HL Deb 18 December 1930 vol 79 cc665-79

[The references are to Bill No. 26.]

Preamble, page 1, line 10, after ("thirty-one") insert ("and as respects that mentioned in Part III. thereof on the fourteenth day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-one")

Clause 1, page 1, line 19, leave out ("Part I.") and insert ("Parts I. and III.")

Schedule, page 5, after line 11, insert:


1. 2. 3. 4.
Session and chapter. Short Title How far continued. Amending Acts.
10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 77. The Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act, 1920.) The whole Act.")

The Commons disagree to the above amendments for the following Reason:

Because they consider that the purposes for which the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act, 1920, was passed have been fulfilled.


My Lords, I rise to move that your Lordships do insist on the Amendments which have been rejected in another place. In making that Motion I do it with some considerable sense of responsibility, and I undertake the duty because it so happens that it was my privilege to bring the Amendments before your Lordships in the first instance. I may add that my sense of responsibility is not lightened by the knowledge that, most unfortunately, we are deprived of the wise counsel and advice of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Salisbury, whose counsel in a matter of this kind we all know would be invaluable. But although I have approached the consideration of this matter with some sense of diffidence and responsibility, I confess that I have arrived at a very clear conclusion as to the advice which I should tender to your Lordships' House.

I am by no means one of those who think that whenever there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses it involves any loss of dignity for this House to give way. Necessarily, when there are two bodies entrusted with the joint determination of Statutes and matters of that kind, occasions must occur when there is a difference between the two Houses, and it is, I think, the duty of the members of each House to endeavour to arrive at an accommodation. For instance—and I only mention it as an illustration—supposing that after an Amendment has been introduced in this House, some new fact should be brought forward in another place to which attention had not been called here, that would be a very relevant reason why we might consider it right to alter our view. Supposing that in the debate here there had been a very marked division of opinion, and that in another place there was an overwhelming majority one way or the other, that again would be a factor which it would be proper for your Lordships to take into account. But in the present case, it does seem to me that there is every reason why this House should insist on the standpoint which it has adopted, and should refuse to accept the rejection of our Amendments in another place. The only new fact which has emerged is the fact which we had long suspected, and which at last has been wrung from a reluctant Secretary of State, that the course which the Government are asking Parliament to take is a course which they are taking in defiance of the advice of their expert advisers.

So far from there being an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons and a narrow division of opinion in this house, your Lordships carried the Amendment by a majority of six to one, and the House of Commons rejected it by a majority of six, and even that majority would have been at least the other way if a number of members, some of whom actually expressed their disagreement with the Government's course, had had the courage of their convictions, and had voted as they spoke.

There is another factor which I think is not unimportant, and which I invite the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House to deal with. The Government, in moving to disagree with your Lordships' Amendments, had as their spokesman the President of the Board of Trade, and he submitted the reasons for disagreement in a speech of remarkable and commendable brevity. It occupies less than three columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am not sure that its brevity is not its only recommendation, because the statements made by the President of the Board of Trade, as I hope to show your Lordships, are demonstrably untrue. The President began by saying:— I have read with very great care every word of the debate which took place in the House of Lords. Therefore the President told the House that he had studied with the greatest care every word spoken in the debate. Having made that statement, he went on to explain that your Lordships were under a misapprehension when you thought that there ought to be further inquiry. because, said he:— … it is a remarkable fact that from practically the beginning to the end of that debate no reference was made to the prolonged review of the Dyestuffs Industry Development Committee and the conclusion which it reached. Some at least of your Lordships—most, I suppose, of your Lordships—were present in this House on Monday last, and I am in the recollection of every one of your Lordships, I think, when I say that that statement is an absolute untruth. Not only was the Report of the Dyestuffs Industry Development Committee referred to, but actually, both in the speech of the noble and learned Lord opposite and my reply, paragraphs of that Report were quoted textually to your Lordships, and there was prolonged discussion as to the effect and meaning of their recommendation. How any member of a responsible Government can bring himself to get up in the House of Commons, or in any other public place, and state that he has read with very great care every word of the debate and then say that a subject was never referred to which in fact was one of the principal subjects of discussion, passes my comprehension.

