§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH rose to call attention to the effects of preferential tariffs on Empire trade, and to ask if His Majesty's Government can now define its policy with regard to the extension of Imperial Preference and the further encouragement of migration 1013 within the Empire; and whether these will be the chief subjects of discussion at the forthcoming Imperial Economic Conference?
§ The noble Duke said: My Lords, a few weeks ago, in reply to a Question, the noble Duke the Secretary of State for the Colonies told your Lordships that an Economic Conference would be held this autumn between the representatives of the Dominions and His Majesty's Government. He also told us that a programme would shortly be announced. Since that statement was made by the noble Duke we have had an official intimation, published in the Press, that the Conference will take place on October 1. The noble Duke will realise that a great number of people are deeply interested in this forthcoming Economic Conference, that they are looking forward to the discussions there, and that they are profoundly exercised in their minds as to the attitude which will be adopted by His Majesty's Government. There are the members of the Empire Development Union, a large society over which the noble Viscount, Lord Long of Wraxall, presides, and there are many other people who do not belong to any particular society but are profoundly interested in Imperial matters.
§ The other day there was a large meeting in the City of London, at the Mansion House, presided over by the Lord Mayor. Opinions were expressed at that meeting by a variety of citizens showing their profound interest in the economic development of the Empire, and their desire to know what action the Government might take in the future in regard to this matter. There was, in fact, an expression of extreme interest in all matters connected with the economic development of this country and the Dominions. I trust, therefore, that the, noble Duke will not consider that I have brought the matter forward too soon or brought it forward unnecessarily. I think he will appreciate the great importance that people will attach to any answer he may make this afternoon in connection with the forthcoming Conference. Further more, I think, and your Lordships may agree with me, that it is very improbable that the representatives of the Dominions are willing to come once again to our shores for the purpose merely of passing Resolutions. The time for that, has 1014 passed, and it is not unreasonable for us to expect that the representatives of the Dominions will look forward to something more tangible than the repetition of Resolutions which have been already passed. I am rather strengthened in those views by the recent utterances of Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, in a speech which is familiar to the noble Duke and which, therefore, I need not repeat.
§ May I briefly remind your Lordships of the recent history of our Imperial trade relations? I do so because I realise that during the war a great number of Peers were absent from England on war service and they may not be quite familiar with, or may have forgotten, the recent economic developments of this country and the Dominions. Many in this House will remember the time when Mr. Joseph Chamberlain brought forward his large proposals for uniting the different parts of the Empire in an economic unity by means of a tariff. At that time his proposals were not accepted by the majority of his countrymen, and his views were put upon one side as not being within the scope of practical politics. Then came the war, and by the year 1917 the economic unity of the Empire had become more apparent. Statesmen met, here. The representatives of the Dominions and the representatives of the Government of the day met and decided by resolution that these economic tendencies should be codified in terms of a tariff. Resolutions were passed to that effect in 1917 and 1918. At that time the noble Viscount, Lord Long of Wraxall, was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and it was owing to his energy, his driving power, and his foresight that a great deal was done then which otherwise might not have been accomplished. These Resolutions are fairly familiar to your Lordships. The idea permeating them is that each part of the Empire should give facilities to each other part for inter-Imperial trade, the Dominions themselves having long ago put into practice the principle which they advocated. Simultaneously with these events came the Report of the Committee of this House presided over by the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh. That Report also is fairly familiar to your Lordships.
§ During this time the Home Government itself was not idle. What was the principle upon which it worked? In the 1015 year 1919 Mr. Austen Chamberlain's Budget was passed. In that Budget he granted on the existing Revenue Duties a preference of one-sixth to the Dominions. But in 1915 Mr. McKenna had passed a Budget under which, owing to the stress of war and the economic conditions prevailing, protective duties were placed on a considerable number of articles. The articles which were protected in the year 1915 received, under Mr. Austen Chamberlain's Budget, a preference of one-third. The Dominions were granted a preference of one-third on the articles mentioned in that Budget, and this preference was extended in the year 1921 to all articles under Part I of the Safeguarding of Industries Act which was passed in that year. Therefore, your Lordships will observe that by the year 1922 the principle had been established by the home Government of granting a preference to the Dominions of one-sixth on the existing Revenue Tariff and granting a preference of one-third on the existing Protective Tariff. That was the policy of the home Government.
§ What was the policy of the Dominions as the result of the Resolutions to which I have already alluded? The Dominions have for twenty years given us the benefit of a preference—a preference which has considerably helped our trade, but the value of it has been slightly diminished in two ways. In the first place, the Dominions have established, and are obliged to establish, a maximum and a minimum tariff, and it follows, as your Lordships will easily see, that if the maximum tariff is reduced to the minimum the preference we enjoy—namely one-third—may be considerably diminished. Then your Lordships will probably have noticed that it is the tendency on the part of the Dominions to pass anti-clumping legislation. Anti-dumping legislation says that no article may be sold within the Dominions at a price below the cost of production in the country of origin. It follows, therefore, that in comparison with a country like Belgium, which can produce for £1 an article which in this country, owing to the increased cost of production, costs £2 to produce, we stand at a disadvantage, although we enjoy a preference of 33⅓ per cent. Except for these two slight disabilities, the preference to us has been a great benefit.1016
§ To sum up, we perceive that the idea and views which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain placed before this country some twenty years ago, although they were not possible in those days, had, as the result of the economic stress of the war, become an accomplished fact by the end of the year 1922. That is to say, the principle has been accepted by all Parties. I will put it in this way: No Government to-day and no future Government would dare to remove the existing Imperial Tariffs. Moreover, I am informed that there are 7,000 articles to-day which come under the schedule of tariff. It is within your Lordships' recollection that either just before, or during, the General Election the Prime Minister stated that he did not feel disposed to alter the existing Free Trade basis of the tariff. But the Prime Minister never said—and this is the point I want to bring to the noble Duke's attention—that he would not extend the preference on the existing tariffs in operation. I will put this to the noble Duke: Is it not possible for His Majesty's Government to contemplate the possibility of extending the preference on the tariffs which are already in operation? I cannot put into the noble Duke's mouth the historic phrase of Sir Robert Walpole: "With what can I go to market?" But I do hope that the noble Duke may be armed by his colleagues with some substantial offer which he can place on the table before the representatives of the Dominions and ask them to consider in what way it could best be employed for our mutual advantage.
§ May I now quite briefly point out to your Lordships the effect of these preferential tariffs on our trade? This is the most difficult part of my task this afternoon. I have before me a great mass of facts and figures, but your Lordships need not be frightened that I am going to weary you with a repetition of them. They are figures that have been given to me through the kindness and courtesy of the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade and are official. I confess that I have been very much exercised in my mind whether, as they are very vast and complicated, I should in any way fail to make myself clear in employing them. What is the trade position to-day between this country and Europe? Of our total imports Europe sent us forty per cent. before the war; last year she sent us thirty per cent. I find that she 1017 took the same percentage of our exports as in the year 1913. I have no doubt there are noble Lords in this House who are authorities on European trade. I understand that, owing to the condition of Russia and of the Central Powers, trade between this country and Europe is not likely to be very prosperous. I am strengthened in that view by the remarks made the other day by Sir Arthur Shirley Bonn, President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, who said that Europe was crippled as the result of the war, and that it would take many years to recover.
§ With your Lordships' permission I will now compare the exports of produce to foreign countries with the exports of produce to the Empire. Since the war the percentage of exports to foreign countries has gone down by five per cent. while exports to the Dominions and other parts of the Empire have gone up by five per cent. In other words, there has been a turnover of ten per cent. The figures for our imports tell the same story. Next, compare the imports from the Empire and the imports from foreign countries under the heading of food, wine and tobacco. In food the percentage drawn from Imperial sources since the year 1913 has risen by eight per cent. It, was one quarter; it is now one-third. In raw materials—that is, articles mainly ultmanufactured—the increase since the year 1913 has been nine per cent. It was one quarter; it is now practically one-third.
§ If your Lordships can bear with me I will take you just one stage further. Let me compare the exports from England to the four Dominions with the exports from England to all foreign countries in terms of purchase per head of the population We find that whereas the Dominions bought in the year 1922 £5 11s. 7d. worth of British products per head, the foreigner paid us only 5s. 6d. Those figures were given by the President of the Board of Trade a few weeks ago in the House of Commons, and, therefore, we can rely upon their accuracy. Our best Imperial customer is New Zealand, which buys at the rate of £12 per head. Our best foreign customer is Holland, which buys at the rate of £5 per head. I was so struck by the extraordinary discrepancy between these two figures, especially when we remember how near one country is and how distant the other, 1018 that I inquired the reason, and when asked whether I was entitled to tell the House of Lords that this discrepancy was due entirely to Imperial sentiment, the reply was that that is the case.
