§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I understand that this Bill has been certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be a Finance Bill, but it has been intimated to me by several noble Lords that they would prefer that I should not move the Second Reading with the rapidity which is usual in the case of Finance Bills, but that I should give sonic explanation of the clauses of the Bill and the reasons why it arose. I am afraid I shall have to deal separately with the two portions of the Bill —that relating to key industries, and that relating to the different, classes of dumping —because they arise from different causes and different considerations apply to them. The methods by which they are dealt with in the Bill also differ.
It is common knowledge, I think, that our position at the outbreak of the war was an exceedingly dangerous one owing, in same cases, to the almost entire lack, in other cases to the shortage, of articles absolutely essential to the carrying on of a great war. The term key industries has been applied to some of these particular businesses. They are called key industries because they are supposed to unlock the door to the larger industries—key industries as opposed to great basic industries like coal, and, again, as opposed to great staple industries like the textiles, for instance.
Now, I should say that the general mark or note of these small key industries would be, first of all, that they are not generally on a large scale. Again, that they require high skill both in the workmen and in the technical assistants; and that most of them may be said to be rather precarious from a financial point of view because of the very difficult and elaborate nature of the processes by which they are carried on. Another mark in them is that 602 they require constant research in order to keep them abreast of the great march of scientific knowledge. The industries which are called key industries are set out in the Schedule to this Bill, and I should like to say at once that though they are comparatively few the list is the result of a great deal of very careful sifting of many varying industries.
In order to illustrate the policy of the Bill may I say a few words not on all but on two of them. The first I take is the manufacture of optical glass. Before the war I understand that only about 10 per cent. of the comparatively small amount of optical. glass used here was produced in this country. A large portion of the rest of it was derived from Germany. Immediately war broke out we found, of course, that we were absolutely cut off from all the German supplies and that the French supplies dried up because they were required in that country. The result was deplorable. Navigation became almost impossible without a supply of optical glass. We had not sufficient sights for our guns; observing instruments became of no value without this glass; aerial photography was hindered and almost stopped or, at any rate, severely checked; in fact, every arm of the Service was paralysed. It was only by very liberal subventions and by the most devoted work that this state of things was slowly, and only very slowly, overcome, and that at last excellent types of glass were made in this country.
There was another crisis in 1918 and America and Italy made enormous demands upon us for this glass. We could make the glass, and we could make it of admirable quality, which shows that in that sense the making of glass in this country may be said to be a natural industry. We can make it, I understand, of a quality quite comparable with the best. glass made in Germany. I am speaking not only of the demand for this glass in war; it is also essential in peace, and a sure supply of it is of immense value to scientific instrument makers and others who require it for their work.
Let me take the case of another and rather small industry—the hosiery latch needles. These are small steel needles which are used in automatic knitting, and the thread is held in them by a hinged latch. Before the war something like 90 per cent. of these needles which were used here were imported from Germany, 603 but, of course, during the war our requirements in this way became tremendous. The consumption was something like 30,000,000 to 40,000,000 of these needles per year. Again the same difficulty was experienced, and again only slowly, and by means of a great deal of assistance, was the difficulty surmounted. I believe that up to the end of the war this country produced each year something like 30,000,000 of these needles. But again it will be very difficult, almost impossible I understand without assistance, to carry on this industry now. Foreign needles are now offered at something like 30s. per thousand below the British price of 90s. per thousand.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not know whether it is only from Germany. But unless some action is taken we shall be presenting Germany with full command of the whole of that industry in this country. As regards taking action to assist these particular key industries, we have, I think, plenty of authority, and one authority I should like to quote, because he was one of the first prominent officials to draw attention to the risks that we were running. I am referring to a speech made by Mr. Runciman in the House of Commons on January 10, 1916. He was then occupying the position of President of the Board of Trade. He said—Every one of these articles—glass, chemicals, dyes, electrical apparatus, and I could name about a dozen others—was used in industries of vast importance, not only to us as a great commercial country but as a fighting country. Without these glass articles, without some of the porcelain articles which are essential for electrical construction, without the best type of magneto, without some of the best of our chemicals, and without the great range of dyes which used to he manufactured in Germany, we were placed at a great disadvantage. Never again should that happen.I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Runciman for having so clearly proclaimed that doctrine, and also for having so definitely set it out in those Paris Resolutions of which he was acclaimed the draftsman by Mr. Asquith.
But that is not all the authority we have. Your Lordships may very well remember a Committee that was set up by Mr. Asquith to investigate all these questions of production, and how our trades were affected during the war by dumping 604 and other forms of competition. That Committee was presided over by the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and they strongly recommended that action in certain ways should be taken to protect these key industries which, while not being of very great magnitude, arc essential to national safety as being absolutely indispensable to important British industries, and supplied before the war entirely or mainly from enemy sources or from sources under enemy control. We have, therefore, a great body of authority which determined the Government to place in their programme the policy of the defence of these key industries.
I suppose that there will not be very much difference of opinion so far as concerns the necessity of preserving in some way these key industries, but it may be that there may he more difference of opinion when we approach the method of how these industries are to be safeguarded. Your Lordships may remember that you agreed, in the Dye Industry Bill, to deal in a particular way with the safeguarding of that industry, and to proceed mainly by way of licensing, allowing particular dyes to come in either when they were not made in this country, or not made in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of those who use them. But I understand, though that system has worked well up-to-date in the dye industry, that it is yet exceedingly difficult, to apply to other classes of industry, because it implies, first of all, a very careful and elaborate state of organisation not only among the makers of the dyes but also among the users of them, and that the question of rationing and distributing the quantities that come in under licence is almost impossible unless the users are as well and as closely organised as are the makers.
The other possible method of dealing with the matter is by subsidy, but there are very great objections, as noble Lords will appreciate, to the subsidy. First of all, it implies a very close interference by the Government, or the Board of Trade, with the processes of manufacture, and I think none of your Lordships is particularly impressed with the sagacity or power of the Government for dealing directly with businesses. Moreover, there is another very serious objection. That, of course, is that the subsidy is very difficult to calculate, and must vary from time to time. In order to get capital invested in the Indus- 605 tries, it is very desirable that it should be known on what terms the capital is to be invested. You must have some sort of fixity or security for the capital which is to be employed.
Therefore, owing to these great objections, the Government have turned to the particular safeguard provided by a tariff duty, and they propose that there should be placed upon the import of articles made in these particular key industries a tariff to the extent of one-third of the value of the goods. It may be that in favour of sonic of these key industries there is already a duty, and if that be the case, whichever is the higher duty will he placed on the import, but the two duties will not be added together. If any of these key industries come under the provisions of Part II of the Bill, and have to be defended either as suffering from dumping or from collapsed exchanges, then there may be put on another 33⅓ per cent., giving a safeguard of 66 per cent. to these particular industries. As regards British Empire goods, they are, by a clause in the Bill, entirely excluded.
Then again, the difficult question of compound articles is dealt with, and it is provided that no duty shall be placed on a particular ingredient in the compound when it has entirely lost its identity in the compound. As an example of where the duty might probably fall upon the article, I would take the case of magnetos in motor cars. Clearly a. magneto has not lost its identity by being placed in the larger unit of a motor car. These articles stated in the Schedule are of a general description, and therefore it will be necessary, and is provided, that from time to time the Board of Trade should issue lists of the particular articles (defining them specifically) which are included in the Schedule. If there is any dispute or difficulty, it was provided originally in the Bill that the matter should be referred by the Treasury to a referee to decide, but a rather remarkable Amendment was made in the House of Commons. Such was the confidence of the other House in your Lordships' House that. they decided that the officer who was to appoint the referee was to be the Lord Chancellor. Again, so much did they show their distrust of bureaucrats, that they further decided that that great officer was to be forbidden to appoint any member of any Government Office to perform this difficult duty.
I hope, therefore—I do not want to 606 detain your Lordships too long—that you will not refuse to give any assistance to these infant industries. The tariff that it is proposed to put on is limited to five years, and it is hoped that by that time these industries will have been nursed into maturity. The other day, speaking in your Lordships' House, Lord Milner complained that we were forgetting all the lessons of the war. Here is one of the lessons of t he war which I hope your Lordships will at least remember.
I come now to what is rather a more difficult and complicated portion of the Bill, that dealing with dumping. I do not wish to refer to what was said about dumping in the Paris Resolutions, because that raises perhaps rather a controversial matter which is really not essential to my purpose to-day, but I would again quote as authority. that very valuable Report of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee which urged that action should be taken against clumping. I think I ought perhaps to refer to a few words contained in that Report. By dumping they meant the sale of goods in a particular market at prices lower than those at which the goods are currently offered in the country of manufacture. On the whole they recommended that their legislative action—I am not quoting but summarising—should be on the lines (though not necessarily in the precise form) adopted in Canada, but they saw no reason why the"anti-dumping"duty should be restricted, as in that Dominion, to 15 per cent. They thought it should be equivalent to the full difference between the"selling price"and the"fair market value,'' however large that difference might be. That Committee may be quoted, I think, as having very strong and definite opinions on the question of dumping.
Now may I say one word generally, apart from authority, as to why proposals of this kind are necessary at the present time? I can deal very rapidly with them because your Lordships are so familiar, with your great business experience, with the difficulties which are besetting almost all forms of manufacture at the present time. There are all the questions connected with labour, the price of money, strikes, and difficulties as to security about the future, which make it more difficult now than at almost any previous period that one is able to remember to re-start these businesses and secure again for 607 them their foreign markets. I might say without exaggeration that the Board of Trade is overwhelmed by the number of applications from different businesses complaining of the dumping that goes on affecting those particular businesses. The Board of Trade at the present time is really unable to deal with this difficulty. It has no machinery for investigating the question of how far these statements are correct, and to what extent they may be held to be true. Therefore, it is really essential, as under this Bill, that the Board of Trade should be equipped with the opportunity of investigating the particular cases and if necessary applying some remedy. Even if this were not the case, and looking forward to the years to come, surely it would be wise to provide as soon as we can for these difficulties, without waiting for the time of trouble when we might be overwhelmed by demands and might resort possibly to foolish and rather hasty legislation. I would point out generally that one of the remarkable points about this Bill is that the safeguards provided only come into action when the trouble and difficulty occur.
Now I must give some account of the procedure by which these remedies are effected, and of the specific remedy proposed. There is the same remedy and the same general procedure for the different classes of dumping, which I might call ordinary dumping and the dumping that results from collapsed and depreciated exchanges. Later, I will define exactly what these two classes of dumping are, and I will also make clear what the special procedure is that is applied to them as arising out of the differences in their nature. These clauses may apply to all manufactured goods other than articles of food and drink, so that they have a wide application.
The way action is taken is as follows. First of all, complaint is made to the Board of Trade that these articles are being sold at less than the cost of production in the country of origin. Then a Committee of five business men is set up who are chosen from a larger panel and who, of course, have no actual interest in the subject which they are investigating. They have to go into the whole matter and report to the Board of Trade, and they have to investigate and report on three points which are exceedingly important as regards the appreciation of the Bill. The 608 first point is: are goods sold in this country at a price less than the cost of production in the country of origin? the second: is employment suffering in any industry in consequence of this importation and sale?; and the third: will any consuming industry, that is to say, any industry which uses these goods so imported for its own purposes, suffer by this tax placed on its own material?
I should like to comment very shortly on the two first points. It has been suggested. that a tax might be put, for rather trivial purposes, on some comparatively small imports of this dumped material, but that is safeguarded by the fact that it is all subject to employment suffering in the particular industries. Therefore, the dumping must be of a substantial kind. Again, the third point was inserted in deference to those who said it might, no doubt, be damaging a particular industry which makes the article, but of great advantage to those which use the article, and therefore on the whole the country may benefit. This Committee will have the not very easy task of looking into the whole question and reporting whether it is to the general advantage of the country as a whole that a duty should be placed on the articles so brought in.
The investigation in the case of the collapsed exchanges is somewhat different. The question is not so much a comparison between the cost of the goods in this country and the cost in the country of origin, but as to whether the imported goods are sold in this country at a less price than that at which they can properly be made in the United Kingdom; and whether these low prices are due to, or can be connected with, the question of the collapsed exchanges. Of course, the other points, as to the effect of employment in that and other industries, will be investigated in this ease as well as in what I call the ordinary dumping case. On receipt of that report, if the Board of Trade are satisfied on these points, they may make the Order that a duty of one-third of the value of that particular class of goods coming from that particular country—because it is very closely limited in that way—shall be placed. upon those goods. All these Orders have to be laid upon the Table of the House of Commons, and therefore no Order can be made without the full assent of the House of Commons, who thereby retain their full power over finance. That is the 609 general scheme as regards ordinary dumping.
Now I must deal with that particular form of it which is due to what are called collapsed exchanges. It is a danger that has not found its origin or explanation in either the Paris Resolutions or Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee, or even in the Party programme at the beginning of this.Parliament, for the reason that the danger did not sharply define itself at that time and only became obvious at a later stage. An announcement by the Prime Minister that these matters would be dealt with, was made more than a year ago. Your Lordships will appreciate the fact that it would be pedantic and absurd to guard against one form of low prices in this country and be absolutely blind to the other.
I need say very little on this subject to show why the difficulty arises; your Lordships are all very familiar with the gigantic rises and falls in the exchanges and with the enormous differences in the relation of one currency to another. There were fluctuations in exchanges before the war, of course, but they were absurdly small and trivial compared with the gigantic oscillations with which we have now become familiar. They were all carefully limited by the export and import of gold, which is now stopped. Your Lordships are also familiar with the vast currency inflations which have taken place in various countries, Pcland and Germany, for instance, owing to the immense issue of paper money. All this has a serious effect on the prices in our currency of the goods which may be imported here.