The President did not stop there. He went on to explain that the one danger which dye-makers feared was the danger of dumping, and he said that there is no risk there because their industry is admittedly established and they themselves have said that they can compete in price with the foreigner. That is a very remarkable statement for two reasons. In the first place, it is the most completenon sequitur. It is not true to say that because our dye-makers can produce as cheaply as, let us say, the Germans, and can sell at as cheap a price as the Germans, therefore in an open market they can compete against dumped goods sold under cost price by producers who at present are only producing to the extent of 50 per cent. of their capacity, and therefore have every incentive to enlarge their production, and who are themselves securely entrenched behind the walls of their own tariff. Secondly, it is not true to say that dumping was the only fear of the dye-makers.

The President of the Board of Trade read with very great care every word of the debate, and he must have known therefore that it was not true, because your Lordships will remember that I indicated to your Lordships that there were two alternative methods by which the Germans or other foreigners might seek to capture our markets. One was the method of dumping, and the other— which, according to my information, is more probable—was the method which I described as the method of tying two prices together, that is to say, of insisting as a condition of their supplying their own novelties that the consumer shall take the whole of his supplies from the Germans. I mean by that, that the consumer shall not only take novelties which he is getting from the Germans who have invented them, but shall take all his bulk supplies of ordinary dyes from the same source. That, I am informed, is the more deadly and the more probable method of attack. But according to the President of the Board of Trade, after his careful study of our debate, such a danger was never even suggested.

Then the President went on to say that he has been reinforced in his view that the textile manufacturers of this country are ardently desirous that this Act shall lapse by information from leading Conservative and Liberal manufacturers in Lancashire and Yorkshire who have stressed that consideration very strongly during the past two weeks. The President must presumably have received a document which many of your Lordships must have received. It is stated on the face of it, at any rate, to have been circulated to members of the House of Commons, and the President of the Board of Trade undoubtedly answers that description. It is a manifesto by users of dyestuffs who desire to dissociate themselves from the manifesto by certain consumers in theManchester Guardian, and who state that they are willing that the Dyestuffs Act shall be continued for one year in order that an impartial inquiry shall be made into all the facts. Why did not the President, when he said that all the leading manufacturers have expressed very strongly during the last two weeks their desire that the Act should lapse, say that a great many of them dissociated themselves from the manifesto? I think there are 116 signatories to this document, and they include, as anybody can see at a glance, some of the biggest manufacturers in the country, such firms as Jute Industries, Limited, Wall-paper Manufacturers Ltd., and Blundell, Spence & Co., Ltd. There are a hundred odd other well-known names. Why did he not tell the House of Commons that these im- portant colour users were in agreement with your Lordships' House, and that they had thought it worth while to issue this manifesto in order to counter-balance the suggestion which had appeared in a Free Trade newspaper in Lancashire?

These are relevant and important facts, and it is a remarkable thing that the government should have been so conscious of the weakness of their case that they should have thought it right to suppress such facts as I have mentioned and to have made such statements as those to which I have called the attention of your Lordships' House. Let us see what the position is. I am not going to recapitulate the argument which took place on Monday last. I start with the assumption that, having listened to that argument, the overwhelming majority of your Lordships were of opinion that a case had been made for the continuance of the Act for a year, and I merely desire to see wheeler or not, in view of the disagreement which took place last night, it is right that we should insist. It is admitted that the dye-making industry is an industry of national importance to this country. It is admitted that the dye-makers themselves are of opinion that the lapsing of the Act will probably cause irreparable damage to that industry and will check the work of research and will undermine its economic position. It is admitted that such a body as the Institute of Chemistry agrees with their view with regard to research, and that such a body as the Federation of British Industries agrees with their view on the industrial side. It is admitted that the expert advisers of His Majesty's Government on the question of national security are of opinion that the danger ought not to be undergone. The only answer that is made is that the Government do not believe that the danger will prove to be as serious as the dye-makers and all those different bodies of people believe that it is.

It may be that the Government are right. They seldom are, but I suppose we must take all possibilities into account. On the other hand, it may very likely be that they are wrong. All that your Lordships' House is asking at this moment is that there should be a period of one year, during which an impartial inquiry shall be undertaken to ascertain whether the danger is a real one or not. If it is real, if the dye-makers are right in their contention, then obviously, when the year has come to an end, either this Act will have to be further extended or some other form of achieving the same end will have to be devised. If, on the other hand, it turns out that, in the airy language of the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, their views are an illusion, there is no risk, they are perfectly safe if the Act lapses and will be able to carry on their business with undiminished efficiency and success, then at the end of twelve months, when under the present Bill the Act will come to an end, there will be no need to renew its provisions.

