§ Debate on the Amendment of LORD EMMOTT to the Motion for the Second Reading— namely, "That the Bill be read a second time this day six months "—resumed(according to order).
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am well aware of the difficult conditions under which the House is working this week and the heavy task which lies before it to-day in the Railways Bill. Therefore, I propose to say what I have to say as briefly as possible, but before I make a few observations about the Bill itself, which I cannot well omit, there are two preliminary matters to which I am obliged to refer because they have been the subject of observations by the noble Marquess who leads the House, and by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack.
The first is concerned with the conditions under which we are considering the Safeguarding of Industries Bill which has received the certificate of Mr. Speaker as being a Money Bill. It seems to have been assumed by those who have spoken for His Majesty's Government that this fact makes it certainly unnecessary, and possibly improper, for us to enter into any detailed discussion of the provisions of the Bill. That is really an elementary misunderstanding of the purpose of the Parliament Act. The circumstance in which that Act was passed is well known to your Lordships. It was due to the summary rejection by this House of the financial provisions for the year 1909-10. It was therefore desired not to destroy those ancient privileges of this House, which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has set himself to guard, but to declare what has been the 673 understood rule for the best part of three hundred. years— namely that in matters of finance the House of Commons must have the last word.
But it was carefully safeguarded by the Act that every possible opportunity should be given for discussion, and, if possible, for Amendment, even in the case of financial Bills. That, of course, was the purpose of saying that a financial Bill must come up to this House a month before the end of the session if any alteration was to be made in it. How can it be necessarily said that your Lordships, with the agreement of the House of Commons, may not desire to make some Amendments in this Bill? After all, Government Bills are amended. Take, for instance, the Railways Bill, which comes up to this House after having been examined by two Standing Committees in another place and having gone through a long Report stage there. We shall shortly enter on the Committee stage here, and I observe that the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has put down no less than 69 separate Amendments.
THE MARQUESS OP CREWE
Never mind; I do not care whether they are drafting or not. The point is that it may be necessary to amend even Goverment Bills. It is quite conceivable that the noble Viscount may see some drafting Amendments which may usefully be applied to the Safeguarding of Industries Bill. If he does, I have no doubt the Bill would go back and the Amendments would be agreed to, and the Bill passed in the ordinary way.
The other preliminary matter on which I am, unfortunately, bound to say a word is that of the much-discussed and somewhat tedious subject of the Paris Resolutions of 1916. I should not have thought it necessary to discuss them at any length in relation to this Bill had it not been that the noble and learned -Viscount on the Woolsack mentioned my partial responsibility for the Resolutions, and went on to imply that I was thereby debarred from criticising the subject matter of this Bill. I have no desire to vindicate my personal consistency or that of Mr. Asquith or Mr. Runciman; who were also responsible for the Resolutions. That is a trivial personal matter. If we have all our lives been Tariff Reformers without knowing it, it does not much matter 674 and is not worth while wasting the time of your Lordships' House over.
But there are some points in connection with those Paris Resolutions in relation to the particular Bill we are now considering which make it necessary to say something about them. I need not repeat at length what I have said more than once in this House before, that the circumstances of 1916, when that Conference was held, make those Resolutions, passed in entirely different circumstances, to be a not particularly useful guide in all respects to the action either of ourselves or any of the Allied countries. At that time, in 1916, the war was greatly in the balance. Our part in it had been confined to the two battles of Ypres, the lamentable failure of the attack on Gallipoli arid a general holding of the Western line. The French had carried through that:most glorious defence of Verdun in two separate series of engagements, but no advance had been made. The situation on the Eastern Front was unfavourable, and the grand offensive was impending which took the form of the battle of the Somme.
Nobody could speak then of the probable scope of our victory in the terms in which it could have been spoken of three years later. It is quite arguable that it may have been a mistake to hold an Economic Conference then at all, and there is no doubt that if the Conference had been held in June, 1919, instead of in June, 1916, the conclusions arrived at would have been very different. I do not myself, however, regret that the Conference was held, because between the countries who were represented, France, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and ourselves, the holding of it did constitute a form of solidarity which had a very useful moral effect in the military sense as well. I may remind your Lordships that the United States had shown no sign whatever of coming into the war; that the German fleet was intact— the battle of Jutland had been fought, without bringing about anything like the destruction of the German fleet, although it sealed it in its harbours— and there was no reason to suppose that the German mercantile marine would not be active at the conclusion of hostilities. And most of all, no word was said, naturally, because the circumstances did not permit it, of an indemnity to be claimed from Germany amounting to thousands of millions sterling.
The circumstances, in fact, were altogether different. That, however, is 675 not the particular point I want to make at this moment. The point I want to make is that the purpose of the Resolutions— I think I may claim to know more about it than others here as I was present in Paris — all through was the declaration of an economic concert between those who were then fighting together as Allies. Various methods, as the terms of the Resolutions show, could he employed by the different countries, but it was a declaration of a single joint purpose to be carried through together. I do not want to quote at length, but I will give your Lordships one or two sentences in order to show what I mean.