Let me take Germany as a particular example of what has happened in many other countries. Wages there, though they have risen immensely, have still lagged behind prices, and there is in that country an abnormal difference between the cost and the price of the product. This gives the German manufacturer entering a foreign market a large margin with which to play. It gives him an opportunity of making a very considerable reduction on his goods, and still, owing to this fact, able to make a profit in his own country. There is another reason which, acting together with the first, has a more potent effect still, and that is that Germany, eager and anxious to import from other countries, is able by competition to 'drive up the market price of goods until the external 610 value of the mark rises far above its internal price, and the difference between the two acts as a bounty on the import of goods from Germany to this country.
To put it in another way. These causes have this effect:—that the German exporters get an almost fabulous amount of marks equivalent to the amount of sterling when they have sold their bills on London. There is no curb of gold to limit the almost absurd heights to which these bills may he forced by competition. These advantages to the German exporters have provided them with an advantage in foreign markets absolutely undreamed of and unalluded to by most of tla writers on economics in the last century. This is a new situation to which there is no parallel, and a new situation generally requires to be dealt with by a new remedy.
No question arises as to whether this depreciation of the exchanges is temporary or permanent. If you go into the City of London you will find a great many varying opinions, some on one side and some on the other. It is also believed that there is not much likelihood of the exchanges reaching their pre-war normal level; that they will have to be stabilised with seine other relation between the mark and sterling, and that that is the utmost we shall be able to hope for. Whether that be so or not—and it is difficult to gauge the most instructed opinion on the subject.the Government have been content to take the more hopeful view, and this part of the Bill is only to have effect for three years.
There are other important provisions to which I must allude in connection with collapsed exchanges. One is that no slight difference in exchange is dealt with, but that there must be at least a one-third depreciation in the exchange compared with the pre-war level before the matter can be considered or the remedy applied. As there is such a difference between the various exchanges it has been asked, why do you apply so simple a remedy as this one-third value of the goods? Why not have a sliding scale varying with the downward and upward movement of the exchanges. Certain persons of great mathematical ingenuity have worked out a marvellous scale by which they could exactly alter the rise and fall of the duty according to the rise and fall of the exchange in different countries, but your Lordships will see the immense difficulty for anyone to acquaint himself with the niceties of such a scale.
611 The matter has been judged to be so thoroughly impracticable that the Government have decided on one flat rate—namely, one-third. In passing, I should like to say that the dumping duty is one duty. If goods could be hit under the two clauses on (lumping the duty is one, and not two, and it is one-third of the value of the goods.
The question has been raised as to why we should not allow the exchanges to settle themselves. The answer is that the duty has nothing to do with the settling of the exchanges. It merely is a sort of curl), or check, to stop the rapid possible avalanche of imported goods into this country; to stay its pace and allow the avalanche to become a peaceful portion of the landscape without doing too much damage to the place to which the goods come. I come back to some of the particular applications of procedure on ordinary dumping which have nothing to do with dumping due to the collapsed exchanges. First of all: How is the price in the country of origin defined? It is defined as being the wholesale price at the works of the particular goods, less 5 per cent., and it will be seen that this gives a good rough approximation as to the actual wholesale cost of the goods in the particular country. The test occasion is the first sale of the goods in this country.
Now conies a question which again, of course, is a matter not applicable to the collapsed exchanges—namely, the remission of payment. It is obvious that it may often happen that when an Order has been made against a particular class of goods coming from a particular country, some of these goods may be sold at a price which is above the cost of production in the country of origin, and in that case the importer or seller who has paid that duty is entitled to have the duty repaid. It could not happen in the case of the collapsed exchanges because that is, of course, the result of the conditions prevailing in a particular country, whereas the act of dumping is an individual act, and can be cured by selling at the proper price. If the seller, then, can show, either that the price at which he has sold was not below that prevailing in the country of origin, or that the market price has altered in the country of origin since he imported, so that, at the time of sale, the price at which the articles are sold in this country would be above the new market 612 price in the country of origin, in that case he is entitled to be paid back, if lie has paid his duty, or to have his security returned.
The question arises as to how these prices in the country of origin are to be ascertained, and by what methods the Government will he informed of them. That is effected by the certificate of origin which conies with the goods, showing the country from which the goods came, and also showing the wholesale price at the works of these particular goods. These certificates have to be attested by the consuls and persons appointed in the different countries, and, in the absence of fraud, I understand that the statement made by the certificates in those countries will be accepted; because it is obvious that if people make false statements they will very soon be found out, and will be subject to the penalty of not receiving certificates, and that, no doubt, will be quite enough to prevent them, if they are otherwise than honestly disposed. But it may happen that goods coming from adjacent countries will have duties placed upon them under the misapprehension that they come from the condemned countries, and therefore the Board of Trade has power to order that traders from those adjacent countries should produce certificates of origin, so as to show the particular country from which the goods come.
There are certain difficult cases to which I can allude briefly. Take, for instance, the case of goods which are manufactured in two countries, goods of which the preliminary- processes, let us say, have been carried out in the country that has 'been condemned for dumping, and have then been exported to another country to which no such ban applies, and further manufactured there. As the Bill was first introduced, it was decided that something like 50 per cent. of the new value would have to be added to the goods in order that they might escape the dumping charge. But that was altered in another place to 25 per cent., and as the Bill now stands, therefore, the addition of one quarter of the value to the goods in the unharmed country will serve to exorcise the dumping and to maintain the purity of the goods. Another case is provided for where goods are manufactured in this country and then exported, let us say 613 again, to Germany for some finishing process. In that case, roughly speaking, the duty will be paid only on the value added to the goods in Germany, when they return to this country. Fourteen days of grace are allowed before the Orders actually operate, in order to give a little play of time.
I should say, perhaps, that this part of the Bill is rather more permanent than the rest. The Orders can he made only for three years, and they can be altered only after the Board of Trade has taken the advice of the Committee. But they can be renewed, and therefore this part of the Bil has—shall I call it? —a certain degree of permanence, although I might say that nowadays we can apply to Bills only such phrases as temporary permanence, or rather, restricted longevity. Another question arises, which was raised in your Lordships' House some clays ago, as to whether or not these provisions may conflict with the commercial Treaties. I understand it is quite possible or probable that the duty imposed on the ground of collapsed exchange may be held to infringe the"Most-favoured-nation"clause of these commercial Treaties. In that case, it will be for the Board of Trade to consider whether the matter is so serious that notice should be given for the termination of the Treaty; but it is clearly laid down, although I do not know whether it was necessary that it should be so laid. down, that this could not be done if it were contrary to existing Treaties.
I say quite frankly——-and this is almost the last point with which I shall have to deal—that this Bill, as regards the dumping safeguards, may be of a disappointing nature to those persons who wish for the full fruition of the tariff. They have, in fact, nothing to do with:. the question of a general tariff. They are more in the nature of a dormant safeguard, which springs into activity only when the attack is made. I may compare them to the action of a portcullis in a castle, which allows free passage to those going in or out, but can, if necessary, be lowered, and made use of to block froward and troublesome persons who want to do damage in the castle itself. This Bill, therefore, comes into operation only when the damage is done or is threatened, and we may, therefore, say that perhaps the most fortunate success for this Bill will be if it never comes into operation at all.
614 It has often been used as a reproach against Parliaments and politicians that they are so much occupied in their political squabbles that they are very indifferent to the great interests of trade, business and manufacture, on winch, after all, in the long run, these political institutions rest. I ask your Lordships, so far as may be in your power, to remove so gross a libel on politicians, and to say that you do feel for the trade and industry of this country, by giving to this Bill, not merely your sympathy and consideration, but your most active and your most hearty support. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD EMMOTT had given Notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move: That the Bill he read a second time this day six months." The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Viscount has, with his usual lucidity and thoroughness, explained to us the provisions of this Bill, and I am sure we are very much obliged to him for doing so. He has not been at all too long, considering that Pie Bill is one of very great importance, and, to sonic extent, breaks new ground. tic has added another metaphor to the many bewildering metaphors with which this Bill has been surrounded in another place, where the latest one was a comparison with a mouse in the kitchen. Now it is a portcullis.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I agree that it is a less vulgar comparison. I really do not know—and I was listening very carefully to my noble friend in order to find out—whether he views this Bill with much hope or not. At any rate, he was very careful to deal with the mechanism of the Bill rather than with its principles, For my part, I am afraid I am not so much concerned about its mechanism as about the principles which underlie it. Whether rightly or wrongly, there is a movement hack to Protection at the present time and it is very extraordinary that the tendencies of economic thought in this country now should be so profoundly different from what they were a hundred years ago, after the last great war. The tendency of the economic thought of the country as a whole, and 615 certainly of the statesmen of the then dominant Conservative Party, although not of the Party as a whole, for thirty years after the Napoleonic War, was towards the lowering of tariffs on all other goods except, of course, the food of the people.
Why is it to-day that the movement is so different? The movement now is to restore tariffs on non-edibles and to leave corn and food untaxed. Your Lordships are, of course, perfectly aware that before the Corn Law agitation Huskisson greatly reduced the tariff in 1824, and the very first Act of the great Ministry of Peel was to relieve the tariffs of 750 out of the 1.200 articles that then encumbered the Tariff Acts. A hundred years ago, the movement, apart always from corn, was away from high Protection, from the Colonial system and the Navigation Laws. To-day, in this period described by Sir Alfred Mond as economic bedlam, the movement of a large and active political section is towards Protection even more extreme than this Bill contains, although at present they dare not ask for the taxation of food. It is a strange chance that has made it the duty of a grandson of the great Minister, Sir Robert Peel, to introduce into this House a measure which, if the hopes of its only real supporters are carried out, is a beginning of a reversal of the policy so honourably and imperishably connected with the name of Peel. I can at least congratulate the noble Viscount that today he is not asking us to reverse that part of his distinguished grandfather's policy which, in the very last speech that he made in the House of Commons, he claimed would make his name"sometimes remembered with expressions of good will in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour …… when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because no longer leavened with a sense of injustice."
This Bill, as the noble Viscount has told us, has three objects—namely, to deal with key industries, with ordinary dumping, as he termed it, and dumping due to collapsed exchanges. The exchange provisions of this measure are the provisions to which I, personally, most object, and to which most of my arguments will be directed. They arc not liked by Protectionists because they are not what the Protectionist really wants. They are loathed by Free Traders, and they create suspicion and dislike in the minds of a great many 616 business men, apart from Party. I have sat in Parliament for twenty-two years, and I never remember a measure. damned by such extraordinarily faint praise as was this Bill, on the part of Ministers most responsible for it in the House of Commons. The President of the Board of Trade said it was unfortunately not his own child, that he had found it fatherless on the steps of the Board of Trade when he entered office. He added that no ties of sympathy or blood tied him to this derelict infant, and that he had merely a tender and honourable tie to do his best for the off-spring of a friend. At a later stage, by a metaphor not less felicitous, he compared these exchange provisions to an umbrella which might be of some use in a gentle rain but liable to be blown inside out in a hurricane. The Minister -for Education compared the Bill to a poison whose use, in cases of illness, might be of value if taken in small doses, but which, if taken in large doses, would be lethal. He, after all. is the cue accomplished historian in the present Cabinet, and he also has said that if anybody had proposed the remedy which is proposed in this Bill, for collapsed exchanges, before the war, he would have considered him guilty of an extreme form of economic dementia.
When those Ministers chiefly responsible had so little to say for the Bill I have been wondering where was the hidden hand which has forced the Bill through a reluctant Parliament, and I think something which occurred on August 2 in this House may do something to solve that mystery. The tone and temper of the speech of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack on that occasion, more than the matter, it seemed to me, showed that he is enthusiastic for the Bill, and probably he has been the chief moving power in insisting upon the passage of the Bill, whether with or without proper examination by Parliament. And vet I am a little surprised that he should be so enthusiastic for this Bill. It differs profoundly from the full-blooded Protection with which I have always associated him, and from these Tariff Reform proposals which he has supported. It is an integral part of the Tariff Reform proposals to tax food, because Mr. Chamberlain said that without a tax on food you could not have Imperial preference. Taxation of food, whether raw or manufactured, is excluded from the Bill. The Tariff Reform proposal purported to be scientific, and was founded 617 on the German model. Germany is the spiritual home of the Tariff Reformer. The Tariff Reformer did set up committees, including competent statisticians and economists, to investigate and advise varying tariffs for each article. This Bill sets up a rigid 33⅓ per cent. for all goods taxed, and is thoroughly unscientific and crude as compared with the Tariff Reform proposals.
My complaint is that this Bill, brought in by a Government and not by a voluntary association, is put before the country without any adequate scientific or statistical data and without acv effort to show that it Iran a reasonable chance of success. Such a procedure would have been unthinkable a hundred years ago. You could not imagine such a slipshod method in the days of Huskisson, or Peel, or Gladstone, or Disraeli. In those days profound study was given to any fiscal changes which were proposed. When a specific proposal was made the Minister was ready to say why he advocated 10 per cent. on this article and why 15 per cent. on the other, and why he differentiated between the two, and that, in effect, is the substance of the recommendation quoted in another place by Mr. Austen Chamberlain—the recommendation made by Lard Balfour of Burleigh's Committee. I will venture to read it:—There should be established some strong and competent Board to examine into all applications from industries for State assistance, to advise His Majesty's Government upon such applications, and where a case is made out to frame proposals as to the precise nature and extent of the assistance to be given, whether by protective tariff duties or in other waysThat recommendation differs toto calofrom the proposals of this Bill. In this Bill a Government Committee will decide if the rigid 33⅓ per cent. is to be applied in circumstances indicated. The recommendation of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee was that the precise nature and extent of the assistance to be given should be recommended, and whether it was to be by protective duties or in other ways. I have a high regard for the character and intelligence of Mr. Austen Chamberlain. I have heard him make hundreds of speeches, bolt I never heard a more unconvincing argument from him than that.