What conclusions may we draw from these figures? Surely they are these. That in the great world trade the percentage of our foreign trade is diminishing and the percentage of Imperial trade is increasing. Further, that every citizen we place overseas will spend between £4 and £6 per head on our exports. If this is so, and I doubt whether any noble Lord will deny it, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to deal with emigration, and, in particular, with the Empire Settlement Act, 1921. There are two views with regard to emigration. There are those who, like myself, believe that the true solution of our economic difficulties is a redistribution of population throughout the Empire. There are those who hold the view that a greater number of people should be placed upon the soil, and they point to the economic recovery of England after the Napoleonic Wars. But after the Napoleonic Wars England became the workshop of Europe, and she is not in that position to-day. Further, we are confronted by the fact that nearly half a million more children are born in this country every year than was the case then. The more thoughtful members of the Labour Party are beginning to appreciate these facts. I read a speech of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's in which he said:
How can we deal with an expanding population without a corresponding expansion of trade?
That, is the problem with which we are confronted.
§ What is the social and economic position of our country to-day? Let us take agriculture. We had a debate last night in this House, and the Government assured us that they were going to pass legislation which would ameliorate the condition of the agrarian community. No one can pretend that the agrarian community is in a satisfactory position to-day, and when I speak of the agrarian community I do not mean the agricultural labourer alone. I mean also the farmer, and I include myself in that observation. Take commerce and trade. We are told that the worst is over; that we have turned the corner. At the same time, we 1019 read of ships being laid up, factories being closed, spindles lying idle, short time, lower wages, and many cases in which dividends have not been paid. To complete the picture we have spent since 1919 no less than £400,000,000 on unemployment pay. We have a million and a quarter of our population out of employment, affecting, on a computation of four to the family, five million souls.
§ May I examine quite briefly the emigration figures? Before the war 300,000 citizens used to emigrate annually. Only 100,000 have emigrated during recent years, and this in spite of the working of the Empire Settlement Act. I would like to ask the noble Duke whether, in the course of his speech, he could give the House any indication of the working of this Act; whether he is satisfied with its machinery, and whether there is a possibility of improving it. I notice that 10,000 people have emigrated to Australia and 1,500 to New Zealand. It was stated by the noble Duke, or by one of his representatives, that in the course of five years 10,000 people would emigrate to Victoria. On the other hand, and this is the point I want to emphasise, during all the years since the Empire Settlement Act came into operation only 130 people have emigrated to Canada under its protection, whereas in January of this year 1,300 citizens emigrated to Canada of their own accord.
§ I have no doubt that the noble Duke has an admirable official explanation of these facts and I shall listen to it with the profoundest interest. I notice also that the new Chairman of the Empire Settlement Committee said the other day that 75,000 people were expected to be emigrants. I should like to ask whether this number represents the total number of people expected to emigrate during the next year or two, or is it merely a preliminary figure which later on you will be able to increase? Whatever the reply of the noble Duke may be, I venture to express the hope that the agricultural labourer will not emigrate but that he will stay at home, because he will be required to till the soil of England when food production becomes a reality. Furthermore, I trust that the idea is now exploded that when we desire to emigrate citizens from these shores we desire to emigrate those for whom we 1020 have not much service or use. There are thousands of able-bodied artisans and citizens in this country, God-fearing, law-abiding, honest men, with their wives and children, who are just as competent to take their places overseas as thousands who have gone before.
§ I do not minimise the difficulties which confront the noble Duke and his colleagues at the forthcoming Conference, or, indeed, any future Government, but I feel that if we are to induce the Dominions to accept emigrants from our shores we must in return offer them every trade facility on existing tariffs. That is to say, the true solution of the problem is to link together the policy of emigration and the policy of Preference. It is quite true that by extending the preference you may lose in revenue, but are you quite certain that what you may lose in revenue you will not recoup by the money saved in unemployment pay and by the increased consuming power of those you send overseas?
§ It is felt by some that in economic matters His Majesty's Government pay too much attention to the East and not sufficient to the West and to the South. However that may be, I will conclude with a remark which is in a sense a truism. Many of us hope that contracts that have to be made in the future will be made not without but within the Empire, that our trade routes may be improved and that trade will be encouraged to go along those routes, and that when the private citizen desires to develop his enterprise he will be able to do so under the protection and the guidance of the British flag. I cannot help feeling that if all these matters are brought by the noble Duke to the attention of the Dominion Ministers with courage, skill and, above all, frankness, telling them that congestion at home means atrophy to the extremities, a remedy may be found for the deplorable condition in which a portion of our fellow citizens find themselves at this present moment.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
My Lords, I crave the indulgence always accorded by your Lordships' House to one who addresses your Lordships for the first time. The noble Duke has, I think, performed a valuable and public-spirited service in raising this question in your Lordships' House. I understand that the part of his Question which dealt with 1021 preferential tariffs is to be answered later, and I think I may best start by inviting your Lordships' attention to a brief résumé of recent developments in regard to the new policy of State-aided Empire settlement. I call it a new policy, though, strictly speaking, it is not really new, but a reversion to the old policy adopted almost exactly a hundred years ago, when, at the close of the Napoleonic Wars, conditions similar to those existing in this country to-day led the Government of that period to embark upon a policy of State-aided migration.
During the ten years before the war the annual scale of migration reached a level varying from 250,000 to 400,000 migrants per annum. These migrants proceeded from the United Kingdom both to foreign countries and to different parts of the Empire. I am glad to be able to say that an increasing percentage, rising to 80 and 90 per cent., proceeded to other parts of the Empire. As your Lordships are also, no doubt, aware, since the beginning of the war the population of this country has substantially increased. In 1921 the natural increase—and by that I mean the increase of births over deaths—was 390,000. The Census returns of 1921 show the population of England, Scotland and Wales to be greater by 1,120,000 than it was in 1913. In 1914 came the war. The war has now been over for four years, but migration has not yet reached its pre-war level. After-war conditions, high ocean fares and the resettlement of the Dominions, still tend to keep it back.
When the Armistice was signed in 1918 no machinery existed in this country for dealing with migration. His Majesty's Government consequently decided to appoint a body which is now known as the Oversea Settlement Committee to assist and advise them on these matters. On the advice of this Committee, on which during the last, few months I have had the honour to serve, His Majesty's Government adopted a scheme of granting free passages to ex-Service men and women. Early in 1920 good trade conditions gave place to bad, and unemployment became increasingly prevalent. The Oversea Settlement Committee, who, amongst other authorities, were consulted by His Majesty's Government, urged that one of the most necessary measures in the interests of the Empire, and one best 1022 calculated in the long run to meet the requirements of the situation in these islands, was a re-distribution of the white population of the Empire.
That population, by almost general agreement, is dangerously congested here and insufficient, both for the purpose of defence and for the purpose of development, in many districts of the Dominions. Here I should like to impress upon your Lordships that the Oversea Settlement Committee have never regarded, and can never regard, migration as a means for dealing with the immediate problem of unemployment. They do, however, regard it as the best means of promoting the development of the primary resources of the Empire, furnishing this country with foodstuffs and raw materials, and increasing the number of our best customers, and thus, in the long run, improving trade and minimising the risk of future unemployment. With these considerations in view the Oversea Settlement Committee advised His Majesty's Government to summon a Conference of representatives of the Dominions to consider the possibility of co-operation in the re-distribution of our peoples. This Conference accordingly took place in January and February, 1921. It is sometimes referred to as the Millen Conference out of compliment to the chief representative of the Commonwealth of Australia, Senator Millen.
This Conference put forward certain proposals; I will not weary your Lordships by reading them in full, but, briefly summarised, they are as follows. It was recommended that His Majesty's Government nod the Oversea Governments should co-operate financially and in all other respects in a joint and comprehensive policy of Empire-directed migration and Empire land settlement, His Majesty's Government to appropriate £2,000,000 per annum for the furthering of this policy. These proposals were accepted by the Conference of Prime Ministers which met in June and July of the same year, and expressed the view that they contained a generous offer on the part of His Majesty's Government. It was, however, clearly understood that this offer was conditional upon full financial co-operation by the Dominions concerned.
