§ MR. RITCHIE
, on rising to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the injurious effect upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of the system prevailing in various countries of giving bounties on the export of Sugar, and to report whether, in their opinion, any remedial measures can be devised by Parliament,said, the subject was one of great interest to the sugar industry of this country, as well as to our sugar-growing Colonies and our carrying trade. It was a matter of great importance, not only to those trades, but also to the general body of traders throughout the country; for if the effect of the bounty system on the Continent had been to prevent the natural increase of the growth of sugar in the West India Islands, it followed that those Colonies had been unable to take in exchange that quantity of British manufactured goods they otherwise would have done, so that the question was not one confined to the sugar interest, but one of great importance to the general trader. If such had been the effect of the bounties upon the Colonies, the effect at home, up to the present, had been to shut up the refineries one by one, so that refining was now almost an extinct industry. It was, therefore, important that the system should be abolished, in order to give fair play to an important branch of our national trade. When the number of years they ' maintained their position in the face of those bounties was taken into consideration, an answer was at once found to the charge that our refiners wanted cither industry or enterprize. So far from this being the case, if they were now placed in their proper position, they would be able not only to supply the home market, but also to obtain and retain a portion of the immense export trade of the Continent, which at present amounted yearly to 250,000 tons of refined loaf sugar. More trade would be brought to our ships, and more work to our workpeople, and in times like these such a fact ought not to be lost sight of. But for some statements which had been made, he should not have thought it necessary to show that the sugar bounties existed; as, after the discussion which had arisen, and the conferences that had taken place, he should have thought that no one 861 who paid any attention to the subject could have disputed the existence of the bounties—their existence was written on almost every page of the Blue Books; but, as he was anxious not to leave any portion of his case unproved, he would give some proof of the existence of the bounties. The Belgian Finance Minister has spoken of "the enormous bounties enjoyed by the French refiners," giving them the command of the market. Two years ago M. Toe Water, one of the delegates of the Dutch Government at the International Conference, wrote a letter in a Dutch newspaper against the sugar bounty in Holland. He said that at one time the bounty was so great that nearly all the duty went as bonus to the manufacturers. That was before the French competition sprang up, and when the Dutch refiners had entire command of the export market. He goes on to state that at present, of the annual importation and production of the country, amounting to 120,000 tons, 6 per cent—that is, 7,200 tons—escape the duty, causing a loss to the Treasury of 1,800,000 florins. He declares thatthis is the only industry in Holland which receives such protection, and is thus fostered by artificial means.Lastly, let me give the House an idea of what the French themselves say. The gentleman whose words I am about to quote was one of the French delegates at the International Conference in the year 1873. This gentleman was sent by the French Government, ostensibly for the purpose of taking part in the adoption of some measures which had for their aim and object the abolition of these bounties. Mark his language. The House will see what kind of sincerity there was in the efforts of the French Government when they employed a gentleman who could speak in this way—The system of sugar duties was invented to give bounties to the refiners. The refiners have never been subjected to supervision; it would be an unheard-of thing that they should now be subjected to it for the first time.In spite of the determination in official quarters to maintain the bounties the French Assembly, in 1874, passed a Resolution declaring after a certain date refining in bond should be practised, and thus the bounty should be got rid of. So much for the bounties in re- 862 fined sugar; but it was necessary to say a word with reference to the bounties on raw sugar, which were so disastrous in their effects on the sugar-growing Colonies. Mr. Harris-Gastrell, their Consul or Agent at Buda-Pesth, said—Austria exports large quantities of raw sugar under bounty. In that country there is a very lax system of taxation on roots. A very considerable proportion of the Excise duty is paid away in the form of drawback, and there is no doubt that this drawback operates as a bounty. Only a very small quantity of sugar has been exported which has not profited by this drawback.He estimated that this drawback system, which only commenced in 1863, had in 1874 risen to such an extent as to absorb 7,595,243 florins out of a total taxation of sugar of 9,528,648 florins, leaving only, as the balance received by the State, 1,933,405 florins; so that the Government of Austria were paying away seven-ninths of the whole sugar revenue in the country in the shape of bounty. The Austrian Government was so alarmed at the extent of these bounties, that measures had been taken, to some extent, altering the law; but the bounties still existed to a considerable extent. He would now explain how the bounty was obtained. In France and Holland the duty was levied, not on refined sugar after it left the refineries, but on the raw article when it went into the refinery. On every 100 lbs, say, of raw sugar, the duty was levied on the estimated yield of refined sugar; but the raw sugar produced from 5 to 10 per cent more refined sugar than was estimated, and so the manufacturer received a drawback of a duty he had not paid. That was a distinct bounty. With reference to the amount of the bounty in France, M. Léon Say said, in answer to a deputation which waited on him, the bounty did not amount to more than £90,000. That was at total variance with the evidence already existing, as he would proceed to show the House. In the course of an important discussion in the French Assembly it was stated that the bounties amounted to 20,000,000 francs, and this figure was never disputed. Subsequently, an inquiry was made by the sugar-makers into the amount of the bounty, and in 1875 they came to the conclusion that it was in that year 11,000,000 francs; in 1876, 10,000,000; and in 1877, 8,000,000. This was exclusive of several small items, 863 which went to increase the bounty; but it might be taken that the bounty lay somewhere between l0,000,000 francs and 20,000,000 francs—between £400,000 and £800,000. If the Committee were appointed, this point could be thrashed out. He would now proceed to ask the House to consider the effect that these bounties had upon the sugar trade of the West Indian Colonies. Those Colonies, he thought, had special claims on their consideration. They had already suffered very much from the competition they had to undergo in consequence of slave-grown sugar, and, to some extent, they still suffered. If it could be shown that the Colonies were prejudiced by these bounties, the question ought to be very carefully considered by the House. The growth of beet-root sugar in Europe had enormously increased, while cane sugar in the West Indies had been practically at a standstill for the past 10 years. In 1828 there were 210,000 tons grown, and in 1878 there were 240,000 tons. Let them compare that statement with the figures relating to the growth of beet-root sugar on the Continent. The production of beet-root sugar on the Continent had risen, from 377,000 tons in 1857 to 1,490,000 tons in 1878, the increase in the 21 years being 1,113,000 tons. That increase was at the cost of their Colonies. As another instance, he would mention that in the three years 1859 to 1861, before the bounty system began, British tropical countries supplied 57 per cent of all the sugar imported, and the Continent only supplied some 6 per cent. Now, with the aid of the bounties, the Continent supplied 36 per cent, and the British tropics only 26 per cent. If this state of affairs arose from any natural disadvantage, they might regret it, but they would have to submit; but sugar could be grown more cheaply in the West Indian Colonies than on the Continent. Those gentlemen who were engaged in the growth of sugar in our Colonies did not like to be driven out of the trade, even by a few years of bad trade and loss. They looked forward to the day