Before applying myself particularly to these exchange provisions of which I have spoken, I beg your Lordships to remember 618 how inefficient and crude this 33⅓ per cent. must be. Obviously it cannot meet the case of one article out of ten. It must be too much or too little in the great majority of cases. When it is too much it leads to profiteering and trusts; when it is too little with the exception of some little addition to the revenue it has no benefit at all. It increases the cost to the consumer and it does great (haulage to our export trade, because, let it never be forgotten, 60 per cent. of these manufactured goods that we import are used for the further processes of manufacture in this country.
There is another point which only occurred to me this morning, about which I am in great doubt. I want to know what the actual effect of the German Reparation (Recovery) Act and of the arrangements made in connection with that Act is on exports from Germany. As I understand, 25 per cent. is levied Germany on exports that go from that country to other countries under the Agreement, which I think is called the London Agreement. For goods that come here 26 per cent. is paid to the Customs, and 71 per cent. to the German producer. Is not that already a large export tax on every commodity from Germany? I do not know whether my noble friend can tell me—I should be very glad to give way to him if he could.
§ LORD EMMOTT
It is not essential to my argument, but it is an important point. Are all the goods row leaving Germany already subject to an export duty? It is called 26 per cent., but practically it is 35 per cent. I am going to try to show that such figures as 'I have been able to find, in the absence of Government statistics, do not prove any case for the exchange provisions of this Bill; in the second place, that France and Germany are the only countries likely to be affected by them; in the third place, that, as between France and Germany, they are grossly unfair to France, and favourable to Germany; in the fourth place, that Germany must quickly take steps enormously to increase her taxation, with a corresponding effect on exchange, or I think she must go into national bankruptcy, which would mean anarchy and chaos, and diminish or destroy her competitive power; and, lastly, as it is admitted on all sides that adjustments 619 between internal prices and exchange values are going on all the time, and are very quickly made when the exchange is stabilised, that the proposals of this Bill must injure our export trade in so far as imports from Germany are used in the further process of manufacture, and also, if the provisions of this Bill are successful in keeping German goods out, they must further depreciate the German exchange, and thus further intensify the evil complained of. I will deal first with the statistical case. The Government have never given us one. We hear of these fifty people applying to the Board of Trade. Of course, you will have fifty people howling and whining at any time, particularly if there is anybody who thinks it will be good business to do so. But the Government have given us no statistical case. I have been trying to look out facts for myself, and I will give such figures as I have been able to find. In the first six months of 1921 our total imports were £572,000,000. From Germany they were £11,800,000, or just over two per cent. In the first six months of 1913 our total imports were 079,000,000; those from Germany (I take the figures for the year, which were £76,000,000, and divide them for the half year) were £38,000,000, or ten per cent. That shows that relatively we are obtaining from Germany about one-fifth of what we were obtaining in 1913.
As between 1920 and 1921 it is important to remember that there are certain adjustments to be made. These differences should be noted; there is the coal strike, and Germany's recovery in industry, which must have tended to increase her exports to us; there is the lowering of world prices, and also the reparation trouble which probably tended to a decrease. But, putting one thing against another, the facts are these. The imports in the first six months of 1920 from Germany were £11,896,000, and, in the first six months of 1920, £11,797,000. Incidentally, it seems to me a matter of enormous interest to economists and statisticians how quickly our import trade fell off with our export trade during the coal strike. The decrease of food imports was 23 per cent.; they, of course, were least affected. Raw materials were 68 per cent. down; they were most affected. Manufactured goods were 62 per cent. down. I think that indicates how much our manufacturers are dependent on manufactured goods from other countries which are used as raw materials here in 620 the further process of manufacture; and I think it also shows how largely our exports depend upon imports. The minute we cease to be able to buy, our imports go down, and we cease to be able to buy when we cannot export.
As regards Germany, there is no case in these figures for drastic action. But I will take the matter on broader grounds. I will go to other countries and take America and Italy—one with an appreciated exchange, the other with a depreciated exchange. America's exports in 1913 were £510,000,000, and in 1920 (at 1913 values) they were £841,000,000, showing, therefore, a huge increase in volume. In Italy, with a depreciated exchange, the exports in 1913 were £100,000,000, and in 1920 (at 1913 values) they were £35,000,000. Thus, the country with the appreciated exchange is relatively in a better position than the country with a depreciated exchange. And if noble Lords will take the trouble to look at the last Return of Foreign and Colonial Trade, issued in June, I think they will see that the striking feature is the increase in American trade and—after the cases of Austria and Russia, of course, with still further depreciated exchanges—the decrease in German trade. Generally speaking, those countries whose exchanges either appreciated, or least depreciated, are exporting most, and those whose exchange is most depreciated are exporting least. What is the answer to that? We have not got it.
I turn to the second point. What countries can be affected by these exchange provisions? America, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Norway, either have appreciated exchanges, or exchanges not sufficiently depreciated to come under the terms of this Bill. Most of them also are protected by commercial Treaties, and Italy, Belgium and Portugal, with depreciated exchanges, are protected by commercial Treaties. And we understood, from what was said in another place, that these commercial Treaties are not to be denounced. There only remain two nations which could be formidable competitors of ours. They are, of course, France and Germany. It was not contested when Mr. Asquith made the point in another place that those are the only countries which are going to be affected by these exchange provisions. What follows from that? As between these two, if the Bill is put into force against both—and Protectionists in another place were highly 621 alarmed lest it should not be put into force against France—it; is clear that., so far as the argument is sound that a depreciated exchange is an advantage, the depreciation in Germany being so much greater than it is in France, the effect of this measure must be grossly unfair to France. I could rive instance after instance to show it, but I will not, because the view is not contested by the Government, and therefore we may take it as true.
I need not emphasise this point, which is so obvious, but is it not also absolutely fatal in the diplomatic reactions which it indicates against the basis of the exchange provisions of this Bill? Is there any wonder that France has made representations on this subject, as we know she has? Indeed, I do not hesitate to ask whether it is not the height of folly, at this time above all others, when our difficulties with France are acute enough, to inflict this further pin-prick—I would even call it a stab—upon our good relations with that country.
Passing to another point of crucial importance, I imagine that the Government reply to all this would he: is not so much what has happened; what we dread is what is going to happen. That it what my noble friend suggested—that this Bill is to provide against the future. The times are abnormal; these exchange provisions are temporary and are meant for a period of transition in order to allow the exchange to become stabilised. W hen that occurs approximate adjustments will be made between internal prices and costs and wages and external world prices. As to being temporary, duties once imposed are extraordinarily difficult to remove. New vested interests grow up. More than that, the only really keen supporters of this Bill are those who support it on Protectionist grounds, and not because they agree with the specific proposals. Therefore, it is no comfort to me to be told that these provisions are temporary if they are unwise in themselves.
Leaving that point, I am inclined to challenge in toto the necessity and usefulness as a whole of these special measures against Germany. I admit the cases of hardship in individual trades which might very well be met on the lines suggested by the Committee presided over by the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh. I doubt, however, whether it is true that, where 622 exchanges are so collapsed as those of Germany, the increase of competitive power and prosperity can be so great as is assumed in regard to that country. I am less in doubt (indeed I am pretty certain) that the cure proposed by this Bill will aggravate the disease and, in so far as it is effective, will depreciate the exchange. still more.
The question of the effect of a depreciated exchange is extraordinarily difficult and intricate, and I speak of it with diffidence, but, stating the ease as I see it, a gradually falling exchange is undoubtedly a premium on production. Lancashire found that out in the early nineties in the case of India and Japan, the period, your Lordships will remember, of the bimetallic controversy. What did India and Japan do? After a careful examination of the pros and cons they both adopted the gold standard or a standard based on gold. They gave up the advantages of production and manufacture and all the rest of it because of the disadvantages in other directions. Another case was the resumption of the gold standard in the years 1819–1821. That system is associated with the name of that great statesman, the grandfather of the noble Viscount who introduced this Bill. Dare anyone say that Peel was wrong? Under the gold standard we had prosperity in this country. This country also became the centre of the world's finance greatly to our advantage.
Our weakness to-day is that we cannot get back to the gold standard. We cannot fund our Floating Debt. We have no reserve of borrowing power. We are within measurable distance of a deficit on our Budget, and the temptation to deal with a deficit on our Budget as it has been dealt with in France and Germany—by the issue of paper money. I do not think there is an authority in this country who would not say that any such measure as that—the issue of paper money to meet a deficiency on the Budget—would be the gravest possible disaster to this country.
What follows from that? If it is so vital to avoid a course leading to a further great depreciation of exchange here, how can the state of things which we dread so tremendously be so formidable a source of advantage and strength to Germany as to need special provisions against her competition? The chief cause of the depreciation of the mark is not the excess of imports over exports in Germany, although, of course, that must depreciate the mark. It is 623 that she has never adequately taxed her people during or since the war. She tried to do it during the war and failed, and she has been unable to do it since. For the last financial year, 1920–1921, her receipts were sixty-seven milliards of marks. The estimate for 1921–1922 is for 74 milliards from the same taxes. The deficit is 110 milliards, without making any provision for the indemnity, and if the indemnity is only £100,000,000 sterling it means 30 milliards more. So that at least 140 milliards of new taxation are required in Germany without making any provision for a sinking fund — practically three times the present burden of taxation.
New taxes recently proposed to this end have been received with consternation and with protest. But, notwithstanding both consternation and protest, Germany must decide either for heroic measures of taxation or that she is going down to national bankruptcy. If, as I hope, rather than believe, she adopts the heroic measure that will alone add greatly to her costs of production, it will also improve the exchange value of the mark at once, and so bring about the result we desire. But if those of her people who are opposing the necessary taxation are too strong and win the day, her exchange must before long approximate to Polish or Austrian levels, and such an event will mean practical bankruptcy for Germany.
What does"practical bankruptcy"mean? It means that the great army of civil servants, railway and postal officials, police and soldiers will not be paid. It means chaos and confusion which must greatly cripple her powers of competition in manufactures. It is a hard choice that lies before Germany, because she must either make this heroic effort—which, as I say, will pro tanto remove the causes of our complaint—or she will have conditions of currency chaos which must interfere with her at present comparatively well-ordered internal life. In either event, so far as I can see, the danger of this so-called unfair competition"practically goes. It is admitted on all hands that adjustments are going on all the time in regard to these internal prices in Germany and external values, and that they will go on very quickly if exchange is stabilised.
If we could only think of this matter impartially and get outside our present controversies, I maintain that we should come to the conclusion that as the exchange 624 provisions of this Bill only affect France and Germany directly, as there are good reasons against touching France, as German imports are actually arid relatively far below the pre-war figure. and as the Government remedy, so far as it is effective, would still further depress the German exchange —the very result that we wish to avoid —we should come to the conclusion that we had better leave this matter alone, If the advantage of the depreciated exchange is as claimed, and I very much doubt it, our imports from Germany being not a large fraction of her total exports, she must inevitably absorb a great deal of our export. trade with neutrals. In that case Germany and Belgium (which we cannot touch) will become full of orders. German prices vv: ill rise, wages will rise, her exchange will be improved, unless, of course, through unwillingness to tax her people and consequent further issues of paper money, she persists in depressing the exchange and goes into bankruptcy.
On the other hand, if, contrary to my own belief, this 33⅓ per cent. imposed here is a serious menace to German trade it must depress the exchange, and perpetuate the conditions we wish to avoid. These questions of the effect of depreciated exchange are so extraordinarily complicated that I think the Government has made a very great mistake in not having them investigated by a powerful committee of experts, instead of bringing into Parliament a measure which will probably seriously injure our own export trade, and add greatly to the uncertainty which is the great bane of business life at the present moment.
I turn to economic dumping, which is defined as selling goods not at any relation to their cost price, except incidentally, but at 95 per cent. of their selling price in the country of origin. It is fair to say that this subject was mentioned at the Election, and therefore it stands on a different basis from the exchange position. But it is also fair to say that no Free Trader objects to measures to stop dumping if you prove that it is being carried on, or is likely to be carried on, to such an extent as to destroy any of our own industries. All that Free Traders desire is proof of your case; then they say,"we will find measures to deal with it." So far, although there has been talk of dumping for all these years, no case has ever been proved. The Government admit that these provisions 625 will not be much used, and I am inclined to agree with them. My doubts are whether it is worth while adding this element of uncertainty to trade when the provisions are likely to be so little used; and secondly, whether it is not a boomerang that is likely to turn and come back and hit ourselves. For the majority of the goods in the wholesale trade there is no definite fixed list price that you can ascertain. It differs from day to day, even from hour to hour.
I think this Bill means much cry and little wool, much suspicion and little proof. I do not understand how it will work. Take an ordinary case. An American banker sends for a client of his, and says:"Your overdraft is too big; you must reduce it." His client goes back to his office, thinks it over, and says:"I must sell some of my stock." He takes a low price, say 90 per cent, or 85 per cent. — instead of 95 per cent. allowed by this Bills—of the home-selling price in order to get: rid of £10,000, £50,000, or £100,000 worth of goods. At the moment when that transaction takes place, there is no duty, I presume. The goods come here, and they are paid for. Somebody finds it out, and a complaint is made of the goods being dumped. The matter is referred to the Committee. It is examined, and the Committee recommend a duty. An order is made, and the duty, will be imposed months after, as far as I can understand it, not on that transaction which is over and done with, but on all other goods that are being bought at the market price of the day. Every one will then have to pay the duty, and get it refunded limn the Treasury under the provisions of, I think, subsection (2) of Clause 1. What endless trouble, friction and uncertainty there is in all that. And the probability, which the Government admit, that it is going to be so little used makes me think that, these provisions are a profound mistake.