The Allies declared that the Powers of Central Europe were preparing"for a contest on the economic plane, which will not only survive the re-establishment of peace, but will at that moment obtain its full scope and intensity." In order to meet that it had become the duty of the Allies—to adopt and realise from now onward all the measures requisite on the one hand to secure for themselves and for the whole of the markets of neutral countries full economic independence and respect for sound commercial practice, and on the other hand to facilitate the organisation on a permanent basis of their economic alliance.We do not see much of that in this Bill. Then, as regards the transitory measures for the period of reconstruction, which, I suppose, is the period in which we are living— because I should be very sorry to think that the conditions which prevail now are anything but transitory— the Allies decided—to fix by agreement a period of time during which the commerce of the enemy powers should be submitted to special treatment and that goods originating in their countries shall be subject either to prohibitions or to a special regime of an effective character.When you come to the permanent measures of mutual assistance and collaboration, the Allies decided—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.Then comes a paragraph which the noble Viscount on the Woolsack quoted, in which it is stated that they may, according to their own economic views,have recourse either to enterprises subsidised, directed or controlled by the Governments themselves, or to the grant of financial assistance for the encouragement of scientific and technical research, and the development of national Indus 676 tries and resources; to customs duties or prohibitions of a temporary or permanent character.That is to say, it runs through the whole gamut of the possible safeguarding of industry. It goes on to say—Whatever may be the methods adopted, the object aimed at by the Allies is to increase production within their territories as a whole to a sufficient extent to enable them to maintain and develop their economic position and independence in relation to enemy countries:I may remind your Lordships of a point of which I think some of you must be aware, that at that time these Resolutions were looked upon with a great deal of suspicion by some people whose idea of the British Empire is that it should be like a porcupine, bristling with quills directed against all other countries, Allies and neutrals just as much as enemy countries, that it should be self-contained for all purposes, and that these provisions for working in concert with particular Powers, some of them rivals of our own in trade and commerce, constituted an infraction of the proper principles of Imperialism.
That was undoubtedly so, but those who took alarm in that way really need not be in any way disturbed by the Bill for which His Majesty's Government are now responsible, because there is not a word in it which carries out the principles or the aims of the Paris Resolutions. I say quite distinctly that I regard this measure as a definite repeal of those Resolutions, and a denial of the aims and objects which they expressed. I think His Majesty's Government have quite a fair answer to that statement in saying what I have just said myself, that the circumstances have so changed that the Resolutions can hardly now be made operative on the lines in which they were drawn. But I really should advise His Majesty's Government not to say too much about these Resolutions, not to drag them in for argumentative purposes, whether against myself, or Mr. Runciman or anybody else; because I think the best thing that can happen to His Majesty's Government is that the Paris Resolutions should disappear into the region of forgetfulness, and that our Allies should not point at this Bill, as they very well may, and say:"You see what the then Coalition Government proposed to do. How are you proposing to carry- out the intentions which were expressed? "— not only by my humble self, but also by Mr. Bonar Law and by Mr. Hughes; the Australian Prime Minister.
677 I pass for a few moments to one or two points within the Bill itself. I will deal first of all with Part I, the safeguarding of key industries. It was announced in the manifesto of 1918 that key industries were to be safeguarded. That manifesto described the vital goods on which the life of the nation might depend, and announced the intention of preserving and sustaining these key industries in the way best adapted to the purpose. That way is presumed to be indicated in Part I of this Bill. Alter the best reflection I have been able to give to this question of key industries, I think that we can only look at it from the point of view of Imperial defence, and that if you attempt to go outside the safeguarding of materials directly required at the outbreak of a war you will find yourself wandering away into that protection of staple industries which, as we have been so often and quite truly reminded, is another thing altogether.
You will find that such an industry as that of agriculture, upon which the noble Lord behind me made so interesting a speech yesterday, will not be able to understand why, being by common consent a vital industry in time of war, it should not receive similar protection in time of peace. You will find— as you do find, because those interested in it keep on writing both to the newspapers and to individuals like myself— that the iron and steel people are quite unable to understand why, if you are going to safeguard industries, you are going to leave out an industry which is obviously one of those most necessary to preserve and promote in war time. I think, therefore, that you have to confine yourself to what is required for conditions of military, naval and air defence, just in the same way as you do not make any form of weapon the subject of free trade, in the sense of depending upon foreign countries for it, however friendly they may be, but you see that, somehow or other, is made at home.
I take only one or two of these materials in the Schedule, and I take first of all optical glass, which is a topic with which I have to some extent had to concern myself. Something has already been said about optical glass, and it no doubt presents a subject of no small difficulty. It is one of those materials which modern warfare has shown to be necessary, from the very first outbreak of a war, in considerable quantities, but those quantities are only relatively considerable. A noble 678 Lord spoke yesterday about the weight of optical glass used in this country. I am told that the whole of the optical glass used in the world in a year does not amount to twenty tons, and you have to add to that that every country is now convinced that it must, if possible, produce its own. Your Lordships will see that by putting a duty of 33 per cent. on imported optical glass you cannot build up the industry here. There is no open market considerable enough to make it worth while for any firm to devote itself to the making of optical glass. It can only do it by also making a large quantity of ordinary glass, which is an article unprotected, as I understand, by this Bill, and you will not get any guarantee that it will be made.
As we all know, there was one firm, that of Messrs. Chance, who, to their very great credit, persisted before the war, and were the only firm which made first-rate optical glass. First-rate optical glass is exceedingly difficult to make, and in order to produce all the instruments of which it forms part you have to make from seventy to a hundred different varieties of it within that small output of which I have spoken, namely, 20 tons all over the world. It requires a special quality of sand, of which there is only a very small quantity in England, and which you find at one place. There is a good deal in France and Germany. The conclusion I reach about this particular subject is that you do no good by including it in this Schedule. I hate subsidies and the whole principle and system of subsidising industry, but I think that this one business of optical glass forms an exception, and that it ought to become.a matter of national concern, precisely it the same way that the big steel firms do not make armour plates and big guns for amusement, but because they know that they will get orders from the Government and possibly from foreign Powers. They are, in the strict sense, subsidised, because they are given regular orders, and I feel pretty well convinced, as I am assured by those most entitled to speak on the subject, that the only way you can establish an optical glass industry permanently in this country is by direct support.
