to Mr. Bryce for the services he has rendered. In the present case the noble Lord asks whether instructions were given to Mr. Bryce. I have to reply that no instructions were sent to him by the Government, and that no special request was made by the Canadian Government for assistance, for it is regarded as a matter of course that when Canadian Ministers go to Washington they receive the assistance of His Majesty's Ambassador there. The right to that is one to which, as we all know, every British subject is entitled, and it would be ludicrous to suppose that it would not be granted in the case of the Canadian delegates. All that Mr. Bryce has done has had, has, and will have the full approval of His Majesty's Government.

What I am now going to say ought, I submit, to end the discussion. My noble friend winds up, according to his Notice on the Paper, by a demand for the pro- duction of Papers. He will be glad to know that we propose as soon as possible to lay all the papers before Parliament. They will show that Mr. Bryce, who has been so wrongly accused of having played an anti-patriotic part, took no direct action in the actual negotiations between the Canadian Ministers and the United States officers. This is not the first time within quite recent years that there have been negotiations carried on by delegates from Canada with foreign countries on behalf of the Canadian Government, and in all those cases the delegates have received the assistance of the Minister or Ambassador accredited by us to that foreign country. For example, in 1907 delegates were sent by Canada to Tokyo to try and conclude an arrangement with the Japanese Government with regard to emigration between Japan and Canada. The Canadian delegates received all possible help from His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo, and it was largely due to the Ambassador's assistance that an agreement satisfactory to those two Governments was arrived at, the Canadian Government being the first to acknowledge the part played by the Ambassador at Tokyo.

There is another case I should like to mention. In the same year the Canadian Government intimated to His Majesty's Government their desire to open negotiations for a new Commercial Convention with France. His Majesty's Ambassador in Paris was instructed—there is a difference there, no doubt—to give all the assistance he could to facilitate the negotiations in Paris. They were conducted between the Canadian Minister and the delegates and the Government of the French Republic, and His Majesty's Ambassador in Paris was kept informed, just as Mr. Bryce has been, by the delegates of the progress of the negotiations. It is not worth while bringing forward more illustrations of the undoubted fact, which the Papers will abundantly show, that the action taken by Mr. Bryce was according to precedent, was justified by precedent, and did not constitute a new departure at all. The assistance he gave was to the negotiators of a responsible Government of a British Dominion, acting, remember, entirely within its own competence, and it is not competent for noble Lords here or for gentlemen in another place to impugn the right of the Canadian Government to enter into these negotiations or to frame their own policy which these negotiations were directed to further.


May I ask who has impugned their right?


I admit that perhaps my noble friend did not refuse them the right. But it comes to-something very near that if you are to make a Party cry at elections against the Canadian Government, and level against them the accusation—for which, when you study-the Papers, you will find there is not a shadow of foundation—that they are: willingly and with their eyes open sacrificing important points of fiscal and commercial policy. As. I have said, various commercial negotiations have taken place between Canada and foreign countries, and have been concluded without the assistance or the influence, certainly in one case, of His Majesty's Home Government. I should like to mention three other cases. There was a Commercial Agreement between Canada and Germany in 1910. When the negotiations were concluded the Agreement was signed by the Canadian Minister of Finance and the German Consul at Montreal. In 1910, also, there was an Agreement between Canada and Italy, and there again the negotiations were carried on between the Canadian Minister and the Italian Consul in Canada. Finally, there was a Commercial Agreement between Canada and Belgium in 1910, concluded by an exchange of Notes between the Canadian Minister of Finance and the Belgian Consul-General. I am prepared to maintain that there is really no case for the line taken, and still less for the tone adopted by the noble Lord to-night. At all events I submit to your Lordships that it would be quite premature to open what is called a full-dress discussion upon the merits or demerits, the advantages or disadvantages, of this Reciprocity Agreement until you have seen the Papers and until the Agreement has become much nearer to being an Executive Act than it is now.

As to Preference, no doubt your Lordships would be very glad to have an opportunity of opening that great chapter of debate; but I submit that this is about the most unfavourable occasion—I do not say that because am afraid of the discussion—for opening and carrying on a debate of that character. It would be obviously premature to enter into any discussion of the effect of the Reciprocity Agreement as regards the United States and as regards the most-favoured-nation treatment until the Agreement actually comes into force. There will be plenty to be said on that when your Lordships are in possession of the Papers. Meanwhile the noble Lord does us a great injustice if he supposes for a moment that any member or supporter of the Government takes the view that what Canada does is no concern of ours. I do not belong to the same political school as my noble friend, but in my most extreme moments of antipathy to some of the views lie holds I have never been capable of committing myself—and I do not think any member of the Government has committed himself—to the view that the economic and fiscal procedure of the Canadian Government is no affair of ours.