when some alteration would be made in this system of bounties, and their trade would be carried on at a profit; but if these bounties continued, he anticipated the inevitable day when the growth would altogether or almost be extinguished. If we had a larger importation from the 864 Colonies, it would lead to a larger exportation of our goods to the Colonies. Of course, it might be said we must send back goods for the sugar we bought, even though we did not send such goods to our Colonies. But the trade with, our Colonies, he ventured to think, was much more important to us than the quantity of goods we sent in return for sugar from France. The West Indies took 40s. per head of British goods; France took 8s. per head of British goods. Therefore, he thought the House would see that anything which prevented the importation of any large amount of sugar from our Colonies was a damage to our manufacturers. But if that was the effect of the bounty system on our West India Colonies, what was the effect on our sugar refineries here? He found that the production of loaf sugar in this country had been reduced from 100,000 tons to 20,000, and that the number of loaf sugar refiners had been reduced from 25 to one. Compare this with the export of loaf sugar from France and Holland—in 1869, 180,000 tons; in 1878, 290,000 tons. Even Austria and Germany exported under the bounty system about 100,000 tons. The total yearly export of loaf sugar from the Continent was from 350,000 to 400,000 tons. Of this, about 120,000 tons came to Great Britain. Our total make was 20,000 tons; our export was nil. The abolition of the bounty would not only enable us to make 100,000 tons of sugar which we imported from the Continent, but would give us a share of the export trade now done by France and Holland. He assured the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reference to his speech to a deputation on the previous day, that our exports had not increased, but had decreased from 59,000 tons in 1876 to 52,000 in 1878, and even this was not loaf sugar—which, as he had shown, we did not export at all—but moist refined sugar. There was nothing to hinder Continental manufacturers by the aid of their bounty also destroying our small export trade in that description of sugar. He acknowledged the obligations of those interested in this matter to the Government for the persistent manner in which they had endeavoured to bring foreign Governments to a right frame of mind on this subject; but, at the same time, he thought a little more diligence might have been shown in the matter. In 1863 865 a Conference was held, and in 1864 a Convention was signed by which the bounties were to have been abolished; but France never carried it out, notwithstanding repeated remonstrances. Conference after Conference was hold; but, although Conventions were agreed to, they were on one pretext or another never ratified. The one result attending all these Conferences, however, was that after all other methods had been discussed, it was conclusively shown that no system of classification would effectually abolish bounties, and the only effectual remedy was shown to be refining in bond. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Government, both Liberal and Conservative, notwithstanding Franco and Holland were committed over and over again to refining in bond, they had evaded carrying out their obligations. Were we now to sit down, fold our hands, and submit to this system of bounty which we had so repeatedly denounced—a system that was ruining our refiners, injuring our Colonies, and restricting our commerce? Negotiations had not succeeded. Was no other course possible? It was in order to answer that question that he asked for a Committee. It might be asked what remedy could be devised by a Committee? He did not desire to prejudge the result; he did not even desire, at the present time, to commit himself to any particular course; far less did he desire to commit the House or the Government to any particular course. He wished it to be also clearly understood that he and those who acted with him in this movement had no desire to be identified either with Protection or what was called Reciprocity. He assumed that any settlement of the question must necessarily be on Free Trade principles. There was one argument he wished first to clear out of the way—it was called the consumers' argument. There were people who asked why the English should refuse to accept a present from France, and why should they be deprived of cheap sugar, if Franco was willing to give it them? It was a mistake to think that the French made us a present of the whole of these bounties; it was quite sufficient for their purpose to allow sufficient bounty to enable them to sell sugar at a little below cost price, so that the benefit obtained was really small to the con- 866 sumer, but it was fatal to our refiners. It did not amount to ¼d. per lb.—little more than ⅛d. To a refiner, however, this meant ruin. But could it be an ultimate benefit to the consumer to obtain any article below its natural cost price? By all means let the consumer buy in the cheapest producing market. If England could not compete with other markets in any particular manufacture, he was quite ready to admit that that manufacture must go to the wall; but the moment artificial measures were adopted by competing countries to introduce into a duty-free country an article below its cost price, that industry was doomed to extinction in such country; and when that has occurred, was it likely the artificial cheapening process on the part of the foreign country would continue? It might be answered that if that came about, and in consequence prices rose, the industry would revive. Was it likely that further capital would be embarked in an industry which at any moment might be again lost by a repetition of that policy? The effect of such a system—a system by which the consumer bought below cost price—was of ultimate disadvantage to him, because it must inevitably drive capital out of the trade. He had, however, higher authorities than himself on this question, to whose opinions he was sure the House would give that attention they deserved. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on receiving a deputation, said—He knew it had been said—sometimes he had seen it put strongly in the journals—that if foreign countries chose to pay bounties, or anything in the nature of bounties, on the sugar which they exported, and thereby supplied us with an article cheaper than it would otherwise be, we as a nation laid nothing to do but to take advantage of their folly, and that we need not trouble ourselves as to the effect it had on this or that particular trade. He wished to say that he entirely dissented from that view. He did not think that we ought to comfort ourselves with arguments such as those. In general, he agreed in principle with what had been said by so many there present. He agreed with what had been so well said by Mr. Sampson Lloyd, that we ought not by any legislative enactment to interfere to prevent other countries making use of their natural advantages to supply us with the products which they could supply more advantageously than we could. But that principle did not apply to a case in which, by legislative action on the part of a foreign Government, by any artificial action on their part, they could supply us with an article which, if things were left to their natural courses, we could supply as cheaply or more cheaply ourselves.867 Lord Aberdare, on August 28, 1875, said—Of course, it was an advantage to this country to reap the benefit of cheaper productions in other countries; but the effect of these large bonuses to French manufacturers was this—that they are rapidly destroying the refining industry in this country. There were large manufactories already closed. If this continued, they would find that the present refiners of sugar would cease to exist; and the British consumer would find that, instead of a decrease, there would be an increase in the price of sugar. It was, therefore, of interest to the British consumer that these absurd and extravagant bonuses on French sugar should cease.And what said Lord Derby on the subject?—I quite agree, especially with what was said by one gentleman who addressed us, as to the fact that cheapness was not, in the long run, likely to be promoted by this system of bounties, or that, at the utmost, a temporary artificial cheapness would be obtained which might be followed by a permanent enhancement of the price.Again, in the House of Lords, in July 1875, Lord Derby said—Before I sit down, I would just remark that I think my noble Friend (Lord Hampton) put this question a little too much as if it affected exclusively the interests of the colonial producer and the sugar refiner. From our point of view, it is also a question affecting the general interests of the public. We are convinced that any advantage of cheapness to the consumer which can be obtained by means of the bounty on foreign sugar will be temporary only; because, if the bounty were continued long enough and raised high enough to drive the English sugar refiner and colonial producer out of the market, then it follows that the foreign producer would get the monopoly of the market—in which case the price would not long remain at a low rate."