I turn to key industries. What are key industries? It is really an unfortunate name. They really are subsidiary industries of which we happened to be short in the late war. They are now to be put in the Schedule. The Schedule differs from the Schedule of previous years. If we have these changes in the Schedule for one year, how many changes will there be in ten or twenty years? It looks a little like locking this particular door after the steed has been stolen. Let us hope that we are 626 going to lock the right door the next time. However, there is no controversy on protection. I do not contest that point at all. I am perfectly certain the country wants it, and demands it. Our only conflict is as to the best method of giving it.
Personally, I have Always preferred subsidies. I am not going into this matter at length. People say we cannot afford subsidies, but we are affording them under this Bill. This method is.far more costly than subsidies would ever prove to be, because it puts up the price of your home commodities, and what you buy from abroad. It puts up the price for ail the commodities of that kind and it costs a great deal more than any system of subsidies. With subsidies you would have the Treasury trying to see that the money was not misspent, and you would have the Chancellor of the Exchequer grinding them down to the lowest possible amount. You would have every chance of having the system worked upon the most economical lines. Now you have nobody, under this Bill. interested in economy at all, while the producers are interested in making your 33⅓ per cent. into 66 per cent. or 100 per cent. Trade will be hampered by it. Scientific research will be prejudiced by it, and a 33⅓ per cent. tariff is a totally unscientific remedy for a question in which science is so largely concerned. A tariff for these so-called key industries should have been fixed aft( r careful inquiry into each trade, if you are to have a tariff at all. We have no assurance in regard to any of these trades that 33⅓ per cent. is going to be sufficient.
I infinitely prefer, however, a definite tariff to the Government action in regard to dyes, of which in a noble friend, the noble Viscount, seems so proud. I would point out that £1,700,000 of our money invested in the dye concern is worth somewhere between 1"500.000 and £600,000, and it may be worth even less than the £500,000 at this moment. A White Paper recently issued says that the world production of dyes is now two and a-half times the normal demand, and the demand at present is much below the normal. The preference dividend has just been passed. A subsidy will probably soon be required. Subsidy and control are better than the course adopted in regard to dyestuffs, where you have a huge loss of money invested and the probability of having a subsidy to find in the end. However. I say a definite 627 tariff is better than uncertainty, log rolling, and the tendency to corruption in the prohibition and licensing.
There is another matter upon which I shall touch briefly, and that is the famous Paris Resolutions. I have no responsibility for them. I was never enamoured of some of them. I foresaw, from the first moment, that polemical use would be made of them at a later date, but to argue that my right. honourable friend, Mr. Asquith, and the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition here, are bound by the Paris Resolutions to vote for this Bill is one of those unconvincing Parliamentary tu quoques so irresistibly fascinating to political protagonists—
§ LORD EMMOTT
But other people have done so. The noble Viscount, I noticed, evaded the point. As I say, it is one of those unconvincing Parliamentary tu quoques so irresistibly fascinating to political protagonists, and so uninteresting to most other people. I have refreshed my memory since August 2, when this matter was mentioned, and I want to say a few words about the Paris Resolutions. The first section contains measures for the war period. They are much the most. useful part of the Paris Resolutions, and they had some effect in bringing some of our Allies t o exert the same measure of economic pressure that we were at that time bringing to bear upon the enemy. The second section contained transitory measures, dealing with the period of reconstruction.
I think the two paragraphs that are particularly relied upon are these (I will abbreviate them). One was to the effect that —the Allies agree that the benefit of this [mostfavoured-nation] treatment shall not be granted to those Powers [enemy Powers.] during a number of years to be fixed by mutual agreement among themselves.The other paragraph is:In order to defend their commerce, their industry, their agriculture and their navigation against economic aggression resulting from dumping or any other mode of unfair competition the Allies decide to fix by agreement a period of time during which the commerce of the enemy Powers shall be submitted to special treatment and the goods originating in their countries shall be subjected either to prohibitions or to a special regimé of an effective character.In regard to those Resolutions so far as the public know no agreement has ever been made in regard to the questions in- 628 volved; no agreement has ever been asked for by His Majesty's Government. If there was a grievance, this Bill. operating against friend and foe, does not carry it out at all.
I turn now to the third section. One of the two clauses quoted by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, was this one, which may be taken to have some little bearing on the matter—They may, for example, have recourse either to enterprises subsidised, directed or controlled by the Government's themselves, or to the grant of financial assistance for the encouragement of scientific and technical research and the development of national industries and resources; to customs duties or prohibitions of a temporary or permanent character; or to a combination of these different methods.Those methods include subsidy, or nationalised factories as much as tariffs, and to argue that my noble friend opposite is bound by that to support this Bill shows—I hope I may say so with great respect—that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House can hardly have had time to look up his case. The other sentence he quoted was this—The Allies decide to take the necessary steps without delay to render themselves independent of the enemy countries in so far as regards the raw materials and manufactured articles essential to the normal development of their economic activities.That paragraph appears to have been carried out by allowing, if not encouraging, France to make it part of the Peace Treaty that Germany should supply her with large quantities of German coal, on which she is now depending. All I ask is—Is it a fair method of argument to seek to tie my noble friend opposite to the support. of this Bill when you cannot even show words that make a prima facie case, and when, so far as I can discover, the Government have never made any attempt on their own part to carry out those Resolutions?
In conclusion, my views are probably biassed by my own general economic tendencies of thought. I hate control of trade, I hate increase of bureaucracy, I hate waste of money on officials to do what business men do better for themselves. I believe Free Trade led to our financial staying power in the late war, and saved us and our European Allies who, although Protectionists, were in a weaker condition than ourselves, before America came into the fray. I feel confident that Free Trade gave us our shipping supremacy, and that 629 that, and our fleet, were the factors. without which the war would certainly have been lost in spite of America coming in. I believe our traders are strongly individualist in genius. They have no genius for standardisation as the Americans have, or for State and corporate organisation like the Germans; but they are pretty successful if left to themselves to do business in their own way, and if they have not a Government Department to go and whine to.
On these broad grounds I admit I am suspicious of legislation such as this, but my opposition to this measure arises from a study of the Bill. It seems to me to propose wrong and ineffective methods for protecting key industries; it proposes safeguards against economic dumping which are not at present required, arid are likely to do more harm than good; and it sets up barriers against imports from countries with depreciated exchanges which, if effectual in excluding their goods, will tend to add to the root causes of the evil it is sought to combat. In these circumstances I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
Leave out (" now ") and at end insert (" this day six months '').—(Lord Emmott.)
§ [The sitting was suspended at lire minutes past eight o'clock, and resumed at twenty minutes pact nine o'clock.]
My Lords, dealing with this Bill is like hitting a pillow there is no resistance, and your blows do not go home. There is no vitality or life in the support given to this measure. The Bill is 'nominally brought in to redeem certain pledges, but it goes far beyond those pledges. There is no conviction behind it on the part of those who introduced it; no active support on the part of those who vote for it, and it is entirely alien to the great mass of business people who will he subject to it.
I will take the first of the questions dealt with by the noble Viscount who introduced it—namely., key industries. To my mind, the whole idea of key industries is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as to talk of the keystone of the arch. Every stone is a keystone; take out any one and the arch will collapse. And in our complicated industry there is no final product of our activities but what is dependent on seven or eight or ten or more articles, the 630 failure of any one of which would destroy the final product. Therefore, to pick out a schedule of key industries seems to me to be absurd. I suppose the only reason for doing so is that they are small, and therefore you tread upon fewer people's toes in interfering with them. If you had said that raw cotton is a key industry, obviously you would be up against serious opposition. But the same principle holds good, whether the industry is small or large.
No one can say in the complicated industry of the world that any one thing is essential. Everything is essential. The noble Viscount tried to put his defence of this part of the Bill on the need for purposes of war. He took two illustrations, perhaps because he did not wish to weary the House, and perhaps because he could not make much of an argument. But he selected optical glasses and hosiery latch needles. It was true that the war brought out the necessity of having good instruments for observation on sea and land, but, obviously, the schedule is drawn much wider than is indicated by the alleged excuse put forward as to needs for war. I support Lord Emmcott, who moved the rejection of the Bill, in his remark that if any of these things are thought to be essential a really competent Committee, not of people interested in getting things excluded but in the use of these things, should have been appointed and have reported as to what extent they are needed.
We make a great deal too much of the argument that we found ourselves in a tight place during the war owing to the lack of these things. Whenever war breaks out we shall find ourselves in a tight place for something or other. If we were bi a tight place for some things, Germany was also in a tight place for others, and to try to forecast the future in the light of the past, and say we must assure ourselves against any such disability in the future, seems to me to be contemplating that we are going to be in another war a few years hence, with similar conditions to the last, and not that the future will work out its own problems.
Take the case of hosiery latch needles. The noble Lord said what a terrible thing it would be for our Armies if they had been short of hose and of knitted jerseys and other things. Does anyone suppose that these hosiery latch needles must essentially be made in this country? I wonder 631 whether the hosiery trade and the lace trade of Nottingham were consulted as to what their position was with reference to these needles. We have not had the slightest attempt to find out from the people who use these things what the position will be if a duty of 33⅓ per cent. is put upon them, and, so far as the scheme and purpose of this Bill is concerned, we are practically excluding foreign supplies. As a matter of fact, I very much doubt whether a duty of 33⅓ per cent. will exclude the most essential articles, which are very small in number, and which therefore make a very small percentage of the total cost of the things produced.
But I am not going to examine these things in detail. We have seen a statement in the papers from people interested in various of these articles saying that they are really devised to glorify and aggrandise some special ring which has the making of these things in England, and which is making them to a very small extent. compared with the demands of the country. Surely, the way in which we have built up our industry in the past has not been by casting about for some things which were very important to an aggregate industry, but by leaving the industries themselves to find out and to do for themselves. That is the real secret of our success in the past, and I believe it will be the real secret of our success in the future.
The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, seemed to say that he did not want to make much of those Paris Resolutions of 1916. But he did utilise them, and I think Lord Curzon also, in the previous debate, as well as the Lord Chancellor, dragged in these Paris Resolutions, and I suppose we must take for granted a certain amount of solidarity in the Government, and an argument which leading members put forward must be considered as not challenged by others. But Lord Emmott pointed out, and I want very briefly to emphasise his point, that it is a perfect fraud upon the House to quote the Paris Resolutions of 1916 as any justification or any excuse for the legislation now before the House. There were two essentials of these Resolutions. The first was that we were in the middle of the war, and we were not at all sure that the Germans were not going to get the upper hand, and these Resolutions were directed against the peril that we were likely. to incur from Germany. There 632 runs through all these Resolutions a statement that they are directed against the enemy, not. for the bolstering up of our own trade, but to prevent the enemy from getting the whip hand of us. That is the first reason why to quote the Paris Resolutions —which throughout in every line are directed against the enemy and as a war measure—as a justification for a measure which is taken against the whole world, including our own Allies, for the bolstering up of our own trade, is an entire misrepresentation.
The second point which I wish to put in referring to these Paris Resolutions, is that., so far as they proposed action, they proposed entirely concerted and collective action by an agreement of all the Powers. There is nothing of that in this Bill. On the contrary, it proposes purely individual action in our own interests, as it is supposed. though that is not really the case, and utterly disregarding our Allies in every way. I say, therefore, that these Paris Resolutions ought not to be mentioned for one moment by any person who thinks he can defend this Bill on any reasonable grounds.
I pass from key industries to the question of dumping. As was rightly pointed out, there are two forms of dumping. There is a dumping that people were much more afraid of, or which they professed to resent much more before the war, and that was the dumping which was alleged to be the result of a deep-seated conspiracy among trade competitors deliberately to ship goods to this country, systematically, at a fictitious price, in order to kill our production, and thus acquire a monopoly for the country doing it. I am not going to say that that may not have been done in isolated instances and particular trades. I think it is quite possible that the powerful German dye industry did it before the war, but we know quite well that the complaint made of dumping before the war did not so much apply to the dye industry as to the importation of raw steel and pig iron. We were told what a horrible thing it was that the tin plate makers of South Wales should buy cheaply from German, to the exclusion of the British steel makers, and be able to sell tin plates throughout the world. Of that to a certain extent it may be said that if it be attempted to put a 33⅓per cent. duty upon raw steel in the interests of the steel makers, you must consider other people using steel.
633 If I was sure of a fair and impartial tribunal to look at the facts I should not he very much afraid, for I have not the slightest doubt. that in 'the case of steel in this country, coming to our finished steel products, a far greater amount of industry is employed in this country through the acquisition of raw material than would be by trying to develop a little more steel trade and prevent the importation of foreign material. As a matter of fact, we know quite well that we in England could not have kept our steel industry going to the tune we did if it had not been for the raw steel imported from the Continent. More and more as our industry develops, and our intelligence in industry increases, we apply ourselves to using the raw materials of industry and making the finished product, and let the other peoples of die. world be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, and supply us with what, for our purposes, are raw materials.
But anyhow in the steel industry in this country, which is a very important industry—some people say it is the most important industry in the country, and, at any rate, it is a very important one—we know quite well that yen of the pig iron and steel made before the war one-half was wade from imported iron ore. I do not think there is any material difference between iron ore and pig iron. Both are the raw-materials of the finished industry. However that may be. we are exposed to the risk that many interested persons, and many whom I would call ignorant politicians, might threaten to affect the supplies of what, to us, are the raw materials of trade, and trade is none the better for being in a state of apprehension and uneasiness.