The Conference of Prime Ministers thereupon passed a Resolution, which 1023 is divided into three parts, and which, if your Lordships will allow me, I will read:(1) The Conference, having satisfied itself that the proposals embodied in the Report of the Conference on State-Aided Empire Settlement are sound in principle and that the several Dominions are prepared, subject to preliminary sanction to the necessary financial arrangements being made, to co-operate effectively with the United Kingdom in the development of schemes based on these proposals but adapted to the particular circumstances and conditions of each Dominion, approves the aforesaid Report.(2) The Conference expresses the hope that the Government of the United Kingdom will, at the earliest possible moment, secure the necessary powers to enable it to carry out its part in any schemes of co-operation which may subsequently be agreed on, preferably in the form of an Act which will wake clear that the policy of co-operation now adopted is intended to be permanent.The wishes expressed by the Conference in regard to the action to be taken by His Majesty's Government were concluded by the passing in May, 1922, of a measure known as the Empire Settlement Act, which secured for His Majesty's Government the necessary powers for carrying out any scheme of co-operation, and it shows that at any rate it was their intention to make the new policy a permanent one.
The third part of the Resolution runs as follows:(3) The Conference recommends to the Governments of the several Dominions that they should consider how far their existing legislation on the subject of land settlement, soldier settlement and immigration may require any modification or expansion in order to secure effective co-operation and should work out, for discussion with the Government of the United Kingdom, such proposals as may appear to them most practicable and best suited to their interests and circumstances.As regards the latter portion of this Resolution, I should like to emphasise that the new policy of State-aided Empire settlement is a policy of partnership, and that His Majesty's Government, having taken the initial step in passing the Empire Settlement Act, cannot push this policy further, or develop it on broader lines, without the full co-operation of the Dominions. Each Dominion, before it can co-operate satisfactorily and successfully in this policy, has many difficulties to surmount. Policies of Governments are, after all, a great deal dependent upon their electorates, and migration overseas, no less than here, has always been, 1024 and I suppose always will be, a subject of controversy. The present times bristle with difficulties. Industrial and agricultural depression always tend to check migration; and allowance must be made for the legitimate anxiety of labour lest migration should be used, as it undoubtedly was in the old days, as a means of exploiting the workers.
But though the difficulties are great, they are being grappled with, and I think they will be overcome. Already, the policy is developing. I would remind your Lordships that although the Act has been in force less than a year, many agreed schemes have been put into force, others are being negotiated, and yet more are in process of being formed. I may mention, with special pleasure, the visits of the Prime Ministers of Victoria and New South Wales to this country. My Committee has been in close personal touch with both Mr. Lawson and Sir George Fuller, and I cannot help hoping that the insight which we have gained into their desires will bear fruit at no distant date. Take the case of Canada. For that Dominion State-aided adult immigration is a new departure, and the development of the new policy, if it finds favour with Canada, will probably be gradual. Dr. Black, Deputy Minister of Immigration and Colonisation of Canada, was in this country at Easter, and negotiated three small schemes for overseas settlement, and we feel that the sympathy with which he approached the problems that we discussed with him is a happy augury as regards Canada's future attitude towards this new policy.
I should like to read to your Lordships, quite briefly, particulars of the schemes which have been concluded and those in process of negotiation, but before I do so I would say a few words as to New Zealand and South Africa. New Zealand has passed through a period of depression, from which she is recovering; indeed, I hope I may say, has recovered. We hope that the co-operation with that Dominion which has already begun on a small scale may be considerably developed. South Africa differs from other Dominions, owing to the existence of a large native population, and, consequently, a limited field for the employment of white labour. If opportunities for co-operation with the Union Government can be found they will be most warmly welcomed by His Majesty's Government.
1025 The following is a statement regarding the progress of schemes, and it is divided into three parts:—(1), Completed schemes; (2) Schemes nearing completion; and (3) Schemes in contemplation. The schemes of assisted passage for Australia take the form of a free grant of one-third, and, if necessary, a loan up to the remaining two-thirds, of the passage money. In regard to New Zealand, assistance is given upon an agreed scale by way of grant and loan towards the cost of passages. As to the Dominion of Canada there are schemes for (1) children, (2) nominated persons, (3) domestics; and in the Province of Ontario schemes for assistance by way of loan towards the cost of the passages of 2,000 single women and 2,000 single men.
Now I will give a few particulars of the completed settlement schemes:—
Western Australia: An agreement with the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia for settling 75,000 new settlers within a period of three years, and to establish about 6,000 of these settlers on farms of their own.
Victoria: An agreement for assisting 2,000 persons to settle on farms of their own in Victoria over a period of fifteen months.
Among other schemes is an agreement with the Society for the Oversea Settlement of British women for supplementing the Loan Fund of the Society with a view to the grant of assistance to suitable women settlers not eligible for assistance under the agreements with Oversea Governments.
Then, with reference to schemes nearing completion, we have a settlement scheme for New South Wales for assisting 6,000 persons to settle on farms. Other schemes are with the Salvation Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the British Dominions Emigration Society, the Craigielinn Boys' Training Farm and the Fellowship of the Maple Leaf. Schemes are contemplated with the Church Army, Australian Farms, Limited, the Child Emigration Society, the Salvation Army and the Child Migration Societies.
Although not a little may seem to have been done much remains to be accomplished. The waters have risen to the ankles but are not yet a mighty river, and I respectfully suggest to your Lordships that it would be but to court 1026 disaster to move more quickly than the Dominions themselves are ready or willing to move. The next step must, I think, be taken chiefly by them. I refer more especially to the very important work of arranging for the proper reception and training of migrants and the care of them when commencing work overseas. By work overseas I mean work on the land, for at present there is little, if any, opportunity for work of any other kind. Your Lordships will realise how big a problem this is, seeing that our population is mainly industrial and town bred. The task before us, therefore, seems to lie in training part of our town-bred population and adapting them for work overseas. I cannot too much emphasise the fact that it is by provision of satisfactory arrangements for the reception, settlement and after care of migrants overseas that the redistribution of our population, and the development and stabilisation of that great brotherhood of free nations which we call the British Empire, will be most quickly accomplished.
It is His Majesty's Government's most earnest desire to avoid any possibility of recurrence of the evils of the old type of settlement, when migrants were too often misled by specious promises, taken overseas, and dumped at the part of disembarkation, to sink or swim as best they might.
As your Lordships are doubtless aware, His Majesty's Government has sent a deputation, consisting of members of the Oversea Settlement Committee, to Australia, which should arrive there this week. It is intended that this delegation should examine, in consultation with the Australian authorities, the schemes already in force and in contemplation under the Empire Settlement Act, and the arrangements made, or in process of being made, for reception, settlement on the land, and general welfare overseas.
At this point I should like to tell your Lordships that ever since the Oversea Settlement Committee was established we have worked in closest touch with the representatives of the Dominions in this country. Your Lordships have realised that the Empire Settlement Act, which implies a financial partnership with overseas Governments, must establish a new and close business relationship be- 1027 tween His Majesty's Government and the offices of the Dominion representatives, and I can say here with confidence that our relations with those offices have been, and are, most cordial. I wish to take this opportunity of acknowledging the many courtesies which we have received, and my own pleasure in many friendships which I have had the privilege of forming with colleagues in the Dominions Offices.
We hear that in October next there is to be held an Economic Conference. I am sure I am reflecting the wishes of noble Lords in this House when I say that we sincerely trust that the deliberations of that Conference will result in the development and expansion of this new policy.
I may also add that it is hoped in due course to supplement existing machinery by the inauguration of migration committees under the auspices of county and county borough authorities. For the moment, pending the perfecting of the arrangements with the overseas authorities, such committees, it is hoped, will be formed experimentally in one or two counties. Meanwhile, much is being done through Government channels and with the co-operation of voluntary societies, notably the Church Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the Salvation Army, the British Dominions Migration Society, the Young Men's Christian Association, and the Society for the Oversea Settlement of British Women.
May I conclude by inviting your Lordships' special attention to the Report of the Overseas Settlement Committee for 1922, which explains the new policy of redistribution of population and Empire settlement more fully than it has been possible for me to do within the compass of this speech?
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, the noble Duke who introduced this subject to the attention of the House has, I think, rendered considerable public service. The topic which he has raised, important as it is, is only a fragment of a larger and an even more important subject, and that is the present and the future of British trade. Those who have examined the development of trade in the last four years have been, I think, on occasions led to somewhat superficial conclusions. What, at least, is clear and is universally conceded, is that we live, 1028 and only can live, so long as we are in a position to find markets. The dominating feature of the post-war situation is that the markets—and I except, for obvious reasons, the Dominion markets—upon which we subsisted, upon which the working classes of this country depended for their livelihoods, have been either completely dissipated or have at least almost disappeared.