—[3 Hansard, ccxxv. 1806.]Professor Leone Levi said, at the Society of Arts—Nor can it in the end prove satisfactory, even to the consumer in this country, to enjoy even the benefit of extraordinary cheapness, if, under the operation of such exceptional legislation and a fallacious system of bounties, one by one all the refiners in England and Scotland should be compelled to close their works, and so leave the whole British market for refined sugar a complete monopoly for the French refiners.Surely, after such an array of authorities; as that, it would no longer be asserted^ that a continuance of these bounties was for the ultimate benefit of the consumer? But the best answer to that assertion seemed to him to consist in the fact that both the late Liberal, and the present Conservative, Governments had felt themselves bound to use every effort and 868 remonstrance with France to obtain a cessation of these bounties. Would that have been so, if such cessation were considered injurious to the consumer? Were we not, therefore, justified in endeavouring to ascertain whether some other measures might not succeed in doing that which the Government had up to the present faied in securing? There was a proposition for altering the mode in which these sugars were classified by means of saccharometry. That was a system which he did not think was likely to be satisfactory; it was a system by which frauds might be perpetrated to as great an extent as at present, because it would depend upon the examination of samples. The fallacy of that system had been exposed at the Conferences by the English delegate, and, because of the door it opened to fraud, the sugar refiners of this country would rather matters remained as they were than see it adopted. He believed it had been conclusively shown that the only thing which would have the effect of abolishing these bounties was the adoption of the system of refining in bond. Then, it had been contended by some that the proper way of dealing with this question, if France and Holland refused to give up the bounties, was to stop the importation of sugar from those countries altogether. No doubt that was a very simple plan, and would have the desired effect, though he was far from advocating it. No doubt, if France and Holland were likely to lose such excellent customers as we were, they would take such steps as would put an end to the bounties. He was not going to assume the character of an authority on Free Trade; and, therefore, he had fortified himself with some good authorities on the subject. He found that M'Culloch (whom hon. Gentlemen would admit was a good authority on these questions), in his Political Economy, page 145, said—If there be apparently good grounds for thinking that a prohibition will so distress those against whom it is levelled as to make them withdraw, or materially modify the prohibition or high duty it is intended to avenge, it may be prudent to enact it.He thought such an assertion from such an authority could not fail to have considerable weight with us. If such a course was justifiable in the case of a protective duty levelled against our manufactures, it seemed to him infinitely stronger when 869 it was directed against foreign bounties, which were aimed against the trade of this country. Another suggestion for dealing with the question was to place a countervailing duty on foreign sugar—a duty which would be an exact equivalent to the bounties in countries whore bounties were given; but he wished it to be understood that the refiners would be satisfied with a duty even less than the bounty rather than that it should be supposed they wanted anything like Protection. He might add that the imposition of a bounty was a violation of Free Trade and free competition, and that a countervailing duty would simply have the effect of re-establishing that Free Trade which the bounty had violated. To impose a countervailing duty equivalent to the bounty would be to leave the foreign manufacturers as free in the competition as if there were no bounty and no countervailing duty. It would, therefore, not be at variance with Free Trade principles, and he would refer to Ricardo and Adam Smith to hear out his assertion. What was Free Trade? It was the circulation of commodities at their natural value, and the natural value of an article was that which it would bring in a free competition. There were one or two cases in which something very much like this countervailing duty was already in force. The duty upon tobacco, for instance, was 3s. 6d., whereas upon cigars it was 5s. 6d. This difference did not exist for Revenue purposes, but to establish fair competition between the foreign cigar manufacturers and those at home. The extra 2d. put this year upon cigars was also not for the sake of Revenue, but of fair play to our home manufacturers. If, in the case of sugar, it were asked why we should prevent the consumer from buying sugar at its present price in the interests of the sugar industries, he should like to know why we should prevent the cigar consumer from buying his cigars plus the lower rate of tobacco duty, rather than plus the high cigar duty merely in the interest of our cigar manufacturer? Indeed, the case of sugar was infinitely stronger, because, by allowing the cigars to come in without the extra cigar duty, we did not run the risk of ultimate injury to the consumer through their being sold below their natural cost price; whereas, in the case of sugar, the action of these bounties caused the sugar to be 870 sold below its natural cost price, and this must end in enhancing the price to the consumers. Then, again, in the case of spirits, the Customs duty was 10s. 5d., and the Excise duty 10s. A countervailing duty of 5d. a-gallon was adopted to place British and foreign spirits on an equal footing. Other instances of the same policy might be given. It was, therefore, clear that a countervailing duty would be no departure from our commercial policy. It was said that if this countervailing duty was imposed France would retaliate; but why should they retaliate? The present state of things benefited not the consumers, but the refiners, and was a tax upon the general public. Unfortunately, the refiners were extremely powerful, and the Government were unable to cope with them; and he believed the French Government would not look unfavourably on any instrument we might place in their hands to enable them to override that power. By imposing such a duty as was proposed, we should only be doing what was provided for in the 19th Article of the Convention of 1864, to which France, Belgium, and Holland were parties. In that Article it was stated that—In the event of bounties being granted in the said countries on the exportation of refined sugars, the high contracting parties will be at liberty to come to an understanding as to the surtax to be imposed on the importation of refined sugars of and from the said countries.There was, therefore, no ground for supposing there would be any idea of retaliation. He admitted that the imposition of the countervailing duty would be attended with considerable difficulty; but this was essentially a matter for the Committee to consider. A Committee was desirable, even if it were unable to point out a remedy. The whole question would thus he thoroughly investigated, various statements that had been made would be sifted, and the Foreign Secretary's hands would be strengthened for further negotiations. On this last point Lord Salisbury had spoken as follows to a deputation yesterday—With reference to the main matter for which you have come here to-day—the question of the appointment of a Committee—I think I had better leave that in the hands of the Leader of the House of Commons. But I may say I do not think you overrate the value of a Committee in strengthening the hands of a Foreign Minister, 871 not only because a Committee can bring out facts which can only be obtained in a quasi-judicial manner, but also a committee is able to satisfy a foreign Government of the permanent direction of opinion in this country much more completely than can be done by the single word of a Minister of the Crown, who may be supposed to be speaking rather his own opinions. Therefore, I have no doubt if my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) sees his