At this moment, as has been stated, every one is sick of Government interference, and any attempt to give them a greater say in industry must arouse suspicion and dislike. Apprehension of it will create a feeling of suspicion in the industrial public. Trade is difficult to recover and it is not able to get to work in an atmosphere of apprehension. One of the first things we want in order to revive industry is confidence among the people engaged in industry that they will not be disturbed by capricious Government interference. Another thing is that they may be left free to make their contracts and go ahead, and not be hampered by perpetual reference backwards and forwards to Government offices.
634 At this moment the papers are full of complaints with reference to the taxes levied upon imports, and the drawbacks and repayments. We see complaints that, though they have sent in their papers and proved their case, they have been kept waiting weeks and weeks without getting the returns which they ought to get; while in Germany, apparently, the moment the certificate comes of the 26 per cent. having been paid here, the German merchant or manufacturer is refunded by his Government. We must get rid of all that. But it is not sufficient for the trader to be told that after his correspondence and difficulties he will get back the money that has been squeezed out of him by anticipation. He wants to go on with his business, as he used to do before the war, without being tied up in the meshes of bureaucracy, and without being apprehensive that meticulous inquiries will be toad:, and that he will not be allowed to go on with his proper business.
I could say a gnat deal more about dumping. As a matter of fact., I do not believe that dumping, as it was popularly understood before the war, has any appreciable influence upon the trade of this country. I remember looking up some Canadian official returns of imports. The Canadians had a law against dumping long before we began to think of it, and they made a return of the amount of their imports which became subject to the dumping tax of, T think, 16 per cent., and the amount was infinitesimal. The enactment in Canada might have satisfied the resentment of two or three traders who thought they were undersold, but it was not a thing which affected to a decimal point of I the import trade of the country.
Lord Emmott asked, but did not get an answer—whether he will get an answer later in the debate I do not know—how this claim for rebate was going to be dealt with. He put the ease of a foreign merchant who had dumped, we will say, £50,000 worth of goods below the fair price. Those goods have been sold, and the business is settled. Then somebody complains that there has been dumping, the Government Department agrees, and says that all-that type of export should be suspected of dumping, and should be subjected, in the first instance, to a tax, and then it is for the individual importer to prove that he had paid the full and fair price. We want to know whether that is the way in which the Act will be worked. If there has been 635 one proved case of dumping of a particular commodity, will the whole of that commodity be subjected to vexatious interference, and the burden of proof be laid upon the importers?
The noble Viscount shakes his head, but it is not clear in the Bill. Clause 4 (2) provides thatif any person by whom any duty has been paid proves to the satisfaction of the Commissioners that the goods were on the first sale thereof sold at a price which was not less than the cost of production of the goods …then he may get the money back. So it is clear that that clause contemplates that people will have to pay the tax in the first instance—not on any evidence that that particular cargo was dumped, but on a suspicion that that type of cargo has been dumped. I had hoped that somebody on the Government side would have replied to that.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am quite ready to answer that, but perhaps I had better do it later when I answer other points.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am challenged on various points, and I am perfectly ready to answer immediately, but I think it will be snore convenient if I reserve my answer to the end of the debate. I do not want to disturb the speeches of noble Lords. There is a very ready answer to that.
If Lord Emmott made a bad point, which had no substance, and if I am emphasising that bad point, I think it would be more convenient if that was disposed of at once, unless there is something in it which has substance. Perhaps the noble Lord would prefer to wait until the end and answer everything when no one can reply to him.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
If the noble Lord takes that attitude, I think I had better reply at once, because there is a very easy and very obvious answer to his contention. He has not, I think, understood, if I may say so, the provisions of the Bill. I flattered myself that I had set out rather fully the very points to which he had referred. His question is, first of all, will there be penalties imposed on a single case of dumping?—and he mentioned a suns of £50,000. Clearly that will not be 636 so, because, though complaints might be made about. a single case of dumping, the Committee has to report on various points. It has to report, first of all, whether these cases—not one case only, but cases—have been shown to be proved, and, secondly, whether this dumping has the effect of producing unemployment in the trade. Now, it surely would be absurd and impossible to prove that one case of dumping had produced unemployment in that particular trade. That sufficiently answers the noble Lord's first point. Again, they have to examine the case as to whether, though the dumping may injure one particular trade, it is or is not of advantage to other trades which use the material for their own purposes. They have to go into that whole question. Therefore, it is obvious that these safeguards were devised for the very purpose of preventing this Order being made against the importation of goods from a particular country, frivolously, or for one or two cases.
It is perfectly true that, when the Order is made-after full investigation, that class of goods will prima facie be charged with duty when coming from that country, and the importers will have either to give security or, as in most cases. they will probably simply undertake to give security. Then, as I say, if they can prove that they sold those goods at a price which is not less than the cost of production in the country from which the goods were imported, they will be let off, the security will he handed back, or, if they have given an undertaking, nothing more will be done. Those are the two points the noble Lord referred to, and I think that is a sufficient answer to them.
The noble Viscount's answer may be satisfactory to himself, but it is not satisfactory to me.
The noble Viscount says that the first act of dumping, the £50,000 business that. Lord Emmott suggested, will not arouse the vigilance and activity of the Committee; but that a few cases of complaint will arouse their vigilance and activity. It is perfectly true also that the Bill contains some palliatives. The Committee have to be satisfied that the dumping will materially affect employment. They have to be 637 satisfied also, I take it, that it will not merely affect employment in the production of the particular article dumped?
§ LORD SHEFFIELD But that it will affect employment possibly on a much larger scale and in connection with the much larger number of articles to which this material is to be applied.
Those are, so far, the palliatives in the Bill which were put in after the Bill was introduced, and were not originally in the mind of the Government. But they do not get over the fact, which is now admitted, that if once a case of dumping is made out—it may not be by the whole of that trade in the country, but by a particular ring of manufacturers —you may boycott., as it were, the whole of that particular kind of product; the whole of the pig-iron or raw steel of the country, say, and the Custom House will have to put the Order in force, and then throw on the importer, although he may be importing from some innocent producer who has never been in the ring, and is producing at a perfectly bona fide price—you will have to put upon him and his shipper the burden of showing that it is shipped honestly. Theoretically, you may say that ultimately this man will lose nothing; but does a loan lose nothing if he has to wait weeks, and perhaps months, before he has established his case? It is clear it will be a very serious interference with trade.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
He will not have to wait months. It will be done immediately. He has only to produce his certificate of origin showing the cost of the goods in the country. I do not want to interrupt, but I thought the noble Lord liked to be answered on the spot.
The noble Viscount has much greater confidence in the rapidity of the action of Government Departments than have the sufferers whose letters we see day after day in the newspapers, complaining that they have been waiting so long for payment that is due to them. If this Bill is ever put into operation we shall see the same complaints of delays and obstructions.
638 There is another species of dumping which has been quite as much complained of. The definition of this dumping is that the goods are sold below the cost of production, which is taken at 5 per cent. below the usual wholesale price. My noble friend, Lord Emmott, gave an illustration. An American merchant, or a merchant of any other country that you like, finds his banker complain of an overdraft. The banker says to the merchant:"You must reduce your debt." The merchant then is forced to sell a portion of his stock at practically any price, in order to get money to wipe off the overdraft, at his hankers. That results in the merchant selling his particular type of goods at a price below the cost of production. But that is a thing which is done habitually in all trades in this country, and in other countries. It is not in the least unusual for people to sell goods below cost price.
What takes place at all the summer sales of our great London drapers? They clear out their stocks, and in the case of some articles they sell at a price less than the cost of production. That practice is not peculiar to this country, or any country. It is a common form of trading in every country. In a falling market goods will he sold below the cost of production. How many of the cotton merchants of Lancashire have had to sell below cost price? We saw recently a statement that Messrs. Rylands had to write down their stocks by £1,200,000 on account Of the fall in prices. if Messrs. Rylands shipped that stock to sonic country which adopted the theories contained in this Bill that would be dumping the goods, because it would be selling them at a. price below the cost of production. All these things are very speculative, and there is extreme risk of trouble and worry to people in trade, because their business will no longer be considered as being conducted between man and man and on the basis of a contract entered into, but will have to be considered on the basis of what sonic third person says he thinks is reasonable in all the circumstances of international trade.
So much for the old-fashioned dumping. I come now to what is much more serious legislation, the denunciation of dumping based on the idea that a low value of currency is an advantage to the nation that is suffering—as I should call it— from a depreciated currency. I submit that it is not the low value of your currency in exchange, but that it, is the fluctuating 639 value of your currency in exchange, which causes the trouble in trade, because the currency may go up, and that disturbs your market just as much as if the currency goes down. All people who have traded in India know the extreme inconvenience of being subjected to fluctuations in the value of the rupee. Lord Emmott referred to it twenty-five years ago. At this moment the whole of Lancashire is convulsed because the Government chose to enact—very much as Canute forbade the tide to rise—that the rupee should be worth on the exchange 2s. The rupee, just like the sea, refused to obey the orders of the Government, and it has fallen to a value of less than Is. 4d. What has been the consequence? You have had a strike against payments in India and, added to all the other troubles of the Lancashire trade they are held up by their stocks not being paid for in India because of the fluctuation.
Therefore,.I say that the troubles of exchange are not a new thing. They represent troubles with which business non have dealt. I do not think a permanent low exchange is any serious interference with trade at all. Take the South American States. For years and years their paper dollar was worth something quite trivial, perhaps a penny or two-pence, but trade went on freely because, whatever the paper dollar was worth on its face value, it had a fairly steady value on permanent exchange. Therefore, the prices in the country adjusted themselves to the real value of the dollar, and not to its paper face value.
Lord Emmott very correctly pointed out that all this exchange legislation affects hardly any countries. It does not affect any country where the exchange is not lower than two-thirds of the English currency. The effect of that is that countries ale divided into classes. First of all, there are those countries which have a currency higher in value than our £which are now three or four in number, the United States, Sweden, Holland and Switzerland. I cannot think at this moment of any other important countries which have an exchange value of currency higher than those. Then you come to the countries which have an exchange slightly lower than ours. They would not be affected because the exchange has to fall 33 per cent. or more below ours. There are not many of those. There are Denmark, Norway, 640 Spain and Argentina. Some of these are not countries of the first importance with regard to trading with us. Then we have a great drop, and we come to countries whose currency is so low that it is far below the 33 per cent. depreciation. Of those, I think, we may discard some. We certainly need not take any account of Russia. The exchange is an incalculable matter there, where a man has to take a portmanteau full of paper currency in order to buy his breakfast. There arc Russia, Austria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Poland. Then we come to Germany, and Bohemia, or Czecho-Slovakia. It may seem strange that a country like Germany is worse off with regard to its exchange than Czecho-Slovakia, but so it is.
Then we conic to countries whose currency is bad, but not quite so had, such as France, Belgium, and Italy. In France and Belgium it is worth a little more than half its face value, and in Italy it is worth a little less than one-third of its face value. As a matter of fact, I think it is understood that, owing to political reasons, the Government do not intend to put this currency clumping provision into force against France and Belgium. I must say we should feel it rather cruel, after Belgium had been devastated, if we put any difficulties in the way of her recovering her lost position in trade. As regards France, affairs are rather strained between us and France, and, sensitive as they are, we do not wish to add to their grievances by penalising their produce because their exchange is bad. You may say you have to show not merely that the exchange is bad, but that the badness of their exchange makes the home value of their franc higher in proportion than its value for buying foreign currency. As for Germany, we believe that Germany is doing a very brisk trade by means of its depreciated mark which enables it to produce cheaply and to sell at extremely low prices.
An interesting Report was published which throws great light on the question of exchange and dumping. It was a general Report on the industrial and economic situation in Germany in December, 1920, by Mr. J. F. W. Thelwall, Commercial Secretary to the British Embassy in Berlin, assisted by Mr. C. J. Kavanagh. This document is important because it proves clearly that the power of Germany to enter into international trade is not due in any way to the depreciated mark. It is due to 641 the activity and industry of the people of Germany, and to the fact that they are willing to work for a minimum subsistence while the country itself is able to go on producing. I would like to call the attention of the House to two or three passages in this Report. Talking about the question of wages—at the time the Report was written the value of the mark in reference to gold was about one-thirteenth of its nominal valve—the Report says:Wage increases are estimated to represent an advance over 1913 rates of from 10 to 15 times per ton of product …Costs of production on the other hand are estimated to have increased 20 to 10 times.It is clear, if the costs of production in Germany increase twenty to forty times when the mark depreciates only about thirteen to fourteen times, that it was not the depreciation of the mark that gave Germany the pull in exporting.
It was suggested by the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill that the Germans, by their rings and combines, took good care to quote much larger prices than those at which their disparaged mark enabled them to produce, and so were able to keep the whole margin for themselves. The Germans, no doubt, thought that there was an opportunity of exporting at a larger margin of profit on the cost of production, and they put on some export taxes. The Report, to which I have alluded, says—The export tax on engineering products which ranged from six per cent. to ten per cent. at one time threatened to obliterate export business, and after many protests from this industry this was reduced.…The minimum tax is now three per cent.It is clear that there was not such a large margin between the cost of producing and the export price. The fact is that if the mark has depreciated in relation to gold tire prices of foodstuffs have gone up quite as much as the price of the mark has gone down.