Let us, for instance, address ourselves to the great European market which, before the war, taken in its aggregate, afforded employment for an enormous number of working men in this country. What has happened to that European market? Russia has deliquesced in ruin. There is no market there, actual or potential, for many years. What is the position in relation to Central Europe? The position of Austria is well known. It is artificially receiving the subvention of an international loan, which may save it from the consequences of immediate ruin, but which cannot within a generation make it a profitable purchaser of any goods that are manufactured in this country.
Then let us address ourselves to the case of Germany. There are those who see in the present situation of Germany grounds for hope for British trade and for employment in this country. I am not one of their number. Those who believe that the industrial prostration of Germany will ultimately result in prosperity to this country seem to me to take a view alike challow and superficial. But the view is nevertheless held by many men of great experience and ability. Crudely stated, it may be put somewhat as follows. They say that before the war the only great industrial rivals which Great Britain had were Germany and the United States of America. They dismissed the other countries, and with some justification for doing so, by saying that they had not the genius, for trade, the initiative for competition, which the German Empire, Great Britain, and the United States of America possessed. And the view of this school is that the more France destroys the industries of Germany the better for this country. We are not undertaking—such is the view—the moral or the economic responsibility for that which is done; let Germany, therefore, be struck down, let Germany be struck down by the act of another for which we are not responsible, and we, in the trade 1029 competition of the next twenty or thirty years, will reap the resultant advantage.
I am not able to accept the reasoning of that facile school of economists. The whole of my reading, so far as I am competent to understand it, of the commercial history of this country leads me to suppose more and more that the greatness and prosperity of this country depend upon a prosperous world, that from the moment you introduce into that world an immense and densely populated area which is stricken and suffering, you inflict deep wounds upon the trading enterprise and potentialities of this country. By one of the most marvellous achievements in the history of finance, after four years of devastating war, after four years, hardly less devastating, of recovery from the war, we are the financial centre of the world. Our credit to-day is very nearly as high, when measured in terms of relative value, as it was in the month of August, 1914, and this country prospers, will prosper, and can only prosper, so long as we use what is the natural strength of this country.
What has been the natural strength of this country? Not measured in the calculations of a generation, but throwing back our minds for 150 years, I might almost say for 270 years, what has been the natural strength of this country? It has been in the services which, organised, we have been in a position, and which we are still in a position, to render to the world as a whole. What are those services? They are, in the first place, by our financial strength, which has been miraculously preserved, to afford credits to those countries in the world which need credits. And it is an amazing fact that we are at this moment, through a variety of circumstances which, because I have not leisure I do not now more closely analyse—and, indeed, the conclusion is admitted so that I need not defend it by argument—in a position a little inferior to that of the United States of America to concede credits to any nation in the world which can offer us adequate security. In the second place, we have our great shipping services. In the third place, we have all those manifold resources which are well-known to noble Lords who are engaged in business in the City of London, which, to-day, make it as clear as it ever has been that the City of London dominates the financial world.
1030 Therefore, on all these grounds, what Great Britain requires for its prosperity is not a stricken Europe or an unprosperous Europe. What we require is a prosperous Europe, a Europe in which all the proletariats are able to contribute to the common wealth and the common prosperity of all their countries. And nothing can be more elementary in the field of economics than this—that, if you could by the stroke of a magician's wand recreate Russia, restore the finances of Austria and of Germany, an immediate result in the prosperity and in the wealth of this country would make itself felt. But we are bound to take note of what is happening. It is not in our power to wave that magician's wand. It, or its substitute, is in other hands, and what we are witnessing to-day is the gradual exhaustion and detrition of Germany. I do not analyse, to-day, the political considerations which are, no doubt, present in the minds of all your Lordships. I am concerned only with the consequences, and, almost in a sentence, the consequences are these. Whether France be right or whether France be wrong—and I have made it plain that, to-day at least, I do not argue that question—the industrial strength of Germany is daily and weekly being exhausted in order that Germany may be able to pay sums of money which it is almost universally admitted that, whilst still unexhausted, she was not in a position to pay.
We must, therefore, look at the present trade situation with the knowledge that we have of the existing situation of Europe, and with the conviction, which surely must be plain in all our minds, that the situation is not to be readily or swiftly altered. We must apply our minds to the trade problems of the future with the knowledge that, unless miracles happen, and they seldom happen in modern days, we must exclude from our prognosis any real prospect of a European revival within the next five or ten years. In other words, you must take all your trade reports for 1914. You must examine what was the tale of your imports and of your exports from Europe—from Russia, from Austria, from Germany and from the smaller Balkan States—and you must say: "If we are to be prosperous we must find new markets altogether, because so far as these markets are concerned they are stricken, and there is not the slightest 1031 real prospect of a revival in any period that a sane and judicious critic can justify in his own mind."
To what conclusion does that lead us? It leads us, I think, to a very clear conclusion, and, indeed, if it were not for the prospect afforded to us by the Motion and the speech of the noble Duke, our position to-day would be one almost of despair. I do not know how far your Lordships have closely studied, though I imagine that many have done so, the figures of unemployment. It is known to all your Lordships that we are to-day in a chronic condition, which used to be made the subject of taunts when I sat upon the Woolsack, though I notice that the process has continued since. We are under the necessity of paying constant doles to able-bodied and respectable citizens of this country, who ask nothing better than to work if they could be afforded an opportunity of working. Nothing is more alarming than the numbers of those, slightly diminished, it is true, in the last month or two, but still alarmingly numerous, who are anxious to work, and against whom it has never been stated that they are not willing to work if work can be found. It is they who are unemployed and in receipt of a pauper dole simply because the work does not exist for them. All these things must be treated as part of a correlated problem. The reason these men cannot find work, the reason that this Government, like its predecessor, is committed to the most undesirable and uneconomic system of awarding doles to these people, is simply, in a sentence, because the events of the war and the events that have succeeded the war have withdrawn either permanently, or, at least, for the whole of the relevant period, great markets to which, until the period of the war, the products of our manufacturing energy were devoted.
Now, is there any hope in the situation in which we find ourselves? The noble Duke and, I think, the noble Earl who made a maiden speech to which all your Lordships listened with great, interest and who paid to your Lordships the compliment, always appreciated, of careful preparation, spoke of the increase in the population of this country. It is extremely important that this increase of the population should be borne in mind and should be considered in due 1032 perspective with the other and more general questions. The increase in population is a circumstance upon which I, for one, absolutely refuse to feel anything but satisfaction. It brings with it resultant problems, almost insoluble problems. The figures, indeed, are astonishing when you contrast the population to-day with the population in August, 1914, and realise the loss of brilliant young lives that occurred in the war, lives most, of all fitted to carry on the propagation of the nation. When you consider all that, and look at the marvellous fertility of the British race, then, however great the problems which that fertility, expressed in terms of numbers, involves, I say that as a patriotic citizen of this Empire I rejoice at it, because the future of the world belongs to the fruitful, and not to the fruitless, nations.
But we are involved in grave problems by that circumstance, and of all the solutions which have been proposed, or can be proposed, surely the noble Duke who opened the debate to-night has indicated to your Lordships the true lines of solution. The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, who represents the Colonial Office, speaks with great authority because, with admired efficiency, he presided over the fortunes of the Dominion of Canada at an anxious time, and he knows well both the needs of that Dominion and the capacity of this country to respond to those needs. The fundamentals of the situation, if only they can be adjusted, are these: That you have in this country a population, exuberant and indeed excessive, and you have in the Dominions almost unlimited territory and opportunities for the right kind of settler. There is no room in any of the Dominions for the wrong settler, but for the right kind of settler there are almost unlimited opportunities.
What is wanted is organisation and adjustment, and if there be organisation and adjustment you may overcome the tremendous impulse against removal which is in the mind of every English born man and every English born woman. Nor would I say that that impulse against removal is wrong. Take the case of humble people playing a lowly part in life and finding themselves without the means of adhering to their own livelihood, whatever that livelihood has been. 1033 Somebody says to them: "Why don't you go to Canada? Why don't you go to New Zealand? Why don't you go to Australia?" To those of us in this House, who have had opportunities for travel, these are not very alarming proposals. We know something about Canada, about New Zealand and about Australia, but I ask your Lordships to apply yourselves to the mind of a small man living in Bolton or Oldham who, perhaps, has never made a greater expedition in his life than to go to Blackpool for Whit Monday. Can you say to him: "Why don't you go to Australia? Why don't you go to Canada? Why don't you go to New Zealand?" It means tearing op all the roots upon which the middle class and the artisan class depend to a, degree perhaps even more intimate than most of your Lordships will acknowledge.