way to concur in the suggestion you have made to-day he will do so, because it will strengthen the negotiations conducted by the Foreign Office.Words like these, from such high authority, ought to be sufficient to procure the Committee for which he asked. He hoped his arguments would be met by arguments which were to the point, and that no irrelevant questions would be raised. No industry in the Kingdom was in the same position as the sugar industry, and any remedy they might propose would not be applicable to other commodities. Let them not argue about the evils of Protection, or advance the claims of other industries to Protection. They did not require Protection. All they asked for was an establishment of the principles of Free Trade which had been practically destroyed by the bounties. If the negotiations now being carried on failed, we ought to devise some other remedy for the state of things he had described. He begged, therefore, that the Government would consent to the appointment of this Committee, in order to see whether, pending these negotiations, there was not some other course which, in self-defence, we could adopt. He had shown that the system of which he complained was destructive to our industry, opposed to the best interests of the country, and contrary to the principles of Free Trade and competition. He appealed with confidence to the Government and the House to take measures for the abolition of this obnoxious system, which was destroying our trade and ruining our manufactures. The hon. Member concluded by moving for the appointment of a Committee.
, in seconding the Motion, said, that his hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) had drawn attention to the doubt cast by some persons on the existence of the bounties. That doubt arose from a verbal quibble as to whether the bounties should be called bounties or drawbacks, seeing that under the French system no sugar bounty was actually paid, but only an excessive 872 drawback allowed on the exportation of refined or manufactured sugar; but it was clear that, according to the nomenclature sanctioned by Adam Smith, the former term was correct and ought to be employed. The fact was that the drawback exceeded the tax; and, therefore, it was in reality a bounty in the most dangerous shape in which a bounty could exist. A former Finance Minister of France had stated, some years ago, that the amount paid in bounties on French sugar was £800,000, which sum had, of course, considerably increased by this time. Long after our system of bounties had been abolished, we had failed to perceive the existence of a sugar bounty, in consequence of giving it in the shape of drawbacks. There could be little doubt that the general taxpayers of France bore this imposition in anything but a patient spirit; and, were it not for the fact that the bounty was masked under the form of a drawback, he thought they might rest satisfied the system would soon be discontinued. Therefore, if no other advantage accrued from the evening's debate, he looked forward to the inquiry of the Committee, should it be granted, as likely to draw the attention of the French taxpayer to the true bearings of the question, and in that way to strengthen the hands of the British Government towards obtaining an abolition of the system. The bounties arose in this way. Raw sugar was taxed on an estimate of the amount of saccharine matter it contained. The sugar was classified, and intermediate qualities were taxed on the scale of the class below them. It was evident that, unless the classification was carried out in great perfection, a margin for bounty would thus arise by the manufacture of intermediate classes of sugar, out of which a larger quantity of refined sugar could be obtained than was reckoned in the imposition of the tax. In that way, when a ton of raw sugar was taxed at the rate of £1 for every cwt. of pure sugar it contained, and it was calculated that the ton contained 16 cwt. of pure sugar, the amount of taxation would be £16. But when the refiner came to deal with it, he was able to turn out 18 cwt. of pure sugar, on exporting which he received a drawback of £18; in other words, he got a clear bounty of £2 per ton. As far back as the year 1862 873 there had been a movement in France for the abolition of the bounties; and the thou Finance Minister, noticing the amount squandered on bounties, had made overtures to this country and to Belgium and Holland with a view to that result. A Convention was entered into, in accordance with the terms of which a Commission of chemists was held at Cologne, and a system was adopted for the better classification of sugars. We ourselves did put an end to the system of bounties; but the French, after the English bounty was abolished, ceased to take the same view, and, on one pretext or another, abstained from action of any kind, till at last the Convention, which had been arranged for 10 years, expired with no further results. Meanwhile, the disadvantage at which we were placed became more and more serious. At the end of the Franco-German War, the French increased the taxation of many articles; the tax on raw sugar was increased 50 percent, and, consequently, the bounties were raised by a similar amount. Previous to that time our own manufacturers had had a certain market; but the increase of the French bounty rendered competition on their part far more difficult than before. The effect of the continuance of the French system soon began to be unfavourably felt in this country; and in December, 1876, Professor Leone Levi stated that 14 English sugar refineries had been closed, and now that was the case he (Dr. Cameron) believed with very nearly all of them. That was due, not to the great depression of trade, as they had been told, for the decline of our sugar industries began before the depression was noticeable, but to the unfair disadvantage at which English manufacturers were placed. He attached no importance to the statements made in the prospectus of a new refinery company, which had been referred to in connection with the subject, because it was the invariable rule for the promoters of now undertakings to anticipate large profits. The trade did not ask to be protected from fair competition; but the bounty of £3 per ton now given by France was too much for them to contend against, and the extinction of the trade he believed to be only a matter of time. However, he knew that fact was disputed, and it 874 was just one of those which the Committee should investigate. The attitude which some persons adopted when the probable extinction of this industry in England was spoken of, and it was assumed to be necessary to make an effort to preserve it, reminded him of the reply of the French cynic to the man who said he must live—"Je n'en vois pas la nécessité." But if we were told that there was no necessity for the existence of British sugar refiners, he would point to the money which had been expended by successive Governments in pressing this question, which showed the importance they attached to the maintenance of home industry. Why was it that we had gone to such expense in past years in connection with all the Conferences that had been held on the subject? Why had we taken so much trouble with the object of getting the bounty abolished in France? The bounty was borne impatiently in France, and it had even been denounced on a vote by a majority of the French Legislature. If he imagined that the advantage which we gained from the French bounty could be a permanent one, he should say, let us by all means accept it gratefully; but it could not be permanent, and the moment our industry was extinguished the bounty must cease, and the French would name their own price for the sugar with which they supplied us, because we should be compelled to buy from them on their own terms. It might be said that the abolition of the bounty would resuscitate our own industry; but that by no means followed, because capital would not return to the trade, lest the bounty should be re-imposed. As to the question of an alternative for the present system of drawbacks which would get rid of their bounties, whether it were the adoption of a system of refining in bonds, or the use of the saccharometer, or any other means, these were details depending altogether upon the action of foreign Governments; and he did not think the investigation by the Committee of any such matters would lead to any practical result. They should rather confine themselves to the results of the present system, and how we might most effectually put an end to it. Of the various proposals made to the Government, one had been a prohibition of import; but he should be 875 the last in the world to think that was seriously advocated. It seemed to him the proposal for a countervailing duty rested upon a different