I do not dwell at this moment upon the subject of chemical glass, which is altogether different and bears, in fact, no relation to optical glass for the purposes of the argu 679 ment or of this Schedule. I do not say.anything about it now, because I shall place an Amendment on the Paper regarding this glass and other matters used for scientific purposes, upon which I shall be able to speak at greater length. Equally, with regard to fine chemicals, they have to be regarded very much from the point of their educational and research use, and will therefore fall under the same heading.
The only other subject in the Schedule about which I wish to say a word is that of gas mantles. Thorium compounds are protected by the Schedule. The subject of gas mantles is an interesting one because it is, if not the one industry, at any rate the most prominent of the industries, which there was a deliberate attempt by Germany to destroy in this country. The way it was done was by getting control of the sources of supply. The principal source of supply is in a country which the noble Earl opposite knows very well— namely, Travancore. There the Germans had, through a German company, obtained complete control of the supply, with the intention of sending the whole of the product to Germany and flooding this country with gas mantles until British industry was destroyed. We were able, I am glad to say, to check that by getting hold of the supply, and I think it will be found, in most of these cases where dangerous dumping is alleged, that those who desire to destroy an industry have got hold of the sources of supply of the raw material.
On dumping generally I want to say very little. More than one noble Lord, I think, has stated what we understand to be the true definition of the word— namely, that it is the selling in this country of commodities at a price lower, in some cases far lower, than that either of the cost of production or the cost of sale in the country of production, with a view to the destruction of some particular industry here. It is curious to note that although no protection is granted to key industries, and I am very glad it is not, if their rival imports come from any part of the Empire, yet the whole of the Empire, as I understand, may be found guilty of dumping, and it may suffer the penalties attached to that offence.
It is quite clear— as I believe has been admitted— that a large number of applications are likely to be received by the Board of Trade, either under the key 680 industry head or under the dumping head, for inclusion in the privileges granted by this Bill. I have heard of several. I have been told that there is a strong demand that potassium compounds of -all kinds— mentioned by the noble Lord behind me yesterday, at any rate in one connection — should receive protection. I received a letter the other day from a gentleman who complained bitterly that Swedish boards for the making of boxes were admitted into this country, and thereby deprived a considerable number of the workers of their proper employment. From the other point of view— the point of view, not of keeping out, but of admitting— you will find plenty of applications. The noble Lord behind me mentioned agricultural implements. There is a very strong move indeed, which I think must have come to the notice of noble Lords, with regard to semi-raw steel of every kind. The light steel bars of which steel sheets are made form the groundwork, as the noble Viscount very well knows, of an important industry both in Scotland and here.
Of course, it may be that these people will all get their way. It is no doubt true that in the course of the progress of the Bill through another place these dumping penalties were fenced about with a number of qualifications which may bring it about that they are seldom exacted, and which must, in the opinion of those who take the Tariff Reform view of dumping, tend to make the provisions of the Bill almost, if not quite, nugatory. In the first place, as we have been already told, His Majesty's Government do not propose to act where Treaties are already in existence; that is to say, they do not propose to denounce those commercial Treaties. In the second place, if manufacturers can prove, as the steel bar people may be able to prove, that more unemployment would be caused by keeping out the semi-manufactured material than would be caused by admitting it, I understand that the dumping penalty would not be applied. And it is also demanded that the industries likely to be affected should be carried out with efficiency and economy. I do not hesitate to say that, so far as- these dumping provisions are concerned, from the purely labour point of view, they are so much safeguarded as to make them undoubtedly to a great extent inoperative.
I do not want to dwell upon the currency question and its application to dumping, 681 because that was covered with great skill by the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill, and was also dealt with at length by Lord Sheffield. I was greatly impressed by one observation which Lord Sheffield made on this matter, and which I believe to be profoundly true— namely, that it is not the low rate of exchange value in any particular country that constitutes the real difficulty and danger, but it is the perpetual fluctuation. That I believe to be absolutely true, because the noble Lord pointed out— what we all know to have been the case in the past— that there were countries where the native coin was of an absurdly low denomination in point of value— take, for instance, the South American dollar and the currency of some of the South American Republics— and yet trade had been carried on with those countries with perfect facility and without friction for a number of years. One cannot help feeling also that, if the fall in currency values is going to be taken into account, it must tend to aggravate the dangers which it is designed to meet. If you penalise the German mark in this way you will tend to keep the German mark low. It seems to me that we are bound to be in for something of a bad time in this matter of exchange, and that the only thing to do is to try to shorten it as far as we can by encouraging freedom of transporting goods, if possible, between all the different countries of the world.
My noble friend opposite has moved the rejection of this Bill, and he has done so because he regards this as being definitely a Tariff Reform measure, not because it in any way carries out to the full the hopes and wishes of the Tariff Reformers who have been active since 1903, but as a marked step in that direction. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack on August 2, speaking of this Bill, used these words—Those of us who for many years have believed in such an adjustment as is contemplated by the terms of this Bill, …I like the word '' adjustment," although I am not quite certain what it means in this particular connection. The Bill is no doubt not an extreme measure of Tariff Reform. It bears the result of a struggle between the conflicting views held by different members of the Government. It represents something of a"Pull devil pull baker"method, and I am inclined 682 to think that the baker has not been altogether unsuccessful at his end of the rope.