One other point. The noble Lord said: "This is not merely a commercial arrangement, it is a political arrangement, and it is sure to end in political annexation." "And you," the noble Lord continued speaking of us, "do not protest against it and do not object to it." What right has he to make any statement of that kind? If lie had read, as carefully as some of us have read, the language used in the American Congress and in the Canadian Parliament, he would find that the most responsible men both in the United States and in Canada have laughed at all that talk. If ultimately at some remote day, a generation hence, political effects happen, they will not be the results of this Reciprocity Agreement, though they may be in the fulness of time the results of general causes. I think I have satisfied my noble friend in my statement that we will lay the Papers an the Table as early as possible.


My Lords. I am sure every Member of the House will regret that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition is not able to be in his place, more especially as I know how much he would have desired to associate himself with the language so admirably used by Lord Ampthill with regard to the absence of Lord Crewe. There is not a man on these Benches, or in any part of the House, who does not agree with every word that fell from Lord Ampthill and the noble Viscount opposite on that subject.

After the speech of the Lord President, it might be assumed, unless someone rose from this Bench, that there was some indifference on the part of the noble Marquess and those associated with him as to the importance of the subject before the House. I cannot exaggerate the importance, indeed the gravity, which we attach to this question. The noble Viscount, in his somewhat grave censure on the noble Lord behind me, accused my noble friend of using strong language, the language of invective. In another place, where I have spent a great many years in company with the noble Viscount, I do not think that my noble friend's language would have been considered excessively strong. My noble friend was, I think, altogether guiltless of one charge which the noble Viscount sought to fasten upon him. He most clearly, at the outset of his speech, expressed his entire concurrence in the right of the Canadian Government to made this Agreement. My noble friend did not censure or criticise them, but devoted himself entirely to censuring His Majesty's Government for having put the Canadian Government in a position which made it very difficult for them to refuse such an Agreement.

Our feeling is strongly of that character. We have not ventured a word of criticism of any sort or description of the Canadian Government, and we should be very sorry if any word which fell from us on this Bench could be interpreted in Canada as grudging any advantage which may be obtained by the great concessions which they have in certain respects obtained from the American Government. You cannot give fiscal independence to such a nation as the Canadian people without desiring that they should use it to the best of their advantage. Our estimate of the results of the Agreement may be somewhat different from that of the Government. It may be also, perhaps, a little different from that of my noble friend behind me. My noble friend went a long distance in his apprehensions that commercial union must lead to political union. It would not be fair that that opinion should go out unchallenged from this side of the House. We do not look upon commercial union as the pioneer in the path of political union, though we do feel strongly that commercial union often has cemented political union. But that is a very different matter from believing that it must lead necessarily to political disintegration.

And in that particular I cannot help thinking that my noble friend has been a little misled as regards the attitude of Mr. Bryce. We on this side of the House have not always seen eye to eye with Mr. Bryce on political matters in this country, but I think I should be wanting in duty if I did not say that, so far as my personal observation goes and that of my colleagues whom I have been able to consult, nothing whatever has passed since Mr. Bryce became Ambassador in America which in any way derogates from his position as the representative of the British Crown. I can say from personal knowledge, because I happened to visit Canada a short time ago, that Mr. Bryce has gained considerable confidence in Canada. I am strongly of the belief that if Mr. Bryce's actions had been such, and if his opinions were such, as my noble friend believes, he would not have gained and most certainly would not retain that confidence. I only say that because I should be very much concerned, as I believe all members of this House would be, if it were felt that His Majesty's Ambassador had in any way departed from the precise and proper attitude which he would naturally have had to take in so delicate a business as that in which he has been recently engaged.

I think that the speech of the Lord President to-night will go some distance in the direction of dispelling the view that His Majesty's Government have looked on at these proceedings without sufficient sense of their gravity, but I cannot altogether exonerate His Majesty's Government in this respect. The noble Viscount has asked us to withhold our opinions until we see the Papers. On anything which concerns the actual Treaty or Agreement I entirely and gladly take his counsel; but one thing I think I must be allowed to say in support of what has fallen from my noble friend. You have had, five years of office, which have been most critical in the history of Canada. For thirty years the policy of Canada has been in one direction. Ever since the days of Sir John Macdonald, Canada has been constructing railways from East to West, and the whole stream of her trade has been laid on Imperial lines. During the last ten years the development of Canada has gone on hand over hand. Questions in Canada have become more of Western Canada, whereas fifteen or twenty years ago they were questions of Eastern Canada, and no Government can altogether dissociate itself from the responsibility of watching, and, so far as it can, of guiding and helping the development of a Colony or a Dominion in a British direction.