basis, and was susceptible of support on grounds of political economy. The one real objection to a countervailing duty was that bounty-giving countries would not export to us direct, but through other countries. That, however, was not an objection of vital importance, for there would be no difficulty in tracing the source of the sugar, by whatever channel it arrived. It could not be said we had any commercial policy in such matters, for we had had no opportunity of dealing with a similar case. This was not a question of either Protection or Reciprocity; to both of which he was opposed, but was entirely apart from them. If seeking for Protection, he should ask for the taxing of the French raw sugar coming to this market which was manufactured in bond and exported free of taxation; but he did not desire that; while, if he proposed Reciprocity, he should ask that, as the French levied a surtax upon the product of our Colonies, we should levy a surtax upon French sugars. He did not ask for either of these measures; he simply asked that our Government should take steps to intercept the artificial advantage French manufacturers derived from the bounty, and in all other respects allow trade to take its natural course. Whenever injury had been threatened to our home manufactures by artificial bounties—and there were several instances of it so occurring—countervailing duties had been invariably resorted to. Tobacco furnished a case in point. As it was heavily taxed in this country, the manufacturer of cigars was prejudiced in competition with the foreign manufacturer, and the advantage he gained from the comparative cheapness to him of the raw material was neutralized by a countervailing duty. There were corresponding arrangements in respect of malt, chicory, and spirits; and as to the alleged difficulty in ascertaining the amount of the bounties paid in the case of sugar, there was no more difficulty in determining that than there was in ascertaining and allowing for the amount of loss incurred by our home distillers through the operation of Excise restrictions. So far, therefore, from the only 876 analogous cases which could be adduced showing that countervailing duties were against the general policy of this country, they showed that such duties were in entire accordance with it and with Free Trade principles. They had nothing whatever to do with Protection or Reciprocity. In cases where an injury arose to home manufactures through the policy of a foreign Government, which, if it arose from the action of our own Government, would be neutralized by countervailing duties, we should take the same means to neutralize its evil effects. In this case, the simple question before the House was whether they should allow bounties arising from the action of foreign Governments to injure the British manufacturer in cases where, if the injury arose from the action of our own Government, his interests would be protected against prejudice. At present, the question only arose in reference to sugar, but it might soon arise in reference to other things, and we would then be forced to take the steps which were now deprecated as being in favour of a special class; for we could not allow foreign Governments to ruin our industries one after another by this bounty system. He knew there were differences of opinion on the question, and he believed it was one which could better be argued out in its principles and details before a Committee than in that House; and, therefore, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the injurious effect upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of the system prevailing in various countries of giving bounties on the export of Sugar, and to report whether, in their opinion, any remedial measures can be devised by Parliament."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
said, he would support the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). The question was one which affected to a very great degree some of the constituency which he had the honour to represent. If he believed the Motion adverse to the real and permanent interests of the consumer he could not support it, because the constituency which he represented contained many thousand consumers and but a small number of producers; but he thought that in this case the interests of the two classes were 877 identical. He looked upon this particular question as one entirely outside the great controversy between Free Trade and Protection; and if any hon. Members were sincere advocates of Protection and opponents of Free Trade, or vice versâ, these great questions need not be trailed across the path of this inquiry. A countervailing duty was not Protection, but simply the neutralization of artificial advantages given to foreign competitors. He was very much surprised to hear some persons express doubt as to whether substantially there were any bounties. But that bounties to a very considerable amount had been given was admitted by the Finance Minister of France; and, what was more important, for the last 15 years successive Ministries at home had striven to get these bounties done away with. If there were no bounties, how was it that different Ministers had laboured so hard to get thorn removed? He might also point out that the benefit even to the consumer of the present unjust bounty system was more apparent than real; for by it we were obtaining at a low price a substance which we made use of as sugar, which was obtained from beetroot, and which was not so good as the sugar obtained from cane grown in our own Colonies. The working population were not large consumers of refined sugar, therefore not large gainers by its being cheapened by bounties; and a great industry in the country was nearly paralyzed by the state of things which existed, and which could not be considered of benefit to the country. It was all very well for people to ignore the sugar trade because it was a comparatively small one; but, supposing it were possible for despotic Governments to enter into a combination to sell Manchester goods by bounty in our home market at less than cost price, could anybody believe that Lancashire would submit to such a system for many weeks? The principle which was objectionable in the case of Lancashire was surely objectionable also in the case of this smaller industry? All that was asked for by those who objected to the sugar bounties was the restoration of natural and fair competition. He had no wish to prejudge the question, which was one surrounded with difficulties; but he expressed an anxious hope that the Government would see its way to grant 878 the Committee which had been moved for by his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets.
§ Mr. SAMUDA
said, he thought it would be generally admitted that the sugar interest, both British and Colonial, had a very great grievance to be redressed; and he agreed with his hon. Colleague in the desirability of appointing a Committee to inquire into the matter. He would warn the House, however, that the subject was a much larger one than even the exhaustive speech of his hon. Friend would have led them to suppose. If the case were limited to refined loaf sugar, it would be comparatively easy of solution; but, in point of fact, it extended to the mode of dealing with what was technically called "soft" sugar. What was the grievance which appeared to exist with regard to the loaf sugar? France, Belgium, and Holland, which had united with ourselves for the purpose of obtaining a uniform action and result in the competition in one another's markets, had not given fair and full effect to the proposals which they themselves originated and which we accepted. A hidden influence in some of those countries prevented the carrying out of the wishes of the people. Speaking locally, and for his own constituents, he had this practical result before his eyes:—In 1864 there were in that district no fewer than 23 refineries in active and profitable operation; at the present time there was only one. This was a most important fact, because the change ranged over a period when the depression of trade which had been referred to did not exist. Against the bounty established in France previous to 1871—namely, £1 10s. a-ton—our refiners were able to hold their own; but when, owing to the necessities arising from their war with Germany, the French had to raise their taxes on this amongst other articles, and to increase correspondingly the bounty, our refiners had to compete with a bounty of about £3 per ton. The result of our agreement with France, Germany, and Belgium was that, after 15 years of trial and disappointment, we were no better off than we were in the beginning. Soft sugar up to the present time had had no bounty in France, and while France had been content to let that soft sugar pass out of France