But the real objection, I venture to think, is that it is bound to have a thoroughly unsettling effect upon trade generally and even a more unsettling effect upon industry. For that reason I shall most cheerfully follow the noble Lord opposite into the lobby against the Bill. It is only fair, I think, for the House to remember that the protest against this Bill has not come from Free Trade organisations. They do not represent what noble Lords and others are fond of calling shibboleths to the extent that the word has become a shibboleth itself. They represent the fears of organised industries against what is going to happen under the Bill. I feel, therefore, that it is the duty of those who share those alarms to record a protest— it is not possible to do more, and I do not complain of that— against both the terms of the Bill and the spirit in which it has been brought in.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, as I have been asked somewhat specific questions on this Bill I think it would be only courteous to noble Lords if I made a reply on some of the points which have been submitted. The debate has been a very interesting one, and I cannot say that the bulk of the speakers have been strongly in favour of the Government measure. I should like to make two observations. First of all, I think that a great deal of the criticism offered by noble Lords— I say it with very great respect— has been of a somewhat contradictory nature. A good deal of it has been directed not so much against the provisions of this particular Bill as against an imaginary measure of general tariff reform and against the fears they entertain that this measure itself may be in some way a precursor and a harbinger of worse things to come.
Let me give an example of what I mean when I describe as somewhat contradictory the criticism that has been dealt out to us to-day and yesterday. We have heard a great deal from many speakers about the injury that this Bill was going to do to various manufacturing businesses. On the other hand, we had a speech from Lord Colwyn, a very experienced man of business, who told us that in every company meeting, from every director, front every board and every set of shareholders, there is going to 683 be a great demand to come under the provisions of this Bill. Are we to assume that these shareholders and directors know nothing of their own interests? Cannot we assume that if they want to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill it is probable that they have some inkling of where their interests lie, and therefore that this statement that this measure is going to be so dangerous to British industry must be a good deal qualified in the minds of some of your Lordships? I do not see my noble friend in the House, but perhaps he will spend some portion of his recess in trying to bring some unity into that curious contradiction.
Again, there has been a great deal of criticism and attack levelled at the way in which this Bill will work, and much has been said of damage it will do to industry. After a great deal of such criticism we had a very carefully considered speech from the noble Marquess opposite who told us that in his opinion, with all the qualifications, this Bill is going to be inoperative. How an entirely inoperative Bill is going to bring upon industry those dangers that he also prognosticates he was very careful not to show us, because I am sure that even he, with all his debating ability, would have been wholly unequal to the task.
I must say something about key industries, although I can dismiss that matter fairly rapidly because I do not think the bulk of the attack has been directed to the safeguarding of key industries. It is true that there have been, if I may so call them, extremists like my noble and learned friend, Lord Phillimore, who says,"Why do you want to protect these war industries at all? You are never going to have a war again; therefore, why trouble about war industries? '' I think I can leave the observations of the noble and learned Lord to the consideration of the House. But for the most part I think we only differ upon the question of the method in which they should be safeguarded, and some noble Lords, with an enthusiasm for subsidies that I have not noticed on other occasions, when we proposed that there should be a tariff developed an intense love for paying out of the Treasury in support of those industries sums which they know perfectly well could not be paid at the present time; and if that proposal could be brought before your Lordships they themselves would denounce it with even greater vigour than they have attacked this tariff proposal.
684 The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, also said something as to the uselessness of trying to protect the glass industry by this particular duty of one-third. Of course, it may be so, and if this is an ineffective method no doubt some other method of dealing with it will be found. But I can hardly congratulate the noble Marquess, if I may say so, on the method he chose for dealing with the glass industry, because he wished, I think, that the industry should be supported by means of the Government purchasing glass in the same way as it purchases ships from great firms.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Yes, I am dealing with optical glass, but I understand that at present the Government is not buying optical glass, and probably does not want to buy optical glass for some time. I do not know whether he wishes the Government to do that which was done under the old silver scheme in the United States, and to buy a great deal of glass and store it. I an told if that was done it would be very dangerous or rather very useless, because so rapid is the development in the processes, and so on, in the making of optical glass that if it was stored for five years it would be practically useless; and not only would the glass be useless, but there would be a form of subsidy. He also told us that all these different countries were taking so much care of their own optical glass and so anxious were they to produce it themselves that there would be no market. for ours. That, I should have thought, was a very good reason for safeguarding ours, but I let that pass for the moment, because, as a matter of fact, I understand we have rather a good market in the United States. A good deal of optical glass is being sent at the present time from this country to the United States.
I want to revert for one moment to some arguments which were used by my noble friend, Lord Emmott, last night, because he dealt with the matter at some length and made, of course, the chief speech. in favour of the rejection of the Bill. My noble friend attacked the Government very strongly for not proceeding on what he calls '' scientific or industrial data." 685 He described himself as a sort of early Victorian. He had a passion for what went on in the last century, and he described the way in which, differing from the statesmen of to-day, this matter would have been dealt with by Huskisson, and by Peel, and by Gladstone and Disraeli. I think Huskisson would be rather pleased to find himself in such high company as these others. But I would point out, if I may, to my noble friend, that it is very disappointing to a speaker, when he has introduced a Bill, to find that noble Lords have apparently paid no attention whatever to the statements he has made.
I pointed out that so far from it being true that this matter had not been considered by experts, that was precisely what has been done. There is, first of all, the whole weight of the Committee of the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh which went most carefully and scientifically and deliberately into this question of the dealing with dumping in order to safeguard these industries. It is very unfair, I think, to ignore so completely as my noble friend has done the careful and elaborate Report of that Committee.