Still the need is there. The occasion is there, and the risk and jeopardy are here to those, who stay and who cannot in these days find for themselves employment here. Do not let us make the mistake of thinking that in the main those who take this dole want a dole. That is not true. I know many cases of men who accept this dole with bitterness, because they know they can work, and they wish to work. Surely, it does not exceed our powers of persuasion, and our powers of organisation to draft this most deserving and admirable class who at this moment, in the existing situation of European markets, find no employment here, into those parts of the Empire which are prepared and willing to receive them. It is true, as was said by the noble Lord who spoke last—and who I think has left the House—that you must not send to the Dominions the kind of people they do not want. The last thing in the world to do, either in the interests of the Dominions or in the interests of ourselves, is to send to them an unsuitable settler. There is not a centre in the British Empire which cannot at the present moment provide for a competent British artisan, or for a competent British agricultural labourer. I confess that I ally myself to what was said by the noble Duke, that we can afford few of our agricultural labourers.
Let us, then, make this the true object of our endeavours. Having a surplus of population, and a surplus of exactly the 1034 kind of population the Dominions want, let us attempt so to organise that surplus that it may be sent to the Dominions which have need of that particular population. Consider the consequences not merely from the economic view, important as that is, but from the Imperial point of view. You have in every man who leaves this country—not in bitterness but realising the difficulties in which at the moment we are—a citizen who goes out to the Dominions determined to maintain the British Empire. You sent the kind of citizen who inspired, and contributed to the first Canadian Division, and who contributed equally to the heroic Australian and New Zealand battalions who fought in the Dardanelles. On all these grounds the case is an overwhelming one, and I do not doubt it will meet with the sympathy of the noble Duke opposite.
I ought perhaps to remind, your Lordships—I do not think the noble Duke did so—of how far this matter has actually gone in Government commitment. The late Lord Balfour of Burleigh, a most respected member of this House, was, as your Lordships may recollect, Chairman of a Committee which was appointed to deal with this very subject only a few years ago. Lord Balfour's Committee recommended that special steps should be taken to stimulate, production within the Empire. In the first place, they recommended a declaration by the British Government of its adhesion to the policy of Imperial Preference. In the second place, they recommended the establishment in the British tariff of "a wider range of Customs Duties" as a means of giving effect to the policy recommended. These duties, so the Committee reported, would be remitted or reduced on the products and manufactures of the Empire, and form the basis of commercial treaties with Allied and neutral Powers. That is a very remarkable finding, proceeding from a very remarkable Committee, and I should certainly be astonished if the present Government did not fully accept the recommendations of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee.
But the matter has been carried a stage further. The Imperial War Conference met after the Balfour of Burleigh Committee had reported in 1917, and the Imperial War Conference, representing all the Governments of the Empire, unanimously adopted the principle that each 1035 part of the Empire, having due regard to the interests of our Allies, shall give specially favourable treatment and facilities to the produce and manufactures of other parts of the Empire. And they proceed to call for concerted action with regard to—(1) The production of an adequate food supply and arrangements for its transportation when and where required, under any conditions that may be reasonably anticipated; (2) The control of natural resources available within the Empire, especially those that are of an essential character for necessary national purposes whether in peace or in war; and (3) The economic utilisation of such natural resources through processes of manufacture carried on within the Empire.
Those were unanimous decisions. The late Government was a party to them. I do not know whether or not they raise difficult fiscal questions. I, like the present Prime Minister, am, and have been all through my political life, a Protectionist. I do not know whether these issues raise any Protectionist question or not. For myself I do not believe that they do; but whether they do or not, do not let us pass from this subject without the knowledge that this great Conference, representative of the whole Empire and attended by every Prime Minister of every self-governing Dominion, arrived at unanimous conclusions which were accepted by a Coalition Government which contained many Ministers who were, and are, accustomed to proclaim themselves Free Traders.
I have only this to add. We ought to measure these matters in terms of fairness and reciprocity. Man does not live by sentiment alone; still less, by perorations alone. You cannot, in other words, expect to keep the Empire together merely upon a basis of mutual eulogy or mutual admiration. They have done, as we all know, a great deal for us. We have done, as they gladly recognise, very much for them. I do not try to measure in scales—it is a little ignoble when things are so great—the force of the reciprocal benefits which they rendered to us in the war and the superb moral and material support they gave us with the protection our Navy has afforded to the whole Empire for generations. I do not seek to do that.
I address myself to a narrower topic, and that is to ask what has been the effect 1036 of these duties upon the revenue of the Dominions and upon ourselves? These figures are very remarkable; they are known to the noble Duke. In 1913, the last year before the war, Canada collected duty to the amount of 27,000,000 dollars on dutiable imports from the United Kingdom. As Canada gives us a preference equivalent to thirty-three and one-third per cent. of the duty leviable under her general tariff the figures represent a sacrifice by Canada of more than 13,000,000 dollars' worth of revenue, nearly £3,000,000, in 1913, in order to give preference to British goods.
In 1913 the amount of revenue sacrificed by the Union of South Africa in giving preference in that year to imports from the United Kingdom was £554,894, a very substantial sum for a comparatively poor Dominion. In 1913 the revenue sacrificed by the Commonwealth of Australia in giving preference in that year to imports from the United Kingdom was £2,044,000. In 1921 the figures greatly altered. According to a statement made at Sheffield on February 21, 1922, by Sir Joseph Cook, High Commissioner for Australia, the Commonwealth gave a preference to goods from the Mother Country amounting to the value of no less than £9,000,000 sterling. Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, speaking at Sydney on April 5, 1923, said that in 1920–1 Australia gave Great Britain trade preference to the value of £8,750,000. Mr. Bruce added a figure which, perhaps, is a little less satisfactory to your Lordships. He said that Great Britain's preference to Australia in the same year was £45,000. That is to say that Australia's preference to Great Britain, measured in cold terms of £ s. d. was 200 times greater than any advantage this country gave to Australia.
Let me say this in conclusion. I do not believe that we shall be well advised to make our plans for the future in the belief that the arrangement with its advantages can be so completely unilateral as it has been in the past. We must, on our part, do something to persuade the Dominions that we appreciate that which they have done for us, and that we in our turn are prepared to do all that is possible for them. Consider the state of the world to-day. Our trade languishes because our European markets have perished and are not likely to revive. The United States of America, one of our 1037 great trade rivals before the war, is at this moment in no commercial anxiety. A few days ago I had a talk with one of the most important business men in the United States. He said to me: "We are in CO anxiety for the next five or ten years, because such are the exuberant resources of our country, such is its immense wealth, such are the demands for all the goods we produce, that there is no export problem in the United States. For the first time in the history of the world we have solved the question of making a livelihood by taking in one another's washing."
That is the only reason why the United States is not at present embarrassed by the repayment of our Debt. The repayment for that Debt, for obvious economic reasons, will completely paralyse the exporting resources and power of the United States, and the moment the United States of America find it necessary again to export a revision of the arrangement in their own interests will become necessary. But we must learn this lesson from them. They, like us, have passed through the devastating maelstrom of a great war. They, like us, are undergoing a degree of taxation which no country in the history of civilisation has ever survived. But they are at this moment completely prosperous: and why? Because of their exuberant natural resources and the strength and wealth of their own markets.
We have ourselves in the British Empire a territory not less rich than theirs. If it is properly developed, if it is administered with wise statecraft, we, like them, may become almost self-dependent. We have it in our power to give credits. Do not let us trouble to give credits to countries which reject our advice and which have already forgotten the unforgettable services which we rendered in the war. Let us give our credits to our people in the British Empire, and in so doing I am certain that in ten or fifteen years we shall have created a self-sufficient market, comparable in greatness with, and not inferior in resources to, that which to-day is making the United States great.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships will allow me to offer a few observations on this subject. I desire to do so for two reasons. It was my 1038 privilege and honour, as the noble Duke told your Lordships at the opening of his speech, to preside over the Imperial Conference which arrived at the conclusions to which he referred, and which were also mentioned by the noble Earl who has just addressed you. For the first time, at a Conference of the governing bodies of this Empire, representative, as the noble Earl said, of all our Dominions—the Crown Colonies also being represented by more than one member—this unanimous decision was arrived at by those who are entitled to speak for the British Empire as a whole.