With reference to coal, on page 40 I find that coal has increased in price by 1,600 per cent., and iron by 2,700 per cent. I find also another reference to food; and what the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill said as to the German workmen working at an absurdly low rate, compared with the wage and the purchasing power of the English workmen, is perfectly true. But that is merely because the German workman is willing to submit to 642 a very low standard of living in order to produce at all, and there is no doubt that in this country too, if we do not take care, our workpeople will have to submit to a lower standard of life than they had before the war, if we are to recover from our present financial position. Let me show how low wages are. On page 50 I find a reference to the wages of the miners at the Ruhr. A hewer receives 53.90 marks, and he is allowed 4.50 marks extra as a food allowance, giving a total equal to about 4s. a day in English money. If you think that any English hewer would be content with 4s. a day you will find yourself very soon disillusioned. But do not say that 4s. is worth more to him than 4s. here. It is not worth anything like so much, because the price of his living has gone up with the depreciation of gold, and-therefore what he has to do is to submit to greater privation and greater difficulties of life. I will not trouble the House with figures, but on page 56 I find a further illustration of the wholesale food prices from the books of a large hotel in Berlin, showing that wholesale prices had gone up more than twenty times what they were before the war.
Perhaps I have said enough to prove my case, that the German production is not aided by the depreciation of the mark, that the cost of German production at world prices has gone up with the depreciation of the mark. What enables the German producer to compete in the world markets is, first of all, the great resolution and courage with which he sets to work to try to produce, and secondly, the patience of the workmen who have submitted to work at a very much lower standard of life than they were accustomed to before the war. I do not say that this is desirable, but it has nothing to do with the depreciation of currency. When you come. to proposing to put a 33⅓ per cent. duty on German products because of depreciation, your Committee, if they are an honest and impartial Committee, must first; of all be satisfied as to the effects of the margin of purchasing price between the home mark and the bullion mark. If not, the whole point of imposing a 33⅓ per cent, duty on exports on account of the low exchange disappears.
You propose in this Bill to double those duties. Take German chemicals. We are not allowed to import German chemicals except under licence, but supposing you put. them under the duty of 33⅓per cent., 643 you will first of all cause those chemicals to pay that duty, and then, because you are satisfied that they were produced below the fair price of production, owing to the depreciation of the mark, you would put on another 33⅓ per cent,, that is to say, you would tax these materials two-thirds of their value. Whether the value you propose to put upon them is an honest value I am not prepared to say. It is an open point and it might well be contended that you are putting the value higher than the fair commercial wholesale value that any German merchant would be willing to take.
Two things lie behind this Bill. First of all, there is the desire of producers of a number of trades to get protection. They are on the warpath for that, and they have got an indulgent and friendly Government, and they think it is time to make hay while the sun shines. Secondly, there is the feeling of resentment against Germany on account of the way she dragged us into the war, and her conduct of the war. Many people say that any stick is good enough with which to beat the Germans. Those are the two driving forces behind this Bill. Both of them, I think, are bad forces. I think that when we made peace with Germany sense as well as justice should have made us wish that Germany should recover her prosperity and become one of the producers of the world. You cannot get rich by impoverishing your neighbour. The prosperity of one nation is vital to that of others, and until you get rid of this malicious idea that you can satisfy your own self-righteousness by sticking your knife into the wrong-doing neighbour, you will never get a sound economic position. I heartily oppose the second Reading of this Bill.
§ LORD COLWYN
My Lords, I had the honour of sitting on the Committee of which Lord Balfour of Burleigh was chairman, and in the investigations of that Committee there were certain trades that came out essentially as matters of very deep concern. Out of the number of sub-committees that reported to the Committee I think the bulk of them desired Protection. The only exception, I fancy, was the great cotton trade of Lancashire. But the Government have not taken the Report of the Committee into this Bill. They have only taken that portion of it which had regard to national 644 safety. In the Schedule, at the end of our Report, are the various articles which we deemed to be necessary for national protection. The Committee made investigations also into what Germany was doing in trade. In banking Germany had taken possession of a great many foreign countries. She had great secret banking concerns in all parts of the world. Her commercial, her consular and her military organisations seemed to be going on parallel lines, but they had various junctions at certain places, and they were practically getting hold of the great trades in which we as English people had been paramount.
They had control, as your Lordships know, of smelter. They controlled lead, they controlled tungsten, they controlled optical glasses, magnetos and needles. The trade that Germany had in hosiery was enormous. They bought the yarn from Lancashire, took it to Germany, dyed and finished it, and captured the whole of the South American trade and practically that of the United States. These needles were essential to us, and the production of needles in Germany was so marvellously organised that they not only supplied their own country, because the home trade was protected by tariff, but they had sufficient machinery to make these needles at such prices that, after exporting to this country they were able to sell at a lower price than that at which any single British manufacturer could make the article. That was a very important industry.
Then take magnetos. At the beginning of the war there was hardly a single English company to make magnetos, and I am not at all certain that within two months of the war being declared by Germany magnetos were shipped from Germany; I do not think they were. But what position should we have been in if we had not had some stock? In future what position shall we be in if the trade in magnetos were destroyed by the magnificent manner in which Germany conducts her commercial business? Her organisation is perfect, and with all her technical instruction and her combination she can, by doubling her machinery, produce magnetos to-day at a price with which, if shipped to this country, it would be impossible for an English maker to compete.
Then dyes. Have your Lordships heard of the immense increase of the German dye works during the war? It is stupendous.
645 I do not know whether the Military Commission that was sent out by our Government to Germany just after the Armistice, has reported, or whether it made a secret Report, but one was told confidentially something of its importance, and therefore one's lips are sealed. But t his was apparent, that the chemical industry of Germany has developed to a stupendous extent, and in case of war Germany would be able to make poison gas for the whole world. If we had no provision such as is contained in this Bill, Germany could once more—and very soon—destroy the whole of our chemical manufacturing trade in this country. Therefore, I think the Government have very wisely acted in those matters which are essential for national safety. Had they gone on to deal with what are called staple industries, and tried to protect them, there would have been no chance of support in the country. They have, however, confined themselves to those things which are essential to national safety.
I have been a Free Trader all my life. I have been associated with friends who look upon my action to-day with a great deal of regret, but I felt that I must judge for myself what I considered to be the national interest, and in a humble way try to do what was right in this matter. I felt, in regard to this Bill, that, although it goes against what is supposed to be Free. Trade theories — although Free Trade theories have to be absolutely destroyed when war comes—we must keep prepared for the horrible possibility of war, as well as for peace, and I thought that I could do nothing better than to give my vote to-day for the Bill which the Government have brought in, and which I think will mean the protection, both scientifically and economically, of the industries which are essential for the wellbeing of the country that we all love.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in such a debate as this, especially after you have listened to so great an industrial expert as the noble Lord opposite. I find myself in exactly the converse position from that which he occupies, for, although I do not speak from the same rather extreme Free Trade standpoint as most of those who have addressed your Lordships, I am bound to say I find it quite impossible to support this Bill. Indeed, I should be rather surprised if any one who has been so closely associated as 646 I have with Government control, both during and since the war, can really conscientiously persuade himself that in the existing unstable conditions it is right or proper to vest in any Government Department, and still more in any Advisory Committee, the control, by a tariff, of our national industries, or any of them, because I am sure it must occur to those who have participated in Government control that in these conditions there is a real danger of undue trade influence being exercised, and undue preference to various industries, resulting in profiteering, monopolies, and, possibly in the last resort, industrial corruption.
There are three classes of persons who have uttered the strongest protests against this Bill. The first of them is the banking community, the second the scientific research workers, and, finally, the agriculturists of the country. It so happens that I am more or less associated with all of those classes. I leave more expert financiers than I am to deal with the banking standpoint, but finding myself, as I do, at the head of the chief agricultural research station in the country, I should like to remind your Lordships that research workers generally are looking very much askance at the provisions of this Bill. So far as scientific instrument makers are concerned, I think your Lordships will al: agree that in regard to the competitive instruments which come from the Central Empires, the duty of 33 per cent, is going to be of no value at all by way of protection.
As regards optical glass, I am bound to say that I think that is the very strongest ease the promoters of this Bill can put forward. Our manufacturers have undoubtedly turned out the most excellent glass under very difficult conditions, both during and since the war. But I think it ought to be borne in mind that for our national requirements, and more particularly for our Service requirements—because those are really the essential requirements—no more than a dozen tons of optical glass, all told, are required. I would like to ask His Majesty's Government why, instead of setting up this most unfortunate economic system in these unsettled conditions, they did not set up for themselves an optical glass works to provide the Services with what they require in that respect? If they can set up at Woolwich and elsewhere ordnance factories 647 for turning out war material, why cannot they set up an optical glass factory for turning out such optical glass as is necessary for the security of the country?
I do not know whether your Lordships have read the remarks of Prof. Bayliss, of University College, London, as reported in smite of our leading scientific journals (and there is no greater or abler exponent of this particular subject than himself), but they are well worthy of your Lordships' consideration. He says—While there is much scientific apparatus made in the British Isles of a quality at least as good as that imported, it is, unfortunately, very costly. But there arc also many other articles which our manufacturers have not yet learned to produce in anything like a satisfactory quality. The result of restricting the importation of good articles by a heavy duty would be to compel scientific workers to use home-made goods. There would be no hardship if those goods were satisfactory. But such is by no means always the case, and we are then penalised by waste of time and frequent. loss of experimental results. Moreover, if inferior goods obtain a sale by methods of this kind, no inducement is given to the makers to improve the quality.A very large number of independent research workers in this country are very poor men. They have to provide their own apparatus, and, naturally, they want to get the best possible value for their money, always assuming that the apparatus they use is dependable.
As regards ordinary laboratory glass—I mean, of course, articles such as beakers, liquor litre flasks, test tubes and the like—in the past this glass that is capable of being subjected to most severe heat has come, as no doubt your Lordships are aware, from Jena in Saxe-Weimar and also from Bohemia. Although it is perfectly true that the National Physical Laboratory have applied all sorts of tests to our English laboratory glass, and, according to those tests, found it quite satisfactory, the workers in our various research stations have, unfortunately, found it undependable when subjected to. extreme heats. That is a strong case for not interfering with the introduction into this country of an article (required very largely for the most important research work) which is not obtainable of the same quality in this country.
My great objection to this Bill is on the ground that it does not operate fairly to the agricultural community. It is rather an irony to find your Lordships, in the course of ten days, scrapping altogether 648 the measure which was to safeguard what has been described as our greatest and most fundamental and most vital industry, and in the course of the same ten days considering on Second Reading a Bill which is going to protect every industry, in certain events, except that of food production. The National Farmers' Union, to which reference has been made a good deal during the last few days in your Lordships' House, have, through their council, passed a resolution unanimously against this Bill as being an injustice to the important community which they represent. I think it must he perfectly obvious, if I may venture to say so, that a measure which is calculated to benefit all other producers must, both absolutely and relatively, do harm to an industry which is subject to the greatest possible amount of competition—to almost killing competition in existing conditions—and which has to use a large number of articles (implements, fertilisers, and the like) imported from other countries, without which this industry cannot be successfully carried on.
I see that one test of the desirability for the imposition of a duty under Part II of this Bill is as to whether employment is interfered with. In that connection, may I ask your Lordships to consider the case of the farm tractor, which is being more and more used, and which, so far from increasing employment upon farms, is calculated to reduce the number of men employed upon farms. The tractor is absolutely essential if, under existing conditions, we are to get the largest possible food output from the soil of our own country. I suggest that this is a particularly good example to show where your employment test is going to break down, because, although it is not yet proved that we cannot produce in England the best possible form of tractor, such a tractor has not yet been produced here. I am sure a large majority of farmers using tractors to-day would admit that the best, cheapest and most efficient tractors are coming at the present time from the United States, and they expect them also to come from Belgium as time goes on.
Let us take the case of fertilisers. There are many right honourable gentlemen and noble Lords, who have represented in the two Houses of Parliament the Ministry of Agriculture during the last few years, who never tire of emphasising the importance 649 of basic slag. Basic slag to-day is in the hands of a corner of steel manufacturers —a corner which is being encouraged definitely by his Majesty's Government by putting the whole of the supplies of this very valuable phosphate rock from the Island of Nauru, which we have taken over from Germany, into the hands of this ring of steel manufacturers who, as a byproduct, produce basic slag. The only competitor in the market to-day is Belgium. Those who want to get a high-grade basic slag get Belgian slag, winch is of very high and dependable quality, and which is the only competitor with the product of this ring of English manufacturers at the present time. If, acting upon the provisions of this Bill, you exclude Belgian basic slag, there is absolutely no protection for the British farmer in the matter of the price of this very important. raw material of his industry.
Very much the same thing applies to potash. The greater part of the agricultural land of this country, certainly light land, is starving to-day for want of potash, as a result of the fact that we have not had the imports of potash from Stassfurt in Germany, or from Alsace, owing to the interruption of supply caused by the war. What is going to happen in future? I, for my part, regretted that the Government had not demanded a very large proportion, or the whole, of the indemnity that Germany is supposed to pay, in the form of potash, because it would have been an enormous benefit to agriculture and other industries. It would not have disconcerted any of our great industries, as the methods proposed are almost bound to do, and it would have been possible for farmers to obtain it at a reasonable cost.
As this Bill stands. I understand they are doing a relative injustice (to which Lord Emmett has referred) to France, now that she has possession of Alsace, which has a much smaller proportion than Germany of the total potash output of the world. There is a real danger that the potash is going to be more and more difficult to obtain at a reasonable cost, because it is being suggested—and there are certain journals in this country who are promoting this claim—that those who own iron blast furnaces in this country can produce the potash in the required quantities from the flue dust of those furnaces. It is going to take at least twenty years for the ironmasters in this country to produce from that flue dust 650 anything like the quantities that we require in this country for the purposes of British agriculture alone.