§ LORD EMMOTT
Of course, I cannot carry on a debate with my noble friend, but I have no chance of speaking again. He is particularly appealing to me, and may I ask him to apply himself to the definite paragraph in the Report on page 52, which recommends a process entirely different from that decided upon by the Government.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
If the noble Lord had been content to wait, I was going on to deal with that. I am certainly not going to criticise him without dealing fairly with the matter. So much was he annoyed that, I think, he even criticised me for introducing this Bill, on the ground, I believe, that I ought to hold exactly the same opinions as one of my ancestors. That seems to me a most extraordinary argument to use by so active and forward and independent a person as my noble friend. I trust that if he were to apply the same sort of argument to himself he would be a little more tolerant to his descendants, and would not cut them off with a shilling because they ventured to differ from the opinion of their distinguished ancestor.
But I was not going to forget what was said in the Report. I know quite well that what my noble friend is really attack 686 ing is this— that one general duty is put on and not a carefully graduated duty, or a different duty, as is suggested in the Report referred to. What my noble friend really wants is a full-blooded tariff, because it is only under a full-blooded tariff that it is possible to have these nicely calculated and carefully graduated duties. The proposal of the Government is a much more homely and simple one. They have found so many difficulties in the way of graduating the duty that they have decided that it is better on the whole, at any rate for this short period, to have this simple tariff.
The matter goes much further than that however. All these complaints to which my noble friend refers are going to be examined by an expert Committee. That Committee has to thresh the matter out thoroughly, and, as the noble Lord knows, go into the whole question. That Committee will be composed of competent business men. Through the whole of this discussion-there seems to be an assumption that these competent business men are absolutely blind to all these obvious considerations— considerations which have been put before the Government both in this House and in another place. Again, my noble friend, in his zeal in favour of dumping, declares that no single case of dumping has been established.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not know what is the distinction. I will give him a case of economic dumping if he wishes, and this is from an absolutely unexceptionable Committee, which was appointed, I believe, by Mr. Runciman, and was presided over by Sir Alfred Booth, a shipowner, whose economic views are very well known to the noble Lord. What did the Committee report? They said—From statistics and evidence given to us, we are convinced that rough machined forgings and finished crank shafts were systematically dumped into this country. We feel certain that this was governed by political considerations, the object being to cripple our forges with a view to reducing the potential output of guns and other war material•• It should be noted also that the German steel works were constructed after observation of British practice, that they were of very large size and intended for an output far in excess of Continental requirements. Dumping was then deliberately arranged for, and was effected by means of their special selling agencies and the Kartel system.I may go on to show how careful this Committee was to distinguish between 687 this class of dumping and the mere selling of the surplus production, because they say, as regards steel plates:-Dumping by Germany was alleged to have taken place here, but it does not appear to have gone much beyond the occasional disposal of surplus products at low prices.There we have a definite case reported by this Committee, and I think, in that way I certainly can meet the challenge of my noble friend as to there having been no case of economic dumping established.
Another point he asked me about was as to the effect of German reparations. He knows, as he stated quite correctly, that the amount of the payment under German reparations on goods coining to this country has been reduced from 50 per cent. to 26 per cent. This has no effect whatever as a tariff, because for some months now the Germans have paid that amount over to their exporters. The matter has been amicably arranged, and the German exporter gets the whole of his property. This amount is only paid in one way, and therefore it does not affect the question of the export.
My noble friend made a series of prophecies about Germany. I only quote these because I think they affect the argument he addressed to your Lordships. The first case he took was this. Germany, he said, would probably, unless it set its house in order financially, go almost bankrupt, and if that took place there would probably be very little exporting of any kind from that country. On the other hand, if Germany was to stabilise its exchange, then all the bounty on export through collapsed exchanges would disappear, and there would be no need for this Bill. He was perfectly correct, because, of course, as soon as that happened the particular danger and mischief to which this part of the Bill is directed would disappear, and the collapsed exchanges portion of the Bill would, as regards Germany, be of no effect.
My noble friend also gave us an interesting and elaborate series of figures from which it appeared that the exports from the 'United States were enormously greater — I think he was quoting 1920 figures— than they were from Germany and some other countries, and he drew the inference that where the exchange of a country had depreciated, compared with the country to which it was sending goods, the fact seemed to have very little effect indeed 688 upon their export. I am sure my noble friend was going rather far in making a deduction of that kind. I should like to say that the particular figures he used in connection with Germany were not of very much value because, for various reasons, and to some extent in connection with the Reparations Bill, there was very little export indeed for some months from Germany, but it is certainly unwise to argue from that that there will not be exports in future. When Germany is a little restored there will be a gigantic increase in her exports. In connection with this we have also to consider the way in which they are working in Germany, and the extent to which, as Lord Sheffield testified, the people there are ready to work at very low wages.