I am very glad indeed that, so far in this discussion at all events, and I hope this immunity may mark it to the end, we have not heard anything of that bogey, the claim that we are acting contrary to the teachings of Free Trade. I am convinced that those who desire, as I do, to support the noble Duke in raising this question do not desire to depart from the established principles of the fiscal system of this country. Like the noble Earl who has just addressed the House, and like others holding high positions in this country, I do not hesitate to say what I have often said before, that I am a Protectionist, and if I had my way—and I believe this is also true of the noble Earl—I should be glad indeed to see much wider steps taken in regard to our fiscal system in order to draw the Empire closer together by wider preferential arrangements. But I recognise, as a practical politician, two facts. First of all, and foremost, is the fact that when this Government came into office they came in on a direct statement made by the Prime Minister, and accepted by the country, that there would be no departure so far as this Government is concerned from the established fiscal policy of this country, and, as a warm supporter of this Government and one who believes that the future of this country and of the Empire are very largely dependent upon their remaining in office or being followed by a Government of a, similar kind, the last thing I would desire would be to take any step in your Lordships' House or anywhere else which would be calculated to embarrass them.
But I believe, and, so far as I know, all those who have examined this question believe, that within the compass of our present system you can do all that is 1039 wanted in order to give effect to the Resolutions which were passed at the Imperial Conference in 1918. What always puzzles me is why there should be any real hostility to this proposal for Imperial Preference. As the noble Earl said at the conclusion of the speech which he has just delivered to your Lordships, we can, if we choose, take the necessary steps, we can supply ourselves with practically everything that we require, either to feed our population, or to clothe it, or, indeed, to supply any other need. We have at our command all the necessary supplies. If, then, it be possible to do so, why should we not take advantage of these wonderful possessions and utilise them for our own benefit and for the benefit of the Empire as a whole?
When the two great Imperial Conferences met in 1917 and 1918, the latter passing the Resolution to which Lord Birkenhead referred, the attitude of those who represented and spoke for the Dominions was a somewhat detached one. Let me say that neither then nor now, as your Lordships very well know, was there the remotest possibility of the loyalty to the Empire of the Imperial Dominions and Colonies being in any way lessened or affected in a hostile manner by the fiscal policy of this country. Their loyalty is far too deep-seated, far too real, to be shaken by any consideration of this kind. But while that is true, it is also undoubtedly true that since 1918 the attitude of the Dominions upon this question has greatly altered. I not only had an opportunity of ascertaining their views at first hand then, but having since followed this question up to the very last moment, and having had the privilege of meeting many of those who are entitled to speak for our great Dominions, I do not hesitate to say that their position today is very different from what it was in 1917 and 1918. They then told us that it was their intention to offer us this preference, and that they neither asked nor sought anything in return, though, of course, they always added that they would gladly welcome some return.
For my part, if I had any influence, I would implore my fellow countrymen not to delay much longer over this great question. Time is going on. Opportunities are with us to-day, but if we let the time pass the same opportunities may not present themselves within a 1040 reasonable period. As I have said, nothing will affect the stability of the Empire as regards its remaining an Empire, or as regards its defence, but, surely, there is some use in showing the Dominions that we appreciate the overtures which they have made to us and that we are prepared to give them something of the same kind in return. If we can do that without injury to the great population of this country, then I ask why on earth do we not do it, and do it without delay? It can be done. Only the other day we were told that the Government propose to put an Import Duty on barley. Whatever that arrangement may be—I have not examined it—it is to be accompanied by a preference to barley coming from our own Dominions. This is a step which I heartily welcome. It is unquestionable that within the compass of your present fiscal arrangements you can do a great deal still to show the Dominions that you are in earnest. At this moment, I believe, a deputation is here from Australia whose business it is to press that there shall be an increase in the preference given upon dried fruits. There again, if that be possible—and I understand that it is—an opportunity offers itself at this moment to give the Dominions something in return for what they have given us.
What we desire is that His Majesty's Government, at the coming Economic Conference, will discuss these questions with the representatives of the Dominions, and get down to bedrock. In 1917 and 1918 we had to do the spade work. We had to examine all these matters, and prepare statistics and information of all kinds. There is a mass of information available, if it be required, for those who will meet at the Conference, but I desire to say to the Government, and to the Duke of Devonshire, that the time has gone by for that part of the work. Of preparation, examination, and investigation, we have had sufficient. What I hope the Economic Conference will do this time will be to come down to practical facts, ascertain from the Dominions what can be done to meet their wishes, and then let the Government make up its mind how far it is possible for us to go in meeting those wishes.
I said just now that we could, if we liked, supply ourselves with everything within the Empire. I am not now going to advocate a tax on corn, but look at the 1041 question of wheat alone. At this moment Canada produces enough wheat not merely to feed herself but to feed us, and still leave a surplus for foreign export. Yet we actually buy, to-day, more wheat from America than we do from Canada. I cannot understand it. I am not advocating a tax on corn—it would be absurd to do so—but I say that of this one great staple article of food you have enough within the Empire not merely to feed us at home but to leave some over for export. What is true of corn is true of almost everything else. It was my duty, not long ago, to examine Empire production of everything that we required, and, with the exception of two or three articles, and those not of primary importance, the Empire can be, as the noble Earl said just now, self-supporting. Surely this would have an advantage apart from that of sentiment, because once you secure your supply, and once you make your transport secure, this country is in a totally different position, from the point of view of defence, from that which she must be in while she is entirely dependent upon foreign countries for all her supplies.
As I said just now, I am convinced that there is a change coming over the views of those who represent the Dominions. You will find it if you will read the speeches made by distinguished statesmen in our Dominions. Mr. Bruce, the new Prime Minister of Australia, who succeeded to office with a tremendous, and I have no doubt well-deserved, reputation, has spoken quite plainly in a recent speech about the fact that a meat contract was given here to a foreign country, and to a country hostile to us in the war. He pointed out in that speech, with irresistible force, that this seemed to be inconsistent with the ordinary ideas of Empire, because in Australia and New Zealand meat was produced in super-abundant quantities. Of course, those who have fixed views about this policy ask: What would you like us to do? What we ask is that in the case of each of the Dominions—and I will say a word about the Crown Colonies in a moment—it should be ascertained what form of preference will be of the most direct benefit to them, and then it will be time enough to ask ourselves if we can give it and how best we can give it.
That is the first task, because, as the noble Earl pointed out in his speech, when 1042 he quoted those figures, our Dominions have made tremendous sacrifices by the preference that they have given to us. I think it was the noble Earl also who made a reference to labour, and quoted a speech by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. There have been some very remarkable utterances lately by men distinguished in the commercial world. You will find that there is abundant evidence to show that the result of preference has been to secure a market which has enabled the paper trade, amongst others, to find a fresh outlet for its products and to secure fresh employment for its workmen in different parts of the country. I agree that nobody desires to see the wage-earning classes of this country, or any other class, driven out of the country. We should be thankful indeed if there were room for them all here, but, as a matter of practical business, is there room, and is it likely that there will be room?
We have a growing population of forty-five millions. Look at our country and its industries, and ask yourselves the question whether there is going to be room in which to find employment for all these able-bodied people within our shores. If the answer is in the negative, as I am sure it must be, then the next question is: What do your propose to do? You have hero this surplus population. Are you going to continue this system of doles for ever? You cannot keep these people walking the streets, ready and praying for work, and offer them neither work nor dole, nor any other alternative. The only alternative, I am satisfied, is to come to an arrangement with your Dominions, to secure for these men—as many of them as are fit for the life—fresh homes in fresh lands. But read the statements of the representatives of our Dominions upon this question to-day. They point out, I venture to think with unerring force, that it is no good having land settlement schemes, and sending even the best classes of workmen there, to be placed on the land, or given employment, unless you take care to have the necessary markets. The creation of markets and the establishment of trade relations between the Mother Country and the different parts of the British Empire are essential to any successful scheme of land settlement. It is for these reasons that those of us who have been actively working at this 1043 question for a very considerable time hope that this year may see—I will not say a new departure because that it would not be, but a real development along practical lines of this system of Imperial Preference.
I said that, so far, this question had been kept clear, at all events in your Lordships' House, of the old controversies of Free Trade. Of course, I do not know how long that is likely to last, because I have observed in the newspapers some statements as to the discontinuance of what are called the McKenna Duties, and some other suggestions. If they were all to go it is obvious that preference would be reduced almost to a minimum. I pray my countrymen to realise that, quite apart from sentiment, the Empire is really not only worth preserving but worth knitting closer and closer together. You have men in all parts of it—in Australia and New Zealand, in Newfoundland, Canada, and South Africa—who are prepared to make, and have made, great sacrifices in order to prove their loyalty to, and their desire to benefit., the Mother Country. I am not talking now of the marvellous and heroic sacrifices which they made in the war, but of the sacrifices that they have made in offering us a preference. They have been holding out their hand now for a very long time. Nothing will shake their loyalty, but, if you do not respond, do you think it at all likely that they will continue to make the same offer to you, and to hold out their hand if it is never grasped? I most earnestly hope that the noble Duke will be able to tell us that the Government mean in the coming Conference to do all in their power to make the preferential system between the Mother Country and the rest of the Empire a real and satisfactory one.