without a duty, Austria, on the 879 other hand, had not been so content, but she was paying an enormous bounty on that raw (or soft) sugar. The manufacture of sugar from beetroot in Austria had increased to an unprecedented extent. In 1864 Austria manufactured very little sugar indeed; now she was paying about £1,000,000 in bounty, and giving back nearly £700,000 to the persons who were producing, not loaf sugar, but raw sugar. Therefore, if France carried out her engagement with us and Holland, she would be overweighted in the race, and Austria would be enabled to supply the sugar which France otherwise would do. That circumstance rendered the question more complicated. The best way of dealing with the subject, however, was to get at the bottom of the facts, which were but little known, and were not known at all by the taxpayers of France. They should get at the mode of dealing, not with the refined sugar only, but with that of raw sugar. The manufacture of beetroot sugar was, owing to certain influences, going on to an extent which it was impossible to check. What applied in that case to France equally applied to Holland and Belgium. France had set to work to get sugar from beetroot, and the effect of that had been to enable her to bring a large breadth of land under cultivation which was not cultivated before. He was told that, while the production of sugar from beetroot was a source of profit to France, the beetroot, when deprived of the sugar it contained, was equally as available as it was before for feeding the older cattle, though not for feeding the young animals. That gave the French an enormous advantage. It might be asked, how it happened a country would incur a vast expense to support an industry which could not support itself? The reason was, that the bringing of land into cultivation was thought to be so important that France could afford to support that industry in its present stage by State aid. The quantity of beetroot sugar produced within the last 10 years was no less than 770,000 tons, whereas the whole of the cane-sugar produced in 30 years in the British Colonies and in the slave-growing States was about 600,000 tons only. Now, he held with his hon. Colleague that the attempt to cure the state of things now complained of need not trench on the advantages we 880 derived from Free Trade. He did not, however, agree that the remedy should take the form of a countervailing duty. A countervailing duty would be extremely complicated in its application, and would not be advisable. It would appear also to be in direct opposition to our general system with respect to duties; and it would involve us in difficulties in connection with the Favoured Nation Clause of Treaties. The object in view, however, might be effected in a different way. He believed that refining in bond would, to a certain extent, but not entirely, meet the evil, without infringing the principles of Free Trade or interfering with the Favoured Nation Clause. We might, therefore, say to those countries who had entered into Conventions with us on the subject that we would give effect to those Conventions, and would require them to refine in bond; that we would give them the absolute right to send their refined sugar into this Kingdom free of duty, but on condition that they refined in bond, and that until they refined in bond we would keep it out altogether. By that means, we should be able to compel those countries at least to approach to honesty in that matter, and that would be sufficient to restore the industry which we had lost. With regard to the claim of our Colonies, he did not see his way clear to the remedy which their case demanded; but the labours of the Select Committee might throw valuable light on that point.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he had no doubt the House felt the deepest interest in this subject, and his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Ritchie) had shown himself profoundly acquainted with it in all its bearings. He need not inform the House that, so far as the Foreign Office was concerned, it was no new subject. He was sorry to say that there had not been any subject in which the Foreign Office had been engaged since he became connected with it which was of a more distressing or more unsatisfactory character than this. They had from the first been impressed with the fact that there was an immense amount of distress in the refining industry in this country, and they had from time to time received from men of the highest character such piteous tales of the suffering which existed in that industry as could not fail to excite in any man connected 881 with the public affairs of the country feelings of the deepest sympathy. The history of the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and foreign Powers had already been related to the House with so much accuracy and detail that he should be abusing the indulgence of the House to enter into it. It was also very well know to the country. The object of those negotiations could be stated in a very few words. This question had been before the country for the last 20 years, and the object of the present Government, and of the successive Governments which had preceded them, had been simply to obtain an agreement on the part of foreign nations for a uniform and equitable rate of drawback upon the export of refined sugar. That was the whole question. By "equitable" rate of drawback he, of course, meant such a rate as would not leave the export duty greater than the Excise or Customs duties. If that uniform duty were obtained, the whole object of the British Government would be achieved. It was unnecessary for him to go into the evils of the present system, for they had been admitted by successive Governments, and in 1860 an attempt was made to obtain an abolition of these bounties. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd), that this was not a question of Free Trade at all, because the most sincere supporters of Free Trade principles had themselves endeavoured to procure from foreign Governments the agreement to which he had referred. He should be uncandid if he were to give the House the impression that he went altogether with those who had brought before the Foreign Office the declining state of their industry, and that he believed that this was entirely duo to the bounty system. There were many persons of influence and position in this country who knew the circumstances of the sugar industry as well as those who were engaged in it, and who believed that the industry, although suffering very deeply in many places, ought, nevertheless, to be regarded rather as an industry whose success had shifted from one place to another, than as one which was declining all over the country. That was a serious element in the consideration of the matter; and, besides these, there were other persons who held that the bounty system 882 was not the cause of the decline of the refining industry; and others, again, connected with the trade, who were of opinion that there were other causes, and that as there many means besides refining by which raw sugar could be converted into consumable sugar, the bounty system could not operate against those who had embarked in the industry with the view of making consumable sugar by other processes than refining. He (Mr. Bourke) could not speak with any authority upon those points; but he was bound to point out to the House that those views were held by persons of the highest authority. After all, however, the question before the House was, what was to be done with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets? There was no doubt that a great industry was suffering. There was no doubt, also, that it deserved the sympathy of all who really had the welfare of the country at heart; because he should say from personal experience that there was no body of men connected with the commercial affairs of this country who had set their minds and their energies more resolutely than this class had during the last few years to try and remedy the evils under which they had been suffering. The measures which had hitherto been attempted to remedy these evils had been unsuccessful; and although foreign Governments were perfectly agreed as to the equity of the principle which Her Majesty's Government laid down, yet, at the same time, for one reason or another—in some countries because they had set themselves against the system of refining in bond, and in others because shifting Administrations had had shifting opinions upon the subject—they had not acted upon it, and the Government were just as far to-day as they were years ago from attaining their object. There was another element which the House ought not to leave out of consideration, and that was, that the question was an extremely technical and difficult one, both