It seems to me that the agricultural industry, at any rate, ought to go solid against this Bill. The agricultural industry is once more the Cinderella of industries; it is once more tine shuttlecock of the politicians; but in days to come it seems to me that unless you keep an eye on the agricultural industry you are going to be faced with even more serious conditions when an emergency arises than arose at the time of the outbreak of the last war. A Committee is going to be set up composed mainly of men connected with industry and commerce. I should like to ask the noble Viscount opposite whether he includes within that expression the industry of agriculture, the greatest of all industries, because if not, I venture to think that a real injustice will be done to what is still described as the most vital of our industries. I shall venture to put down an Amendment to the effect that, as in the case of the railways so in the case of this Bill, there shall be an agriculturist included amongst the members of the Advisory Committee.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
My Lords, it is difficult to add to what has been said by the noble Lord who sits below me (Lord Emmott), but there are some portions of his argument. which I think may not be worse for reiteration. I will first of all deal with the point with regard to key industries. At the time when we are professing to be at peace, when we set up a League of Nations to preserve peace, when we are talking about asking for a reduction of armaments, is it really necessary that we should have a war measure with regard to these key industries? If it is the melancholy fact that it is, let us do it in an honest and manly way; let us support and subsidise those key industries which we think must be regulated in order to enable us to unlock the greater trades and businesses. Protection—and it is pure protection—has only this one defect; it raises the price of these valuable industries to our own people.
The noble Viscount, when he opened his speech on this subject, spoke about optical glass, and said it was essential in peace as in war. E it. is essential in peace, why make it dear? Why put upon a cheap glass coming from abroad a countervailing 651 duty in order to make it as expensive as it must be when manufactured in England? Surely the right course, if we really must assist these industries, and must cultivate a hothouse plant of this kind, is either for the Government to make it an industry of their own or subsidise the industry in order that people who want optical glasses may not suffer by their dearness, but have them as cheaply as they can be manufactured abroad. It is the old heresy, which lies at the bottom of the whole of Protection; you look at the interest of the producer and disregard the interest of the consumer, forget that the producer is himself a consumer and the consumer is, in his turn, a producer. In order to assist these makers of optical glasses in England you penalise every scientific person, every boy who wants a microscope.
After all, this is pure camouflage; pure Protection in disguise. If the Government had brought this measure out in the form of a subsidy there would have been a howl against it, as against all other subsidies, and it would have been discovered that, after all, we do very well as we are. That is the true test. If this thing is worth protecting, then protect it at the expense of the nation, and not at the expense of the scientific consumer. I need hardly add that it is not as if we were regarding Germany as still an enemy—a most pestilential way of looking at the matter. It is a duty not against Germany only, but against our ancient Allies, Belgium and France, as well as against our former enemies.
I come to the other part of the Bill. You desire to avoid unemployment, and in order to prevent unemployment you propose to encourage certain English industries by putting a protective duty—it is nothing else—upon certain foreign goods so as to prevent their coming cheaply into `Ins country. I thought the only lesson we had learnt since the days of Peel was that it was the right thing to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest, and that everything winch made goods clear was to be deprecated and avoided. But half the things we import we bring here in order to work upon and export again. Many years ago, when I had occasion as a Judge to be at Leeds, I met a number of commercial men, and was told this story, which may do as a parable: Germany was giving a bounty upon exported steel bars, and the result was that steel bars could be 652 sold by Germany in this country cheaper than they could be produced here. And it destroyed, for the moment, the English trade."Very bad," you will say,"for the makers of steel bars." But wait one moment. Rolling mills in Yorkshire found that by working on these steel bars they could produce iron bedsteads, and they found a good market in Spain. By using these bars they could make beds so cheaply that they were able to undersell Germany in Spain, and cut her out. That is the sort of thing which may be told as a parable against interference with the free course of trade.
With regard to dumping, I am bold enough to say that I welcome dumping, I welcome the cheapest goods that we can get. I am told that this means unemployment. I know it means derangement of some industry for a moment, but it also means encouragement of trade as a whole, and unemployment is best prevented by encouraging trade as a whole, and not by fostering sporadic hothouse industries.
I will not detain your Lordships at this late hour except to make one further remark. The whole of this Bill is Protectionism through and through; Protectionism that is, no doubt, rather afraid of showing its head, but Protectionism nevertheless. On what has this country flourished Why was this country able to carry the expense of this war, to subsidise our Allies, and to come out of it better than any country except possibly America, whose position, as economists know, is quite special with regard to the matter of Free Trade and Protection owing to its enormous size and its various climates and productions? What enabled us to do it The stored-up advantages of Free Trade—stored up because, although for some years before the war we were dissipating our money in foolish industrial quarrels and mad strikes, although we were getting easy-going, pleasure-loving, and even idle, we had such wealth stored up from Free Trade that we were able to carry the war and many of our Allies on our backs.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I think noble Lords who are interested in this question have some right to complain of the way in which we are forced to discuss it so hurriedly. The First Reading was taken only at the last sitting of the House, and we are occupied at a late hour, before some of the 653 most important speeches have been delivered, in discussing this Bill. One unfortunate result of the determination of His Majesty's Government to proceed with this measure and other measures at present instead of delaying them until the autumn, is the absence of a large number of members of your Lordships' House with considerable knowledge of commercial affairs, who would probably have spoken. I regret especially the absence of a large number of noble Lords who came to London specially last week in order to insist that your Lordships should continue to sit to the middle of August, and who then seem to have left this House and gone back and deprived us of their company. I only wish we could force, as a self-denying ordinance, upon those noble Lords that they should attend these sittings upon which they were so anxious to engage. At the same time. there are some noble Lords whose utterances in the debate would have been of the greatest value. I refer specially to Lord Inchcape, who is unfortunately prevented from being here.
In the first place, I should like to refer to key industries. My own impression is that we shall find that these industries will be something like those."ruined industries"which we used to hear so much about some eighteen years ago. We found that those"ruined industries"were extremely flourishing, and most of them are flourishing to-day. With regard to these key industries, I think we shall probably find that they are nothing of the kind, or it is possible we may find they are nothing of the kind. I believe it was Adam Smith, who, in speaking on this question of key industries, said that. whatever else was done we must be very careful to maintain two key industries upon which the prosperity of the country depended, and those were the manufacture of sail cloth and black gunpowder. It is exactly what is bound to happen with the advance of science and general progress. What is important to-day is not important to-morrow, and the noble Lord on the back benches, to whose speech we all listened with peculiar interest, because he was the only member of the House who spoke in favour of the Bill, spoke of various articles, and included magnetos. I was told the other day, by a gentleman with a large connection with motors in America, that over 80 per cent. of the motors in America are now manufactured without magnetos. 654 That is another example of the way in which what is important to-day will be no longer important to-morrow.
We have had curious lists prepared at various times. Your Lordships may recall that there was a Bill with a somewhat similar title introduced into this House by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. Fortunately, your Lordships refused to give it a Second Reading, but it produced a different Schedule from that which is included in the present Bill. On the first occasion that offers, I shall venture to ask the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill to give us some explanation why some articles appear in this Schedule and why some have been left out which have appeared in other lists. If I might venture to mention one, I would ask him, on some occasion, to be good enough to tell us a good deal more upon the subject of arc lamps which appear in the present Schedule. We are apt to forget that there are key industries now in which, because we think them of sufficient importance, we manufacture the articles as a nation, either by manufacturing them ourselves or by subsidy. I think either of those methods is preferable to that in the Bill.
Then we turn to t he good old-fashioned dumping of which we used to argue in the old days. We really have very little more to say now than we had then. We want to have produced to us a single case of dumping with intent to injure British industry. Show us that and we will be prepared to take steps to meet it. Of the ordinary kind of dumping, which is so much to the benefit of the consumer in this country, I say let them clump, and the more they do so the better for the consumer here. As to the question of dumping by depreciation, it has been so learnedly and admirably dealt with by the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill that I will not venture to say anything about it. I will, however, venture to make this suggestion, that there are other things which are far worse in our commercial life to-day than dumping or key industries. I wish the Government would turn their attention to them. I think trusts are doing a great deal more harm to people in this country than any amount of dumping, and I only wish the Government would find leisure to deal with that important question.
Let me turn to questions concerned with the machinery of the Bill. As your Lordships know, a Committee is set up and by this 655 Committee the House of Commons loses the power for the initiation of taxation, and gives it to a shadowy Committee of people whose ability it is difficult for us to gauge. It is difficult for us to know whether they will be fully qualified to carry out their work. I have the fullest sympathy with the complaint made by the noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, who asked specially that representation should be given to the farming community. Your Lordships may remember the suggestion was made that this Committee should consist entirely of members of the House of Commons in order to maintain the ancient constitutional practice that taxation should be in the hands of the members of the other House. A somewhat naïve explanation was given of why they did not sec their way to accept such an invitation when a member explained that the amount of log-rolling and wire-pulling made it exceedingly inadvisable that any Member of either House of Parliament should be on such a Committee. If they would he exposed to dangers of that kind we may certainly expect that this Committee, which will he set up under the Bill, will be exposed to an equal, if not a greater, amount of the same kind of disagreeable procedure.
There is a further point in regard to the procedure of this Bill which leaves a great deal to be desired. The Bill entrusts to Departments the duty of interpreting the acts of the Government. I can well understand that, since the Sankey decision, His Majesty's Government would fight very shy of judicial decisions upon the actions of the Departments under their own auspices. The Sankey decision convicted His Majesty's Government of having acted for some time with complete illegality, and considerably to the loss of the consumers in this country. As the Bill now appears it is left to the Board of Trade to define the articles which are to be taken as falling under the general descriptions set out in the Key Industries Schedule. That is a semi-legislative and semi-judicial power which is an infringement of the round principle of the separation of the functions of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. I should very much wish to see that some amendment was possible by which the decisions were made by the Courts of Law when disputes arose in this matter.
The Bill provides that if, in ascertaining the proper rates of duty payable, any dis- 656 pute arises as to the value of the goods, the question should be referred to the arbitration of a referee, whose decisions should be final and conclusive. That, however, is one of the least important of the powers given to a referee. He has power under Clause 1 (3) to decide whether a given article is properly included or excluded from the list. Clause 11 gives power to decide whether certain goods fall within the scope of the Bill at all, and whether they are subject to duty or not; and further, disputes as to whether an article has lost its identity are also to be decided by a referee.
In regard to Clauses 10 and 11 words were inserted in Committee which show that the referee would be acting under the Arbitration Act. It is perfectly clear to anybody who studies the Bill that disputes under Clause 11 might well involve questions of law. There would be no appeal from the opinion of the King's Bench Division on a question of law submitted under a section of the Arbitration Act, which is specially provided for in this Bill. There would be no appeal from the decision of the referee, and the arbitration of the referee would not have the publicity of the ordinary Courts. I venture to think that in such circumstances it is very desirable indeed, or it would have been very desirable, that His Majesty's Government should make such arrangements as would allow under this Bill anybody who thought he had reason to complain to have a right to appeal to the Courts of Law.
There is another feature which I think is a somewhat disagreeable one. The operation of Part II is based upon an equitable consideration of facts which will be very difficult to ascertain, even if we suppose the diligence, the open-mindedness and the capacity of the Committee, and of the various agents upon whom it will have to rely for specialised information as to cost of production, selling price, wholesale price, the difference between the raw materials and the manufactured articles, and all the other factors upon which the decision in each of the many cases must depend. The applicant before the Committee for the taxation of imported goods will not be the individual directly concerned in their import. It will be a third party; it will be a rival who will be hostile to the importer. If he was not hostile to the importer he would have no reason to make the application, the object of which is to 657 make the importer pay the tax. I venture to say that this beatification or canonisation of a person who is generally known as a common informer is a somewhat ugly feature of the Bill.
By another provision in Clause 2 the Orders of the Board of Trade, acting on the advice of the Committee, have been made subject, and very properly so, to confirmation by the House of Commons. It is, however, a somewhat clumsy feature of the Bill because it adds further and serious uncertainties to the conduct of the import trade. Even after the Committee have made up their mind, the Board of Trade has to reject or approve the decision, which must then await confirmation by the House of Commons. Your Lordships will see that in any matter of ordinary trade it will be a long time before some of these importers will be able to make such arrangements as will enable them to be certain of selling their goods at a definite price. Then I think we may fairly complain that at a time when the whole of British trade is crying out for a relaxation of the burdens placed upon it during the war, and when traders are complaining, almost without exception, of the way they have been strangled by bureaucracy and the various Departments, this Bill is imposed upon them, the one result of which must be to create another horde of officials and more red-tape regulations.
Take, for instance, Clause 4, which provides for the repayment of duties levied on the importation of certain goods under such conditions as are dear to the hearts of bureaucracy. It would seem that while a very considerable addition to the Customs' staff must be provided for levying the taxes in the first instance, quite as large a machine must be maintained to organise its repayment, under the conditions laid down in the Bill. Where imported goods are sold at"not less than the cost of production"by an importer, he can obtain a refund. But he will only get that refund after he has passed on the tax, and the profit on the tax, to his customer. Therefore, having made the consumer in this country pay for the additional price because of the tax, the importer will get it paid back to him some months afterwards and will be able to pocket the whole of the advantage. He must do that because he cannot afford to risk leaving the amount of the tax out of his calculations when arranging to sell, as he might not be 658 able to get it back again. Then, the importer will have to obtain and produce a number of documents in support of his claim for repayment which are set out in subsection (3), all of which necessitate the labour of consignors, investigating agents, consular officers, agents and importers.