As regards the Crown Colonies, I would only say that there is evidence that in some cases they are beginning to ask whether they are getting fair treatment. There was a most luminous statement made by the noble Viscount, Lord Burnham, when he returned the other day from a visit to the West Indies. Let anybody peruse that who wants to realise what is going on there. There, I am sure, is a wide field for active assistance on the part of the Mother Country. Believing as I do that measures of this kind will make the Empire more united and 1044 stronger than it has ever been before, I earnestly hope that the Government will do everything in their power to give effect to what I believe the whole Empire desires.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, the House is, I think, indebted to the noble Duke who raised this Question. We have had an extremely interesting debate, and one for which we who are responsible for the conduct of affairs at the moment have every reason to be grateful. I should like to express my gratitude and my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Airlie for the interesting speech which he delivered this afternoon, and also for the admirable work which he has done as a member of the Overseas Settlement Committee. I know that he has many engagements, but I hope that he will be able, nevertheless, to continue to serve as a member of that Committee, and also to take part in future debates in your Lordships' House.
The, noble Earl opposite referred to certain figures as to the value of the preference given. Although I may not be able to verify them absolutely, yet I am prepared to accept them as generally accurate. But I think I may be able to supplement them to the extent of informing your Lordships that in 1922 the rebate from the four self-governing Dominions—from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa combined—amounted to the sum of £11,750,000. The corrected figures for 1922–23 of the rebate given in this country on goods coming from the self-governing Dominions and the Crown Colonies are not yet available, but I think I am well within the mark if I state that the total sum amounted to between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. It is, of course, possible, as your Lordships are aware, for the principle laid down at the Conference in 1917, and given effect to in the Budget of 1919, to be extended. We have accepted that principle. We hope your Lordships will take it as an indication of our desires, even if the amount may not be a very large one, but in the proposed tax to be placed upon malted barley the preference is to be extended to barley coming from the Dominions and the Colonies.
1045 I have no hesitation in saying that when the occasion arises we shall be able still further to extend that principle laid down by our predecessors. And certainly, when the Conference meets in October this year, we shall fully bear in mind the suggestions made by my noble friend who was one of my distinguished predecessors at the Colonial Office (Lord Long), and we hope to be able to work out, in conjunction with the representatives of the Dominions, methods by which our inter-Imperial trade can still further be helped and encouraged. My task this afternoon is a relatively simple one, inasmuch as—although I do not know whether the noble Earl opposite (Lord Beauchamp) intends to follow me—so far at any rate, there has been no serious opposition raised to the policy which we are endeavouring to carry out, and which is, in all essential features, the same as the policy of the Coalition Government which preceded us.
With regard to the other portion of the Question, referred to in the opening speech of the noble Duke, we have been able to make a satisfactory start with the question of State-aided migration. Many of your Lordships are no doubt familiar, from experience gained in many of the great self-governing Dominions, with the hardships and the difficulties to which the early pioneers in the great Dominions had to submit. I have no doubt that the characteristic pluck and energy of those men would be displayed again by their descendants if occasion demanded it; but I hope that we have reached a stage in our Imperial history when it will not be necessary that such heavy privations should fall on individuals. The experience which they gained, and by which we are benefiting to-day, has been invaluable in showing what can be accomplished.
We are proceeding in close consultation with the representatives of the Dominions to work out schemes, even if they may seem to be worked out in very minute details, for the solution of those problems which we believe to be of paramount utility and service not only to the Old Country but the Dominions as well. Under the powers which Parliament conferred upon the Government we have authority to enter into those schemes on the basis of co-operation, and I am confident that in building up steadily, though possibly slowly, on a firm basis we 1046 shall be able to produce better results in the long run. We wish to reduce the possibility of failure and disappointment to the lowest margin. I am afraid that, however carefully drawn the Regulations may be, however careful are the steps taken to see that only the right people avail themselves of those opportunities, there may be mistakes. On the other hand, in conjunction not only with the High Commissioners but with the gentlemen with whom we have been fortunate enough to enter into the closest negotiations, we have been able to create valuable and useful schemes which, as time goes on, I hope will prove not merely to be of benefit in themselves but the precursors of many wider and more amplified schemes. We have made the start. If we find, in the light of experience and knowledge after consultation with the representatives from overseas, that it is necessary to ask for wider powers, we shall not hesitate to come to Parliament for that purpose.
But, as to the broad lines, I wish to express my gratitude for the encouragement which we have received this afternoon from your Lordships to proceed along the lines on which we are proceeding. We realise to the full that we have a great opportunity ahead of us. Without making undue claims I think we can say that we have in the Empire brains, sinews and muscle, and that we have also the credit. To-day, in the Empire, we have access to the great open spaces of the world which are suitable and in which it is possible for white men to live and make prosperous homes. Of those opportunities we are determined to make the best that we can. This question of migration is not a policy of despair. It is not a temporary or even a remote expedient for the purpose of grappling with temporary conditions of unemployment here. It is a means by which the great, untouched natural resources of the Empire can be turned to the most useful account for the benefit of civilisation and mankind. We know from our history what has been accomplished, and if we seize this opportunity which now presents itself I believe that we shall be able still further to add to the material benefit and prosperity of the Empire by well-thought-out schemes in conjunction with our colleagues from Overseas. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government to-day. We know by experience and by 1047 what, has happened in the past what can be done, and I can assure your Lordships that in so far as lies in our power we shall pursue that policy vigorously and effectively.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, if free traders were not accustomed to opposition it would be with a great deal of reluctance that I should venture to intrude in this debate. I know from experience how seldom it is that Free Trade finds a very large or appreciative audience in your Lordships' House. I must say, however, that I was very much encouraged by the lukewarm support, as it seemed to me, which was given by the noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonics, to the more ambitious schemes of the noble Duke who introduced the subject to your Lordships' House. For my own part I found myself, and I think I may say that every member of your Lordships' House found himself, in complete agreement with the speech which was made by the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, who spoke in your Lordships' House for the first time. Indeed, with more sincerity than one always uses in complimentary phrases, I would venture to say that I have seldom heard in your Lordships' House so good a maiden speech as that which was made by the noble Earl. It was admirable not only in manner, if I may say so, but also in matter, and I join the noble Duke who has just sat down in expressing the hope that the noble Earl will often address your Lordships' House upon this and cognate subjects. I am glad to recognise what has been done by the Oversea Settlement Committee and to note the phrase used by the noble Earl that, in his opinion, the next step should be taken by the Overseas Dominions.
A number of different points have been raised by those members of your Lordships' House who have spoken. With regard to the extent to which this country is committed upon this subject, I am not deeply impressed. No Report made by a Committee such as that which was presided over by Lord Balfour of Burleigh can possibly commit either the present Government, or any Government, of this country. It was not an authoritative Committee. But naturally the Reports of, or Resolutions which were passed by, the Imperial Conferences of 1048 1917 and 1918 command a great deal more respect. I confess that I do not find in them that whole-hearted support of the policy of Imperial Preference which has been set forth to your Lordships by some of those who have already spoken, and I am bound to ask the fundamental and the elementary question whether noble Lords opposite really think that anything more that we can do is likely to make, if so unfortunate an occasion should arise, the response on the part of His Majesty's Dominions more admirable, more self-sacrificing, or more loyal than the response which was made by those Dominions in August, 1914. I am one of those whom nothing yet has convinced that a tax on food is likely to add to the loyalty of His Majesty's Dominions beyond the seas or of the people of this country, or, indeed, that the people of this country are likely to regard with greater affection the Empire beyond the seas if it is connected in their mind with the idea of higher prices.
A speech was made a little time ago by the noble Viscount, Lord Long, in the Mansion House at a meeting of the Imperial Development Union. I regret to think that the Mansion House was used for an object which was somewhat more removed from those neutral subjects which are usually debated there. On that occasion the noble Viscount referred to a question on which, I think, he said something to-night, and that was the sugar question. It is interesting to see, having regard to what he said upon the power of this Empire to supply itself sufficiently with sugar, that during the last few years, and especially since there has been a preference given to West Indian sugar, there has been a falling off in the production of sugar in that country. In 1919 the West Indies produced 190,000 tons, and in the year 1922 they produced 165,000 tons. In these circumstances I am not surprised to know that they are asking that they should be given a still larger preference than that which they enjoy at the present moment.