If we are in a difficulty, the Government themselves are to blame. They have known of this difficulty for months past. They have known ever since they have been in office that the period of the Act would come to an end on January 14, 1931, and that it would be necessary to take a decision as to whether it should continue. They have known since July 2 that the Dyestuffs Industry Development Committee have been unable to reach a conclusion as to whether or not it was possible for the industry to maintain its present position without the protection afforded by the Act. They had in their possession the express recommendation of that Committee that they should endeavour to agree as to whether any further assistance to the industry was necessary and, if so, as to the form which such assistance should take.

The noble and learned Lord said on Monday that it was not possible to reach an agreement between the dye-makers and the users and therefore, said he, it was no good having an inquiry. But, with great respect to the noble and learned Lord, he altogether misconceives his position and, if I may venture to say so, his duty. No doubt the right thing to do is to try and get an agreement between the makers and users, but if you find it impossible to get them to agree—and if one side knows that the Government are going to hack it whatever it does it is not very likely to agree—if you find it impossible to reach an agreement, then we must have an impartial investigation and a decision. What we complain of is that there has been no investigation as to the reality and seriousness of the dangers of which the dye- makers complain, or as to the present extent of any disadvantage under which the dye-users suffer. It is because we desired that this inquiry should take place that we inserted the Amendments on Monday last, and it is because, in my view at least, it is essential that the inquiry be held that I ask your Lordships to insist upon the Amendments.

Moved, That this House doth insist upon the said Amendments.—(Viscount Hailsham.)


My Lords, I am afraid that there is more than one point on which I shall have to express a different view from that of the noble and learned Viscount, both on what has been said and on the proper inferences to be drawn, but it is pleasant at the outset to be able to say that I entirely agree with him that there is no loss of dignity, either to the individual or to a great Chamber like the House of Lords, in correcting or changing an opinion if convinced that such is the proper result of fresh evidence or fresh information. I shall only suggest that my arguments, which I hope shortly to reinforce in order to meet what the noble and learned Viscount has said in favour of the continuance of the Act, are really worthy of more weight and consideration than the opposing arguments. I was reproached by some of your Lordships with making this a question between dye-makers and dye-users. Of course I did not put out of sight the national question, with which all of us, as well as the dye-users and dye-makers are equally concerned, but I do say this with regard to the responsibility of the Government: that the major consideration in their mind and, I think, in the mind of every thoughtful citizen at the present moment is whether a broad line of policy is likely to help the cause of employment or further to deepen the depression which, quite irrespective of political views, we all regard with much anxiety at the present moment.

The other point to which I think the noble and learned Viscount referred at the outset is one on which I cannot draw the same conclusion as his. He seems to have drawn the conclusion that the President of the Board of Trade was not aware that the Report of the Dyestuffs Industry Development Committee had been referred to in this House during our debate last Monday. I must plead guilty to having read passages from that Report, and I am sure that the noble Viscount must have been impressed by my arguments. I think he also referred to later passages in that Report. It is not for me to defend a Minister who needs no defence. If there is one man in political life at the present time who can look after himself with the greatest ability, and also without any element of untruthfulness (in the sense of the word that any one is meaning to make an untrue statement) it is the President of the Board Trade. Although I have not been able, while the noble and learned Viscount was speaking, to look through all the expressions that he used, I see that Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister did not refer to an absence of comment on the Dyestuff Industry Development Committee, but said that little reference was made to the Report of that Committee. That, of course, makes it a question of the amount of reference that was made. I desire to repudiate entirely—I am sure your Lordships will understand that I desire to do so without any heat, but as emphatically as I can—any charge of wilful untruth (I think that is what it comes to) against the President of the Board of Trade. Such a suggestion is, in my opinion, wholly unjustified.

Before I come to one or two general observations, I want to say a few words on the noble and learned Viscount's remarks regarding the risk that is run if the Act is not incorporated in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, so as to be continued for at least another year. I am willing to say, I hope quite fairly, that I think that the noble and learned Viscount's Amendments, which limited the life of that Act to, I think, the 31st December of next year, if you are to have a limitation at all is conceived in the right spirit and is a proper limitation. I do not think it is of much use to continue it for a shorter period. At the same time, owing to the decision which the Government have taken, that it shall come to an end now, I think if there is to be an alteration I should not differ from the term which the noble Viscount has suggested. Then one word on dumping. I hope the noble Viscount will not misunderstand me. When you are hard up for an argument, and want to get a cheer, you use the word "dumping."