A few points were put to me by my noble friend, Lord Bledisloe, who came forward, as he constantly does, as the champion of the agricultural interests. The first point was this. So important an industry is agriculture that they should have representation on these panel committees. I made an inquiry on the subject, and I understand that this question is being very carefully considered. He put to me further questions. One was, I think, about tractors. I understand that farm tractors mainly come from America, so that the collapsed exchanges portion of the Bill would not apply to them. But I think lie laid most stress on the question of fertilisers.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
That was rather an interesting and particular case. My friend suggested that the more tractors you got into the country the more unemployment, because they did away with the necessity for a certain amount of agricultural labour, but I do not think that really bears very closely on this particular Bill. Lord Bledisloe is most interested in the question of fertilisers, and the question whether their price would be likely to be raised to the farmers as the result of this Bill. He questioned me about potash, and I am able to say to him that potash, at least in the form in which it is used in agriculture, will not come under Part I. Potash in certain compounds, of course, when it comes under the denomination of certain 689 fine chemicals, would. That, however, would have no bearing on the point the noble Lord put to me connection with agriculture.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
In connection with Part II the question is rather more difficult, because I understand there is some question as to whether"blending"is the same thing as"manufaeturing." Therefore, I would rather like to consider that point more carefully before giving a definite answer.
Another point he raised was about basic slag. I think the noble Lord will appreciate the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to prove that the under-cutting of basic slag, produced in this country by imports of basic slag, was doing any damage to the industry, because basic slag, as one knows, is a by-product of a particular industry, and therefore the process of proving displacement of labour would be indirect and very difficult. I do not think he need have very great anxiety upon that point. Moreover, I have the figures dealing with basic slag and I find that the imports before the war, in 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913, were very small, ranging from 16,000 tons up to 51,000 tons, whereas the exports from this country ranged between 231,000 tons and 157,000 tons in those four years. So that, the exports being so large, it does not look as if there was very much. danger at present of any displacemsnt of employment from the cause suggested. Then I think the noble Lord referred to super-phosphate.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Very much the same principle applies. There is a great excess of production over consumption in this country, I understand, and therefore there are large exports. I think I have really removed the fears of my noble friend on the particular points I have mentioned and, released from this danger, I hope he may follow his natural tendencies and support the. Government on this Bill.
Two or three points were put to me by the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp. He 690 asked me why are-light carbons were included in the Bill. They are included, I understand, because they produce an enormously stronger illumination for searchlights than anything else, and it is essential, therefore, they should be safeguarded. Moreover, in connection with lamp black, as a by-product of the industry, it is very useful to have it produced in the country itself. Then he asked me whether drawbacks would be given on goods exported from this country, and made from materials which had paid this duty on import into this country. I understand that that drawback will not be given. It would be possible, and even easy, to do it if there was a regular tariff, but it is more difficult to do it with a limited Bill of this kind, and probably not very necessary, because the price of the export would not be determined by the import of that particular material, as the material so dumped would be used by a certain limited number of makers only.
I think the noble Lord has a further safeguard in that the Committees who examine into the matter have, as he knows, the duty of seeing what the effect may be on other consuming industries. Obviously, if damaged by losing their export trade, they would suffer, and that matter would have to be considered by these Committees of business men. I should say as regards the practice of other countries with reference to repayment of this dumping duty Canada does, and America does not, give some rebate on export. I think the noble Lord also raised a general question about the large increase of staff required to deal with this matter. I am informed there will be no, or hardly any, addition to the staff which would be necessary to deal with it.
Let me deal now with one or two general points connected with the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, and others. I think a great many of the difficulties which have been raised by noble Lords will really be matters of consideration for the business men who sit on the Committee to decide whether or not they shall report to the Board of Trade that a duty shall be put on. All these dangers, many of which they have had in their minds and which they have expressed, will be considered and dealt with by those business men. I ought to mention one point with regard to depreciated exchange because the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield was tinder some mis 691 apprehension. He was dealing with the fact that the German manufacturer might have an advantage in this country; that is to say, he might be able to sell his goods at a certain price and not suffer, because the cost of production and the wages of labour in that country had lagged a little behind prices, and he was anxious to show that in many cases the wages of labour and the cost of production had not lagged behind prices.
I did not say that. I said wages were low, but the price of articles did not result from the exchange.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Therefore, there was no Advantage for the German exporter. That was the point. I want to point out that what I relied on as establishing a bounty was mainly the question of the difference between the internal and external valuation of the mark. That would not be affected, and that is what would do the damage, and would have to be dealt with by the collapsed exchange duty. Again, some apprehension was shown that there might be a collapsed exchange duty put on against France, and that was described as being an awkward pin-prick. I understand there is not much likelihood of that duty being put on because, owing to the conditions of the French exchange. and also in the case of the Belgian exchange, it is exceedingly doubtful whether there is really any bounty which could he dealt with under the exchange provisions of the Bill.
There are two remaining points with which I must deal before I sit down. They were raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. I have not hitherto said, as your Lordships know, very much about the Paris Resolutions because I was not particularly interested in them. It was not my business to establish or to deny the consistency of Lord Crewe and his colleagues in what they did at Paris and in what they are doing now. I thought that was a matter rather for their own consciences to establish than for me to defend. But there is one point I should like to make with regard to the extraordinary statement which I understand the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, to make, that Mr. Runciman was contemplating defeat when he was drawing up these particular Resolutions.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
No. I am afraid I must correct that at once. What I 692 said was that no one contemplated the scope of the victory which was actually achieved.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Oh yes. There were three sets of Resolutions. One dealt with the war period, another with what is called the reconstruction period, and the third set, intended to be permanent, with the relations between the different Allies.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I have one observation to make on that. Undoubtedly the Resolutions, or some of them, were aimed against dumping. The defence of the noble Marquess and others is that they were made in concert with other Powers, and were only to be acted upon in concert with other Powers. I cannot understand that argument. Some noble Lords, and especially Lord Beauchamp, have defended dumping and have said that the more dumped goods come in the better. In their opinion dumping is a great advantage to this country. If it is an advantage to this country then it is a criminal act on the part of the Government to try to stop it, and if the Government is trying to stop it in concert with other Powers it makes the matter all the worse. The Government, however, is not so criminal as that, because it is trying to deal with dumping by itself.