But it is not only in regard to sugar. Take the case of tea. This is a somewhat complicated point, and I hope I shall be able to make myself clear. At the present moment there is given to the Empire a preference on tea. Nearly all the tea coming into this country comes from India and Ceylon, and only three per cent, of the amount consumed 1049 by this country comes from China. Therefore your Lordships will see that the preference which is given upon the tea is given to almost all the tea coming into this country, and the amount of duty which is paid upon tea is something between £200,000 and £300,000 a year. It follows, I think, that by the abolition of the preference on tea, and the sacrifice of £200,000 or £300,000 a year in revenue, His Majesty's Government would be able to make a reduction of twopence a pound in the tea upon it coming into this country. Such a reduction would be very much welcomed in nearly every household in this country. It would be a boon which would go some way towards reducing the high cost of living, and, especially, in reducing those duties upon the breakfast table against which so many of us protest at the present time.
The general point is not without interest. It has been said, I think, that Imperial trade has increased while the general foreign trade has shown signs of decline. I do not find that those suggestions are borne out by the figures. During the year 1921 British exports to all foreign countries amounted to £404,000,000. In 1922 they had increased to £434,000,000. That is to say, that there had been an increase of some £30,000,000. On the other hand, there had been a decrease in British exports to British Possessions. These exports in 1921 amounted to £298,000,000, and in 1922 to £285,000,000, while the imports from all British Possessions which had been £330,000,000 in 1921, in 1922 were only £318,000,000. Therefore, your Lordships will see that in spite of the preference the tendency of our trade with British Possessions—and here I take not only the self-governing Dominions but all British Possessions—has been to go down, while our trade with foreign countries shows considerable signs of increase.
We shall want to know, if the policy of these extremists is likely to be carried out, exactly what the people of this country are to gain. We shall went to know what is exactly the advantage which they are to have. We shall not be satisfied with the mere statement, that there is to be a reduction of so much upon the general tariff. We shall want to know how much that general tariff is to begin with, whether it is already a wall so high 1050 that nobody can get over it, and whether, when a breach is made in that wall in favour of British goods, it is such a breach that British goods can easily get through it, or whether, as has happened in the past, the breach which is made is merely of an illusory character, and still prevents British goods from being sold inside the particular country. There are a great many difficulties which will have to be solved if once this matter is brought to a conclusion. It is not enough to speak of it in terms admirable but merely general. It will be necessary to descend to the particular.
There is, for instance, the particular case of the difference between wheat coming to us from Australia and wheat coming to us from Canada. The noble Viscount, in his interesting speech, spoke to us this afternoon of how Canada would be able to give us all the wheat we wanted. That is very interesting, but what about the Australians, who also want to send wheat into this country? I do not think they would be satisfied if we limited ourselves to the import of Canadian wheat. They would wish to have their share in this market. I hope I have not done the noble Viscount an injustice.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
I did not suggest that you should limit it to Canada. I suggested we should have a preference for wheat grown within the Empire.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
What the noble Viscount said was that enough wheat was grown within Canada to supply the Empire, and, though I did not put the words into his mouth, I said that from my own point of view it seemed that the Australians would hardly like the suggestion that they themselves were not to be allowed to send wheat into this country. There is naturally a certain amount of difficulty in sending wheat into this country as cheaply from Australia as it can be done from Canada. I do not use in this matter my own words, but I will take what was said the other day by Sir Ernest Glover in his presidential address to the Chamber of Shipping. He said:Australian wheat must come into competition in the consuming markets of the world with other wheat, and can only command the world price. If we compare the Eastern States of America or Canada with 1051 Australia, we find that not only has America the advantage in distance, but the costs involved in loading the cargo are not increased by pool expenses and income Tax, so the total charges in loading such a cargo will be in the region of £1,000 or £1,200 in the United States or Canada instead of £2,500 in Australia.That shows the natural advantage which is given to Canada, and which, in any such system as that proposed by the extremists who wish for Empire Preference, would certainly have to be taken into account.
The noble Duke who has just sat down referred, as did the noble Marquess the Deputy Leader of the House last night, to the question of malted barley. He said, and quite fairly, that no utterance had been made from these Benches in the way of criticism upon the proposal of His Majesty's Government. He augured from that, somewhat too hopefully I fear, that no objection would be raised to the proposal of His Majesty's Government in that respect. I feel bound to warn him that if sometimes we fail to mention all the subjects for criticism which we find in the policy of His Majesty's Government it is not because we agree, but very often because time fails us to include all the subjects to which we should like to make a reference. Therefore, when the matter does come, if it does come later in the Session, to your Lordships' House, I am afraid that I cannot promise him any particular assistance in passing that measure through the House.
I confess that some of the remarks which have been made in the course of the debate have given me a good deal of surprise. I am glad to think that I can assure the noble Duke that it will be from a Liberal Party, and a united Liberal Party, that he will find universal objection to all schemes of a pro, tective character, the result of which can only be to burden the consumer in this country to-day. These schemes are of a different character, and they have their origin in different years. Many of them, in their origin, were war measures, but whether they are of war origin or not, they will receive, I can assure the noble Duke, our unhesitating opposition.
There is one particular point on which I should like to dwell, and that is the question as to how far the self-governing Dominions are anxious that we should proceed on this subject in this country. The noble Duke who originated the 1052 discussion this afternoon spoke with some contempt of the Resolutions and said that the time had gone by for Resolutions. There are occasions, it seems to me, when Resolutions have a great advantage. When a lot of people come together who do not agree at all upon any one subject, it is quite easy to draw up a Resolution to which they will all agree and which will allow you to pass on to another question without any open quarrel. In these circumstances Resolutions certainly have a real advantage, and I am not sure that some of the Resolutions which have been passed in Imperial Conferences in the past have not been Resolutions of that kind.
Let us take the Resolutions with regard to Imperial Preference. Take the Conferences of 1917 and 1918. It does not seem to me that His Majesty's Government is in any way bound by the fact that these Resolutions were passed at these Conferences. It will not be sufficient to satisfy the people of this country to say that such and such matters were agreed to unless they are able, when the Conference meets again in the autumn, to produce fresh evidence of agreement on the part of the self-governing Dominions and show that the reasons which impelled them to pass Resolutions in past years are equally valid and binding to-day.
Take the various Colonies. Mr. Bonar Law, speaking on April 27, 1917, said:The Imperial War Cabinet has unanimously accepted the principle that each part of the Empire, having due regard to the interests of our Allies, should give specially favourable treatment and facilities to the produce and manufactures of other parts of the Empire.He went on to say—That decision does not at present include Australia.Then, the Prime Minister of Canada, speaking in the Canadian House of Commons on May 18, 1917, said:This Resolution does not necessarily propose or even look to any change in the fiscal arrangements of the United Kingdom. It does not involve taxation of food; it does not involve taxation of anything…. These matters are within their control, as our fiscal policy is within ours.And Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister of Australia, said:The question of the adoption of what is known as Imperial Preference…. is entirely a question for Great Britain to consider.1053 It is obvious, therefore, that our self-governing Dominions do not regard the Mother Country as being pledged to grant them at the present moment further preferential concessions.
We may even go further. I doubt whether New Zealand will be represented at the next Conference. I think she has already expressed the opinion that the Conference can do good work for the Empire without raising any tariff question at all, and the South African Government is also of the same mind and is not likely to take an extreme view on the matter. I regret the tendency in some of our self-governing Dominions to ask that the problem of emigration should be bound up with the problem of preferential duties from this country. The balance of advantage which is given to the Mother Country or to our self-governing Dominions does not carry all the weight with me that it does with some noble Lords opposite. When a self-governing Dominion lowers its tariff in order that British goods may come in the people who are advantaged more than anybody else are the customers inside the self-governing Dominion. It does them good, for the cheaper the people in our self-governing Dominions can get goods which are sent them by the manufacturers here the better it must, be for all of them.
The general discussion which has taken place and the lukewarm reception given by the noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the more extravagant suggestions which have been made on behalf of the Empire Development Committee, and certainly by various individual members of your Lordships' House, gives me a good deal of encouragement. I hope that when the Conference is held and we see the result we may find that their extravagant hopes have been disappointed,, and that, after all, the old established fiscal policy of this country will emerge from it as little touched as we Free Traders hope it may be.