The noble Lord will forgive me. I was quoting the President of the Board of Trade.


It shows that two great speakers, I might say orators, such as the noble Viscount and the President of the Board of Trade, sometimes resort to the same measures in what I may perhaps call difficulties. After all, surely by degrees we are beginning to understand what dumping means. It does not mean that one country, owing to its manufacturing knowledge and experience, is able to export its goods for sale into another country less fortunately constituted, but it comes from the allegation that goods are being sold under cost price. I think we all agree that when those conditions arise special conditions may be not only desirable but in some cases necessary. As regards the other point, that in selling certain goods you make it a condition that other goods shall be taken by the same purchasers, you upset a good deal of our commercial morality if you say that that is an improper thing to do. I recollect some years ago Lord Moulton explaining in this House that a method of that kind was justifiable. It was, I think, not in connection with these dyes but in connection with some chemical patents. That, of course, will be done, and if you wish a system of that kind to be stopped you must have an international arrangement such as we could only make through the agency of the League of Nations at Geneva.

I will now say a few general words to express the views which I desire to express this afternoon. Of course I understand from the speech of the noble Viscount that, guided by him—I do not say improperly guided, but guided as it would be by the Leader of the Opposition for the time being—this House is prepared to take the responsibility of differing from the Government and from the opinion twice expressed after full debate in the House of Commons, on a question of far-reaching importance to the future of the great textile industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire—I am glad to note from the applause that the issue meets with assent—where unemployment is abnormally severe, and where the manufactured output in these industries has decreased more than 50 per cent. during recent years. That is a tremendous problem to deal with. I am not going to say that there are not two sides to the question—I do not blind my eyes to the views put forward on behalf of a prolongation of the Act—but I do say, on the other hand, that it is a great responsibility for this House, against the wish of the Government dealing with the question of unemployment, and in the face of what the Government think right, and of two decisions in the House of Commons, to upset the views which the Government hold on this question of unemployment. It has been said that the Government are not successful in checking the evil of unemployment. I am glad that I get perfect assent to that. It has been said very often, but my answer is this, that if that allegation has any truth in it—I do not take that view—surely the Government should be supported on the issue which has been raised in this case between the dye-makers on the one side and the dye users on the other.

I would like to say one word in reference to new statistics which the noble Viscount has produced. Whatever he may say with regard to some dye-users being in favour of the prolongation of this Act, I think one may say without any hesitation that the great mass of manufacturers and operatives have shown on more than one occasion, and in documents which I quoted the other day, that they are solidly against the prolongation of this Act, on the ground that it places undue expense and undue burdens upon the dye users, both as regards the price and the marketing of their products. No one has denied the importance of establishing the synthetic organic dye industry, but the question is whether that dye industry has become established or not. That we sympathise with its establishment, and the firmness and security of its establishment, is really common ground between both sides. If individual testimony is to be relied upon, on this crucial point, it is proved that the purpose of the Act passed in 1920, which gave a monopoly in the production of synthetic organic dyes for a period of ten years, has been fully accomplished and that the new industry is now fully established.

It was on that very point that I quoted the words used in the Report of the Dyestuffs Industry Development Committee, to which the noble Viscount called attention. It reported:— At the outset the Committee have no hesitation in saying that the main object of the Act has been achieved, and that a substantial dye-making industry has been built up and maintained by reason of the Act in this country. Then they go to the other side and deal with the burden placed upon the dye users as apart from the dye-makers. How can you have a more independent Report, after a prolonged inquiry, than a statement of that kind by a Committee consisting both of dye users and dye-makers. They unanimously, at the outset, commit themselves to the conclusion that the Dyestuffs Act had been effective, and that the synthetic dye industry in this country was established and maintained. The risks or difficulties which are suggested are rather, I think, of a Cassandra-like character. You can always suggest the class of risk to which the noble Viscount has referred. Take the word "dumping," and take the sale of one article requiring the purchaser to buy other articles from the same manufacturer. That could, I think, be alleged in every case—I do not say rightly alleged, because I think it would probably be exaggeration; but when the noble and learned Viscount speaks of the fears entertained by the dye industry and the risks that we are running, those are only the kind of apprehensions which would come from any other Cassandra-like prophet in regard to any other industry.