But what have His Majesty's Government done during that period? I do not think I should be overstating it; if I said that the Ministers of George III looked very lightly, as we think now, on fiscal matters in America, and that the Ministers of George V have looked too lightly, as we think, on fiscal arrangements which are going on upon the other side of the Atlantic. The language used in this country, as my noble friend has said, has been unwise and provocative, but it has never been in any way discountenanced by any member of the Government. There has been no actual hostility, such as we all know took place in the past, but a passive hostility has been shown to anything like a Commercial Agreement, and the constant reiteration of unwise and uncalled for expressions is, I think, coming home to roost. It was, I believe, suggested from this Bench some years ago, before I had the honour of a seat in this House, that these expressions, coming from men in high authority, especially from one holding office in the Colonial Office, would involve evil results on the fortunes of the country. I do feel that in that respect the sources of Canadian sentiment have been deflected, and the stream has to a considerable extent been turned in a wrong direction.

We shall look forward with very great interest to the Papers, which may tell us one of two things. We have yet to learn what may be the effect on British trade of the American revision of tariff—a general revision, apart from this Agreement—which, we understand, is to take place. It is certainly an argument which we Tariff Reformers cannot altogether miss, that a much smaller nation than ours should have been able to obtain such great preferential advantages which not merely give them an advantage over us but negative the preference which they themselves have given us—and that if our hands had been equally untied we might have obtained, not by a tariff war, but: by ordinary negotiations, advantages from which we have been barred by what seems to us the retrograde policy of His Majesty's Government. We also may hope to know, but we do not yet know, the extent to which Canada may be willing to show the sympathy which she has always felt with British trade by any readjustment of her existing tariff with this country consequent on this Agreement. Those things remain for us to see. I hope that none of the results which my noble friend anticipates may follow this Agreement.

Mr. Balfour has spoken of this as an Imperial disaster. He carefully weighed his language, and directed it solely to the commercial standpoint. We on this Bench associate ourselves with that language. We associate ourselves with the view that it is undesirable that the whole economic and commercial relations of Canada should be guided merely by the Dominion's proximity to the United States. I believe that this country had, and will have, it in its power to continue the policy which has gone so far to make Canada prosperous; and, without in any way criticising the action of Canadian Statesmen, we still hope that the door will not be closed to negotiations which we believe will be profitable to both peoples.


My Lords, the Lord. President expressed mild surprise that I should have spoken with some heat, and he affected to misunderstand the cause of my annoyance. I must therefore explain it once more. I spoke with some warmth because the Government have for so long withheld information which they might have given, and have been so exceedingly discourteous in regard to the desire of the Colonies for Imperial Preference. That, I think, was sufficient justification for speaking rather more forcibly than I should otherwise have done, or than I might have done had I known that the noble Viscount was going to promise us all the Papers. I wished to emphasise the urgency of this demand for information which has been withheld so long.

The noble Viscount, in spite of the words with which I opened my remarks when 1 asked that I might be considered as safeguarding myself against possible misunderstandings and misrepresentations, misrepresented me in precisely the way in which I anticipated he would. He charged me with impugning the right of Canada to make any Treaty or Agreement she chooses. I distinctly stated that she had the right, as much as we have the right, to make any Agreement or Treaty she pleases, and that nothing was further from my mind than to make any complaint of the action of Canadian Ministers, of whom you will remember, I spoke in terms of warm admiration. The noble Viscount further represented me as suggesting that during the General Election His Majesty's Government ought to have asked the constituencies whether they approved the policy of the Colony. There could not be a grosser misrepresentation of my remarks. What I suggested was that His Majesty's Government, knowing that these arrangements were going on, might well have said to the people of this country during the election, "If you adhere to your present policy of refusing mutual preference, business will go elsewhere. Do you still wish to adhere to your refusal?" But there was no suggestion whatever of asking them whether or not they approved of the policy of a Colony. Then, again, the noble Viscount devoted most of his speech to citing instances in which British Ambassadors and diplomatists have negotiated on behalf of the Dominions. Of course, they have done so; who has ever suggested that they should not I have never heard that suggestion, and I cannot understand what the noble Viscount had in mind when he imagined that there had been any suggestion that it was not Mr. Bruce's business to do his best for Canada in her negotiations. Of course, it was his business. Every British diplomatist is a diplomatist for the interests of every part of the Empire as well I as for those of the British Empire as a whole. Since the noble Viscount has promised the Papers for which I asked, I can only express my satisfaction that we are at last to have information, the absence of which has caused us very real anxiety.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.