The noble Marquess, I think, was trying to maintain that there was an opportunity on this Bill of moving Amendments, and otherwise dealing with it quite freely. No doubt your Lordships have an opportunity of dealing with Amendments on this Bill, but, unfortunately, you have lost the power of enforcing them. I am surprised to find the noble Marquess drawing a comparison between this measure and the Railways Bill. It is worth while moving Amendments on the Railways Bill because you have the power of enforcing them. But under this Bill it is purely an academic exercise; you have no power to enforce them. It will no doubt be interesting to hear the Amendments moved, whether they are carried or not, but I am afraid that the power of insisting upon them being taken by the other House has departed.
This unfortunate change, as we know, was made by the Parliament Act. I confess 693 I was rather interested to realise that the three most prominent attackers of this Bill, or at least two of them, took a most prominent part in persuading your Lordships to pass the Parliament Act. I wonder whether in some of their calmer moments a feeling of remorse or sense of repentance comes to these noble Lords when they find that on a matter most vital to them they are deprived of all means of making any resistance. If that is so, they have the consolation of knowing that their wounds, deep and painful as they may be, are wholly self-inflicted.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not rise to detain you with any reply to the speech of the noble Viscount to which we have just listened. I desire to put a constitutional point which I think has not been raised during the whole of the debate, and on which If feel very strongly indeed. The withdrawal of this Bill in its main provisions from the purview of your Lordships' House is, in my opinion, a great violation of the agreement entered into between the two sides at the time of the Parliament Act. That point will bear in a most important manner on the next stage of the Bill. It was most clearly laid down by those who were responsible for the Parliament Act that no Certificate would be given by the Speaker of the House of Commons under the provisions of that Act unless the Bill had to do with revenue and not with policy. In any reconsideration of the position as between the two Houses grave objection will be taken to any authority in the House of Commons, however eminent, being the judge of what should or should not be submitted to this House.
I desire to point out the effect of the Certificate given by the Speaker. This is not a Revenue Bill in any sense. I will put it to the most simple test. There has not been, as far as I know, in the whole course of its consideration any estimate given of the revenue that will be produced by the measure. I doubt if any estimate has been asked; and no member on the Government bench could give me the information. And for the best of all reasons; this is not a revenue measure. It is a measure dealing with policy, and it is a question of policy which in the next stage, quite apart from the revenue to be raised, we might have legitimately canvassed from the point of view as to whether the trade of this country should be placed 694 in the hands of a public Department for a series of years at the very moment when the abolition of Government control is being clamoured for all over the country. But we are debarred on the next stage from taking any action in regard to this.
If the Roll of Peers is canvassed it will be found that it has been the policy of successive Governments to place on the. Roll of your Lordships' House names specially eminent in the trade of the country. We have probably got a far larger number of men here now than ever existed in either House of Parliament before, who have a right to speak and give advice to their fellow countrymen on this subject. The action taken over this Bill is, in my opinion, a flagrant violation of the understanding arrived at at the time of the Parliament Act. It is contrary to public policy as it withdraws a most debatable Bill from proper discussion in your Lordships' House, and, having regard to the numerous doubts which have been expressed as to whether the principle, which many of us would like to advocate, is properly carried out by the details of the Bill, which we are unable to canvass, if the noble Lord goes to a Division I shall support him in the lobby.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken has raised a wide topic of constitutional doctrine on which I must ask your leave to make a brief observation. The noble Earl says that an agreement was reached at the time of the passing of the Parliament Act that measures comparable to the present Bill should not be deemed to be comprehended within the important section which deals with Money Bills. When he speaks of a bargain having been made I must ask him the question— Between what Parties is it suggested that this bargain was made? The Party to which I belong, and to which the noble Earl belongs, were in no position to make a bargain. We were the Party that was overcome; we were overcome by Lord Beauchamp, by Lord Crewe and by others, and so far from our being in a position to ask for the slightest concession, I am unaware that we did. A deliberate policy was successfully pressed upon this House from another place that if Mr. Speaker ever certified that any Bill was a financial Bill, then the consequences should follow which we deplore to-day.
I have always resented, as deeply as I resented then, that it should be in the 695 power of Mr. Speaker, by his mere Certificate, to declare what is the character of a Bill. But it was not we who gave him that power. I have sometimes been consulted, while a measure was under discussion in this House, as to whether or not it were of a financial character. I have always declined to answer that question, for this reason, that holding my position, I do not choose to give an opinion on such a matter— being, as I am, Speaker of this House— that might be overruled elsewhere, without appeal, by the Speaker in the other House. I never will give such a ruling, so long as I occupy this position.
But that we should hear the complaint made as if we were to blame seems to me to he most unreasonable. The noble Lord, Lord Emmott, has put down a Motion for the rejection of this Bill. The pistol of the noble Lord, in a well-known expression, has entirely misfired, under the terms of that proposal to which, I think, he gave his influential support in the House of Commons.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Really, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me. He was at that time Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons, but at Election times I believe he supported that policy. Does he desire to say that he did not approve of it and support it?