There are a good many of us who think that His Majesty's Government do not act with the urgency we would wish in the way of getting rid of many of the officials who were taken on during the war. One of the devices which these officials might well adopt is that of finding their way from one Department to another and lying there hidden until some chance Parliamentary Question throws the searchlight of public opinion upon them. It is, perhaps, too much to expect that a number of these officials, whose salaries we hoped might no longer be a burden on, or be paid by, the people of this country, will not find their way into the new offices or Departments which are made necessary by this Bill.
Another small point I wish to bring before the noble Viscount. It is this. Where imported goods have become taxable under this Bill and are used in the further manufacture of goods which are subsequently exported, a rebate of the import duty paid thereon may be claimed. But suppose a British manufacturer used imported steel \ hid', under the terms of the Bill, is deemed to be, dumped, and therefore becomes dutiable, and makes a machine with it, and sends the machine out again—he pays the tax upon the steel which is imported, but he does not get a rebate when the completed machine is sent out. That seems to be a distinct hardship upon the importer, and it is one which does not exist in Protectionist countries. Certainly in the United States and Japan, and in most other countries, rebates are allowed in these circumstances. If this was likely to be a heavy burden upon the trade of this country—which so many people would like it to be—I think some Amendment would be very desirable in that direction.
Naturally, we ask ourselves:"What is going to be the effect of this Bill?"The noble Marquess who leads this House—and who made something like a Second Reading speech in regard to this Bill when speaking to a Motion on a totally different question the other day—seems to think that it would be a very small matter, and 659 would be looked upon as part of the ordinary machinery of this country, and would really not make much difference to anybody. The President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Education both seemed to think the same thing. I would even add that the noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading of the Bill this afternoon, does not seem to think it will be a very important matter. On the other hand, I think we are entitled to point out that more and more industries in this country have protested specifically against this Bill. The representatives of the wool and cotton industries, the shipbuilders, the merchants and manufacturers, as well as the large and important community mentioned by Lord Bledisloe, the farmers, have all protested against this Bill. The scientists, a wholly non-political body, have issued a very weighty appeal against it, and we may regard it as included amongst the measures against which the bankers of this country lately made an attack. Certainly this Bill was then before Parliament, and I am sure it was within the minds of the bankers.
Lastly, I would say that the Labour people in this country are equally opposed to this Bill. Let me quote a few sentences from their manifesto against it. They say:—The supporters of the Bill declare that Protection will increase the possibilities of employment for those engaged in the protected industries. Experience demonstrates that where high prices are secured—I would remind your Lordships that the advocates of this Bill say that high prices represent one of the objects of the Bill—which is the main object of the Protectionist, restricted demand follows, and the possibilities of employment arc correspondingly reduced. This affects not only the industry immediately involved, but also other industries for which the protected articles are necessary. The engineering and textile industries, for instance, would be handicapped by high prices and restricted supply of materials necessary for those industries.I think we may say that seldom has a Bill, which was supposed to confer a number of advantages, been so slightly welcomed as this Bill has been by those whom it is supposed to benefit.
In addition, a number of key industries are also dissatisfied. They were referred to by the noble Marquess the other day, when he spoke of the number of people who are urgently petitioning the Board of Trade for examination into their cases, 660 but who are not at present to be found in the schedule of this Bill. I know that, generally speaking, we impenitent Free Traders are supposed to be purely theoretical people, not only without any knowledge of the actual working of trade, but also wholly divorced from any contact with it. I will venture therefore to read to your Lordships a letter which reached inn from Glasgow only the other day. My correspondent says—One result of the Bill, if passed, will be to dislocate many important British export industries which have been scientifically built up during many years upon cheap foreign imports. It is essential to the life of these industries that a free and uninterrupted flow of certain Continental materials be maintained. Hundreds of thousands of tons of light steel sheet bars have been imported annually for years which could not he procured in Scotland. These have been made into hundreds of thousands of tons of galvanised sheets annually for export, without which this trade would have been lost to Britain.After speaking of the other army of highly-paid Government officials which would be created, he went on to say—Under Clauses 2 and 3, it is proposed to place a tax of 33⅓ per cent. on any class of foreign manufactured goods if merely offered to us at lower prices than those charged in the country of origin; or if, owing to the unfavourable rate of exchange, the price happens to be lower than prices ruling in Britain for the same class of goods. That is to say, it is to be made a crime to buy cheap foreign goods in future. Yet if one looks at the daily trade reports it will be seen that British makers to-day are selling British goods for shipment abroad at 10 per cent. to 20 per cent, less than home prices. Probably not more than 1 per cent. of the materials which we buy from the Continent could be called dumped goods, but under this Bill that would be sufficient to bring the other 99 per cent. within the tax of 33⅓ per cent. and that for three years,I think we may say that, generally speaking, the practical men who are not immediately concerned with the small industries which are mentioned within the four corners of this Bill will be found to be opposed to it.
Any speech upon this subject in this House would be incomplete without some reference to the Paris Economic Conference and to its effect upon this Bill. I imagine that the attack which was made upon my noble friend, Lord Crewe, is not unlikely to be renewed. He is in no need of help from me to assist him to repel that attack, but I would remind your Lordships of the very important idea which was really at the base of the whole of the Paris Economic Conference. The idea of the Allies then was to carry into the commercial 661 and industrial sphere the antagonisms of the war; and it was not an unnatural idea on their part. Germany and Austria, whether officially or unofficially, had made it known when the war was over they meant to do their utmost to cripple British trade and the trade of the other members of the Entente. The reply, and a not unnatural reply, was a gathering in Paris of all the Allies, and I am sure noble Lords opposite will bear me out in saving, as has already been proved by the quotations which were made by Lord Emmott to-night, that what was at the back of the whole of the Economic Conference was the idea that the Allies should act together.
Now this Bill is an anti-Ally Bill just as much as it is an anti-Enemy Bill. There is absolutely nothing in this Bill which expresses the least regard for France, Belgium, or any one other of our Allis, and I am inclined, when the Committee stage is reached in this House, to put clown an Amendment to this Bill suggesting that France should be excluded entirely from the operations of the Bill, and, if that is received with any favour by His Majesty's Government, I would even consider the question of adding other of our Allies to my Amendment. It is not only that this Bill is anti-Ally, but it may also be described as being to some extent a pro-German preference Bill. Lord Emmott explained that it is the natural result under the dumping clauses of this fixed 33⅓ per cent.
Let us take any goods—furniture, tables or benches. The same amount of raw material and of labour has gone into them both in France and in Germany. Owing to the exchange, let us say that Germany is able to send them here at a price or value of £50. You put on to that your 333 per cent., and that makes the cost of the goods, whatever they may be, £66 roughly speaking. The same goods come from France, but, owing to the difference in the exchange, their value here is £100. They pay the same duty33⅓ per cent.—and are sold in this country at £133, whereas the goods from Germany will be sold at £66. If that is not pro-German preference, I hope the noble Viscount will explain what is German preference. It seems to me clear that this will be the result. I say confidently that if this Bill had been produced at the Paris Conference there is not one of our Allies who would have thought that it carried out the intentions they had in their mind at the time, and I 662 hope this Bill, whether its effect will be as great as some people expect or as small as some members of the Government seem to believe, will follow the road of so much of the other legislation of the Government; for example, that dealing with their housing and agricultural policy.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships long at this late hour, but as I intend to vote against the Bill, I should like to say why I intend to do so. I listened with great interest to the speech of Lord Colwyn, who was a member of the Committee which fixed the various items in the Schedule. I presume he is going to support it. Had the Bill been confined to the various articles in the Schedule, I question whether there would have been much opposition to it. I believe it is the intention of all your Lordships to do everything you can to be prepared for the next war. We are all agreed that it is very necessary to look ahead and be prepared with such things as scientific glasses so absolutely necessary in war. But this Bill deals with a good deal more than that. I am thoroughly in sympathy with the remark that this is a Protectionist measure. Every industry in the country may appeal through the Committee to the Board of Trade in order to be protected. The various industries to be protected are not limited to those mentioned in the Schedule. The noble Lord opposite, who is so deeply concerned with agriculture and so capable to advise in connection with that important industry, is dissatisfied because it is not included in the Bill. I question whether, if you went round the various industries, you would find one which did not think it unfair that it should not be protected.
The object of the Bill is to prevent unemployment. Look at the question of material. We get it and work it, and export it in a better manufactured condition. I am sure that; unemployment will be produced owing to the high prices we shall have to pay for imported articles. There is another point which makes me even stronger against the measure. It will increase the cost of production. If there is one thing more than another which causes unemployment in this country at the present time it is the cost of production. This country is differently situated from any other country in the -world. We are the only great country that does not pro- 663 duce the food supplies it requires. We are obliged to get them by our exports; unless we produce cheaply, we shall never get our exports back, and if we do not, I fail to see where we shall get the money to pay for the food for feeding our people. This Protectionist Bill—for it is one—is a mischievous and dangerous Bill, and I am astonished to find that the other place has allowed such a Bill to pass, when one looks back upon the history of the last eighty years, since the Free Trade Bill was passed.
I feel sure that unless we get our cost of production down, we shall never be able to recover our export trade. It is of vital importance that we should do so. I quite realise that many workers in different industries are anxious to have their own industry protected. But when they begin to realise that they must also have other industries protected, and the cost of living increased with, in my judgment, less employment, they will change their view. Do your Lordships think for a moment that we can protect these industries without retaliation on the part of other countries? If we enter upon a tariff war, we shall come out very much worse than we went in. I hope your Lordships will not pass this Bill. I think it is mischievous and that it will do great injury to the country. When you consider that the whole thing will be in the hands of the Board of Trade, we all know that Government. Departments are subject to political pressure. I have had something to do with various Departments during the last four or five years. In my judgment, Government action upon our industries has caused more unemployment than any other action since the Armistice. If we put it in the hands of the Board of Trade to deal with every industry in the country, we know that, though the House of Commons may receive the Orders made, it is most difficult to have any Order cancelled once the Government gets it passed. The Government makes it a vote of confidence or of censure. No Government is likely to have any important Order of this kind repealed if it does not wish it repealed. I hope your Lordships will not pass this Bill, and I thought I ought to say two or three words in explanation of my intention to vote against it.
§ LORD CAWLEY
My Lords, I should not have intervened in this debate had it not been for the speech of my noble 664 friend behind me, Lord Colwyn, who has very great knowledge of the Manchester cotton trade, and was a member of Lord Balfour's Committee. I notice that he did not touch upon the cotton trade at all, though he knows more of it, perhaps, than any other member of your Lordships' House. I think he was very wise in that action. If Protection did harm to one trade more than another, it would be the great cotton trade, and it must be remembered that of all kinds of cottons made, 80 per cent. is exported, and if we cannot produce cotton more cheaply than other people, our great export trade will suffer.
No doubt this Bill is meant to protect steel and other things used in building cotton mills, Up to now, cotton mills could be built more cheaply in England than in any part of the world, with the result that we could produce cotton goods more cheaply than any other country. We have no special advantage in the production of cotton goods. They come from thousands of miles away. We manipulate them, weave them, dye and print them. We make the goods up, and ship abroad 80 per cent. of the cotton we get from America and Egypt. Anything which interferes with that enormous trade will -certainly be a great loss to this country, and protection of the steel trade will make the building of cotton mills very much more expensive.
My noble friend sought to frighten the House with the prosperity of Germany. He said the chemical industry of Germany had increased enormously, but he did not give any figures, I noticed. Our chemical industry during the war also increased enormously, and I question whether it has not increased in very much greater percentage than the German industry. I do not think that is very much reason for protection. He also remarked that other industries than those in the Schedule were not included. But those responsible for bringing in this measure really mean these other industries to be included. I think, perhaps, noble Lords may have seen what Professor Hewins said, to the effect that a good deal more could be made of the Bill than many people thought; in other words, it would do a great deal more towards bringing about Tariff Reform than the general public thought. Mr. Hewins is Chairman of the Tariff Reform League, and therefore an authority upon what this Bill is wanted to do.
665 So far as that is concerned, I think it would be the duty of the directors concerned in most industries to go to the Government and see whether they could not get their industry protected. What will happen? The directors go before a meeting of shareholders and announce that they can only pay.5 per cent., or no dividend at all, owing to German competition. The shareholders immediately say:"Why do not you go to the Government and get protection "? It would be almost the duty of the directors of a company to go to the Board of Trade, because they are in a fiduciary position and their duty is to do the best they call for their shareholders. That sort of thing will Therefore go on all the time. In fact, the Leader of the House said the Board of Trade had been inundated with applications, and I am sure that any directors who did not take that course would be very much blamed by their shareholders.
I want to say only another word about dumping. Anybody connected with business knows it is an extremely common thing in business. When I was in business in Manchester many years ago we were skilled at consigning but, we never called it dumping. If we manufactured more goods of a particular kind than we could sell in this country we very often sent them to India, China and South America, where they were sold by auction at the best price we could get for them. This dumping has always been going on, and why should we object to goods being dumped here any more than we objected to dumping them in other countries? It is only a part of business. Everybody has to dump sooner or later. Certain goods become out of fashion, and people make more goods than they can sell. If they cannot get a market in this country they send them abroad for what they will fetch. That is called dumping. We always used to call it consigning. If you call it consigning, it is right; if it is called dumping, then it is wrong. But, as far as dumping is concerned, in nine cases out of ten when goods are dumped in this country they lead to large business being done in some other way that quite compensates for any loss that, may be sustained. I shall vote against this measure, because I think it is very detrimental to the interests of the country.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I understand that His Majesty's Govern- 666 ment are willing that the debate should be adjourned until to-morrow. I therefore beg to move the adjournment of the debate, and I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, will take it as the first Order tomorrow.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, debate adjourned until to-morrow.