as it related to our Colonies and the Revenue of this country. It was very desirable, too, that every means of pressing this subject upon foreign Powers should be brought into play; and although successive Governments had exhausted all their powers, and had shown foreign Governments everything they know upon the subject, it was quite 883 possible that by the machinery of a Select Committee they might be able to impress them in a different way from that in which they had hitherto been successful in impressing them. Some persons, no doubt, might be sanguine enough to believe that if a great commercial subject of this kind were discussed by a Select Committee, and skilled witnesses—who need not be confined to this country alone—were examined, the Report of such a Committee might not only have a good effect upon the sugar industries of this country, but might have a good effect upon the cause of the consumer generally throughout Europe. Nothing had more astonished him than that in European countries, and particularly in those which had universal suffrage, the voice of the consumer seemed never to be heard; and he therefore thought it possible that an inquiry of this kind, if it were extended to all the branches of the subject, might have a good effect, not only as regarded the particular industry, but also as regarded our commercial affairs generally throughout Europe. There was also a great variety of subjects which such an inquiry might clear up. For instance, there was the amount of the bounty. There were many high authorities in this country who, basing their opinion upon the facts given them by foreign statesmen, did not believe that the bounty amounted to anything like what it was alleged to be. That of itself was a recondite and difficult subject upon which to make any distinct declaration. Then, again, if they admitted the principle of equalizing as much as possible the drawback upon exportation, it would yet have to be decided how that principle was to be carried out. Many foreign countries said there was nothing like saccharometry, whereas we at home said there was nothing like refining in bond. This was a subject of the greatest difficulty, on which many of the highest authorities in this country had changed their opinions. Some of those who were now most in favour of refining in bond were strongly opposed to it a short time ago. This showed how difficult all these questions were. Then, too, there was the question of the Colonies. He need not show the House the difficulty of dealing with the subject of Colonial sugar. But he quite agreed that, whatever course the House might resolve 884 upon, it would be the duty of the Foreign Office to proceed with the negotiations with other Governments; and although he did not say it was likely, he thought it quite probable, that some foreign nations might read that debate, and might think it desirable to re-open, or rather to continue, the negotiations which had never actually been closed. The question of a countervailing duty has been very eloquently brought before them; but he should not be doing his duty to the House, if he did not make it clearly understood that the Government could not hold out the slightest hope to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) that they would support any such proposal. He was surprised at the observations of his hon. Friend (Mr. Samuda) who had last spoken. The hon. Gentleman opposed a countervailing duty, but he seemed to propose something far worse. He would have them say to foreign nations—"If you do not adopt the system of refining in bond, we will not admit your sugar at all." This was going much further than his hon. Colleague, who advocated a countervailing duty. It was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to agree that a Committee on this subject should be granted; but they could not agree to the terms in which the proposal had been made by his hon. Friend, because those terms really begged the question. The precise terms of Reference could be agreed upon hereafter; but he might be allowed to read to the House the Order of Reference proposed by Her Majesty's Government. It was to the following effect. That a Select Committee should be appointed—To inquire into the effects produced upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of this Country by the system of taxation, drawbacks, and bounties on the exportation of Sugar in force in various foreign countries, and to report on the steps it is desirable to take in order to obtain redress for any evils that may be found to exist.This was the proposal he now made to the House. He should be very glad if it were accepted, and still more glad if it were thought that the Government were dealing with the subject in a manner calculated to satisfy the industries concerned.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said he would be sorry that this Motion should be agreed 885 to, even in a modified form, without someone rising to offer some objections to the proposal and to the speeches by which it had been supported. It now, for the first time, appeared to be a matter of reproach that a question of this kind should be discussed upon the principles of political economy. The hon. Member (Mr. Ritchie) who had introduced the subject, as well as the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) who had since supported him, all pointed a sarcasm against the supposition that political economists could have anything to do with this matter. Some little homage had been paid to the principle of Free Trade in the declaration which had been made that it was not a matter of Protection at all. They were all against Protection in the abstract; but when it came to be Protection in detail, they all found some exceptional circumstances which took the problem outside the question of Protection or Free Trade, and made it a matter specially deserving of consideration. What was the proposition laid down by the hon. Member? It was that the interchange of commodities between countries should be left entirely dependent upon the natural conditions of production in those countries, and that any interference with that interchange of commodities would undoubtedly be an infraction of the principles of Free Trade; but that if the Government of one country chose to adopt any fiscal measures which affected the production of a particular commodity which might be exported to the other, it was no infraction of the principles of Free Trade for that other country to take counteracting measures, so as to reduce to a nullity the action of the first country. If that were Free Trade, he could only say it was not the way in which it had been understood in this country for the last 30 years. He could point to case after case in which the statesmen of the country had refused, on the grounds which the hon. Member himself had advanced, to take any of the counteracting measures he had advocated. He would mention one or two of these more particularly. Everyone knew that after the negotiation of Mr. Cobden'a Commercial Treaty a discussion arose as to the manufacture of paper in this country. It was then said 886 that our manufacturers were placed at a disadvantage because they could not freely obtain the raw material for paper in the best market. That argument was brought before the House again and again, and numberless examples were given of the decline of the paper-making industry in consequence of our manufacturers being debarred from the best available market for the raw material; but the House, though strongly urged to do so, refused to take any counteracting action. Then, again, he might take the case of the duties on the importation of foreign corn. Those who had road or who remembered the history of that contest knew very well that those duties were defended on many grounds, and especially on the ground that the English producer was subject to legislative impositions from which his foreign competitor was free, and that the tax was designed not to disturb the natural course of trade in corn, but simply to equalize the fiscal difficulties of its production at home and abroad. That contention, however, had never been regarded with favour by the House. He came to another and even more pertinent case, the case of sugar itself. Few persons now remembered the contest waged on the question of the equal duties on slave-grown and free-grown sugar; but not till after long argument was it decided that both should be admitted on equal conditions. The argument in that instance was of a moral as well as fiscal character: and in particular the argument that the slave owners, who could command cheap labour, were unduly favoured was repudiated by the House. It was most strongly urged that the laws sanctioning slavery in Cuba and Brazil gave the sugar planters of those countries cheaper labour than our own