The same Committee to which I have referred points out in its Report that a serious burden has been laid upon the colour users under the Act. They have borne the brunt of the burden. No doubt at present prices are not what they were, but the brunt of the burden of establishing this industry under the Dyestuffs Act has been cast upon the dye-users for the benefit of the dye-makers. In addition a unanimous representation comes from the manufacturers and operatives in the textile industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire that the loss and inconvenience thrown upon the dye users by the Act, both in matters of price and in the conduct of their export business, has resulted in the loss of orders which otherwise might have been obtained. That is a strong condemnation of a proposal to maintain an Act which makes prohibition the policy, subject only to licences. I quoted the other day from the Balfour Report a statement that a policy of that kind, with its undoubted hardships to manufacturers, should never be allowed to continue longer than it was considered to be absolutely necessary.

The industries affected touch the lives and fortunes of 750,000 operatives and manufacturers. Recent intelligence from America—and I think this is the most serious question we can discuss in this House—must give every citizen of Great Britain renewed anxiety for the future of our great industrial working population. We may come to a wrong decision, but the motive has been that we regard the continuance of this Act as unjust to the operatives in the textile industries, and we consider that the time has come, if the evils of unemployment in this industry are to be lessened, when no further life should be given to the Dyestuffs Act. That is the spirit in which I spoke on the last occasion and it is in the same spirit that I would ask your Lordships to-day not to disregard the decision made in the other House. I am afraid the serried ranks are on the other side of the House, and if your Lordships show that your view is that the Act should be renewed, it is impossible for us to do more than make our protest; but we make it in the most serious spirit, having regard to the conditions which exist in the industrial world to-day.


My Lords, I would ask to be allowed to make an appeal to the noble and learned Lord, in case it is possible in some way to soften his heart and that of the Government. It is only a few months since we and the other House had a difference of opinion as to what would be the consequences in regard to unemployment if we persisted in one of our Amendments. We heard then precisely the same language as we have heard to-day from the noble and learned Lord. Tire heard what was described then by the noble Marquess, whose absence we regret to-day, as minatory language used from the Benches opposite, and, I almost think, From the Woolsack. We have not had that to-day. What has happened? Our suggestions made in the interests of the trade affected, the mining industry, were treated with contempt. We were told that all manner of evils would ensue if the spread-over were allowed to become the law of the land. Our suggestion was thrown on one side, and a contrary provision was enacted. What do we see now? The very Government which denounced our suggestion of the spread-over is now saying that nothing can save the miners unless they act as though that provision had been made part of the law.

I do not say this—it would be beneath the position of this House to do so—to show that on a particular point we were right and they were wrong. It is true that that is the result, but what is the position to-day? They find themselves in this grave quandary; they are advising those responsible for keeping the collieries working to do what is illegal—and what is illegal because of their own action a few months ago. Dare they tell their Attorney-General to prosecute anybody who is now acting as though the spread-over were the law of the land? No, they dare not. I only point out this to the noble and learned Lord, in order to ask him if he does not think it possible that once again the Government of which he is a member is wrong, and this House is right; and is it not all the more likely to be the fact when he notices that the Government received so mall a majority only yesterday, after every appeal had been made to the other House, and after that appeal had been made with the use of arguments which my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham has shown to have been, in fact, untrue? And who knows but that if those mis-statements had not been made, there would have been a majority in favour of the Government of even six? This is not only a question, to my mind, between the dye users and the dye-makers, it is a question, as was proved at the time of the War, of the safety of this country, and all that this House asks is for twelve months in order that the matter may be considered. It is not merely, I say, a question between the dye4riaker and the dye user, it is a question between this House and those whom I will venture to call—because they exist on the sufferance of one man—themorituri.

On Question. Motion agreed to, and Amendments insisted upon accordingly.

A Committee appointed to prepare a Reason for the Lords insisting on their Amendments: the Committee to meet forthwith.

Report from the Committee of the Reason to be offered to the Commons read and agreed to, and a Message ordered to be sent to the Commons to return the Bill with the Reason.