§ LORD EMMOTT
The noble and learned Viscount said"in the House of Commons." I said I was Chairman of Ways and Means, and had nothing whatever to do with the passage of the Bill in the House of Commons. What was said at Election times is a different thing.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Although in the House of Commons the noble Lord occupied a position which precluded him from giving effect to his true opinion, his true opinion could be explained, and was explained and given effect to at Election times; and the consequence is that the Motion which he has made, and which I shall presently put to the House, can produce no result whatever. The noble Lords who are attempting to criticise this Bill are the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp. Let me say at once that I have heard a great part of this debate, and I have seldom heard a debate to which, in my judgment, more has been contributed of 696 knowledge and of experience. I think it is a shocking thing that all that knowledge and experience should be rendered futile. But it was rendered futile by this very Act, and it is a boomerang which to-day has come to strike Lord Crewe and Lord Beauchamp who were themselves the original authors of it.
Lord Crewe says that we have an opportunity to-day, or that we should have an opportunity, to protest against the iniquities of the Government and to make our Amendments to be considered in another place. I have only some fifteen years' experience of Parliamentary life; Lord Crewe has more experience. But my own experience has been that, if we take an objection and embody it in an Amendment of either House, the degree of attention which it is likely to receive elsewhere has a very close correspondence with the power which you possess to give effect to your decision, and my own experience of Amendments in either House is that they have produced singularly little effect when there is no power, for any reason, constitutional or otherwise, to make them effective.
We, the Government, in reply to the remonstrance made by the noble Lord, can say that we have merely done this. We introduced a Bill; that Bill, in due agreement with the course contemplated by the Parliament Act, was placed before Mr. Speaker; Mr. Speaker has issued a Certificate— that was put into his hands by the noble Marquess— to the effect that this is a Money Bill. Automatically, mechanically, certain conclusions must follow, and they have followed. The indignation of the noble Earl should not rest upon the Government or upon any Government which has inherited the Parliament Act, but upon those who conceived the spirit of the Parliament Act.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to offer one observation by way of correction of what the noble and learned Viscount has just said, in case all your Lordships are not acquainted with the absolute terms of the Parliament Act. The noble and learned Viscount, speaking rather elliptically, seemed to imply that it is in the power of Mr. Speaker to decide whether a particular Bill presented to him is a Financial Bill or not. But the terms on which Mr. Speaker is to found his judgment are laid down at length in subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Parliament Act. I need 697 not trouble your Lordships by reading the whole section, bit it gives a Very elaborate description of what a Money Bill is.
The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, who asked this question, spoke of an understanding which was made at the time of the passing of the Parliament Act. This understanding had to do with the framing of this description of a Money Bill. That is to say, the intention of the words in this subsection (2) was that any Bill which could be regarded as in pari material to the Revenue Bill of the year should be subject to this disability. But it by no means followed that all Bills dealing in some way or other with finance would be subject to the same disability.
His Majesty's Government, having no doubt carefully considered and scanned the terms of this subsection (2), took steps in another place, I have no doubt, to admit within the Safeguarding of Industries Bill nothing—even including things which they might have desired to admit— which might possibly prevent Mr. Speaker from giving his certificate. It was their intention that the Bill should not be discussed here, and I can congratulate them heartily on the success which they have thereby achieved. But I say without hesitation, having been one of the original parties to the transaction which the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, has mentioned, that it certainly was not the intention of those who framed the Parliament Act, and were responsible for its passing, that all financial measures, and particularly questions concerning tariffs— measures introducing a. general tariff— should be treated here precisely as if they were Revenue Bills,dealing with the Services
§ of the year. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, no doubt, gave his Certificate on the facts as they were set before him. It would be by no means certain, I understood, that this Bill would be declared to be a Money Bill. But it was so declared, and, very clearly, there is nothing more to be said.
§ I wish to add only one word more, that I cannot admit what the noble and learned Viscount, I think, stated rather cynically that no discussion in this House or in another place is of.any use unless you are in a position to enforce your views by a majority vote. if that can be taken literally, it would simply mean that there would never be any purpose in the minority discussing anything. It was arranged by the Parliament Act that a Bill of this kind, like all other Bills under the Parliament. Act, must come up a month before the end of the session. That was for the purpose of Amendments being moved which might do one of two things. They might, in one way, act persuasively, and, if reasonable; they might cause the majority in another place to accept them, or, to take an extreme instance, they might so excite public opinion outside that honourable members in another place would have such pressure put upon them that they would not venture to keep the measure in its original form. That was the purpose of the Parliament Act and I feel bound, therefore, to correct to some degree what the noble and learned Viscount has said.
§ On Question, Whether the word"now"shall stand part of the Motion?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 68; Not-Contents, 43.699
|Birkenhead, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Chilston, V.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Gorell, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Goschen, V.||Harris, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Hood, V.||Invernairn, L.|
|Bath, M.||Peel, V.||Killanin, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Linlithgow, M.||Abinger, L.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Lambourne, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Ampthill, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Lee of Fareham, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Armaghdale, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Ashfield, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Balinhard, L. (E. Southesk.)||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Charnwood, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Lucan, E.,||Clinton, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Clwyd, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Morton, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Onslow, E.||Decies, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller|
|Plymouth, E.||Desborough, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Ebury, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Faringdon, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Gisborough, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Crewe, M.||Askwith, L.||Methuen, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Avebury, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Bledisloe, L,.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Chalmers, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Channing of Wellingborough, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Denman, L. [Teller.]||Rowallan, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Shandon, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Southwark, L.|
|Emmott, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L(L. Sheffield.)|
|Gladstone,||Gainford, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Grey of Fallodon, V.||Hemphill, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Joicey, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Anslow, L.||Mac Donnell, L.||Vernon, L. [Teller.]|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Meston, L.||Weir, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.