planters could command, and differential duties should be maintained to neutralize this artificial bounty, tainted as it was in its odious origin; but Parliament abolished all differential duties. Why, then, should they now, in consequence of the action taken by the Continental Governments, depart from their ancient principles and reestablish something resembling Protection? The old Free Trade principle was to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market; but would anyone contend that this was not an attempt to prohibit purchase in that cheapest 887 market? And that prohibition was said to be no infraction of the principles of Free Trade and no injury to the consumer! They were asked to tax the whole body of the consumers in order to keep up the prosperity of a refining district, and to do so was said not to be repugnant to the doctrines of Free Trade. Now, when there was an Excise duty on a commodity manufactured here, we imposed an equal Customs duty on an article manufactured abroad, in order to protect the Exchequer from the loss that would otherwise ensue, and the principles of Free Trade were not violated when Excise and Customs duties went together. But it was not so with the proposal of the hon. Member, and the House would see that it was contrary to all those principles. The price of refined sugar would be raised, and the difference would be received by the Exchequer in respect of imported sugar; but it would be pocketed by refiners in respect of home-refined sugar, and it was for this very purpose that the proposal was made. He would say a word on the practical difficulty of the examination and investigation to which the Government had consented. They were to have a Select Committee which, according to the amended terms of Reference, was to begin its work by examining into the operation of any drawbacks existing in other countries. It certainly was very remarkable that such a Committee should attempt so extensive an inquiry; and, considering that it was a disputed question among the French themselves, they could hardly expect a Committee to determine the point at issue. Nor was the intended result less singular, for the Committee was expected to enlighten and instruct the whole French people on a matter on which their Government had made so elaborate an inquiry, and yet had told them nothing. But if the investigation proved successful, the same thing would have to be done with respect to Holland, Belgium, Austria, and Russia. And even when the facts were all ascertained, what would be done? Was it not evident that a distinct duty would have to be established for every one of the different countries, and that the same duties would not suit equally France, Belgium, Holland, Austria, and Russia, though, of course, it would be absolutely impossible to levy the different duties for 888 each particle of the sugar from the various countries? As for the suggestion made by his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), it was preposterous to suppose that this country would ever prohibit the importation of sugar in order to force the French to adopt the system of refining in bond. Our sugar refiners professed to have discovered that this refining in bond would be the solution of all their difficulties. But when the contest over the sugar duties was raging in this country 20 years ago, the same refiners declared that refining in bond was practically impossible; and the difficulty of refining in bond had, he took it, been found insuperable in France also. It was questionable whether the difficulties of the sugar trade in this country depended on the French system of bounties at all. From a very carefully-written book on the Agriculture of France by Mr. Richardson, he learnt the other day that a French refinery for cane-sugar had been obliged, in carder to pay, to transform itself into a refinery for beetroot-sugar, owing to the fact that sugar could now be refined up to a certain point more profitably in the country of its origin than in that of its consumption. That fact seemed to him of great significance. Within the area of France the bounties had no operation. Nevertheless, even in France, there was that difficulty of refining cane-sugar at a profit. The fact seemed to him to explain in a large degree the difficulties of sugar refining in this country. The figures of our own trade showed that the importation of unrefined sugar into England was increasing; that the exportation from West India was not diminishing; and the increase in the importation of Continental sugar was explained by the immense increase in the consumption of sugar at home. Trade was changing its form, but not its quantity. Refiners found their business leaving them, but there was no falling off in the consumption of sugar. In other words, notwithstanding the difficulties of the refiners, there was no damage done to trade, taken as a whole. For all these reasons, the Committee now asked for ought to be rejected. Its appointment could only lead to mischief. As to the educational influence of the debate, he was afraid it would be just this—that Europe and America would 889 believe that the English House of Commons was uncertain whether Free Trade was or was not a good thing, and that Canada would be encouraged to proceed in the path of Protection on which she had entered. The House of Commons was going to offer Canada a defence for her policy; and he, for one, begged to protest against such a beginning of mischief.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it was evident that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) was unreservedly devoted to the doctrine of what he called political economy, and deprecated the appointment of the proposed Committee, because he feared that investigation by a Committee would too severely test the application of the doctrine or the theory to which he was so devoted. The hon. Member had also said that he was fearful of what might be the educational effect of the present debate. The prominent feature of the debate seemed to be that the hon. Member, who arrogated to himself an exclusive devotion to—nay, an almost unnaturally keen perception of—the doctrine of political economy, was terrified at the very idea of having the application of this doctrine to a particular branch of industry in this country tested by the inquiries of a Select Committee of this House. The hon. Member seemed to imagine that this country had, unreservedly and for ever, adopted the fundamental doctrine of political economy, "buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market." Who disputed that maxim? He (Mr. Newdegate) certainly did not. But the circumstances in the present case were these—that the Governments of France, Austria, Russia, and the United States had not only proclaimed, but were practising, an opposite system. They had reverted to the system of Protection. He did not know whether or not the writings of Adam Smith had been forgotten by modern political economists, who despised quotations from the works of his pupil, Ricardo. Adam Smith showed that the extreme of a protective policy was manifested by the granting bounties upon goods exported. Adam Smith himself admitted that if, by the granting of bounties, or by prohibiting the admission of the produce of another country, one foreign country interfered with the freedom of trade of another 890 country, to that extent the country whose industry was thereby injured was absolved from the doctrine he had generally enunciated against the imposition of import duties. He (Mr. Newdegate) supposed that the hon. Member for Liskeard would not deny that Adam Smith was an authority on political economy. It appeared to him (Mr. Newdegate) that the hon. Member, like many others, had read the three first books of Adam Smith, and had carefully abstained from reading the fourth. He rejoiced that Her Majesty's Government had decided upon supporting the appointment of a Committee to investigate this subject. It had long been his conviction—and he believed there was no other Member of the House who had studied the tariffs of foreign countries more than he had done, for no other man had published a complete Compendium of Tariffs—it had long been his conviction, and that without in the slightest degree denying the truth of the maxim that it was the interest of every country to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market; still, that it was impossible, considering that Free Trade depended upon the constant and reciprocal action of nations and Governments in commercial matters, for this country to ignore the action of foreign Governments upon trade, and that sooner or later the House of Commons would again acknowledge as one, if not the chief, of its primary duties, the necessity of so acting upon Her Majesty's Government that they should not pretend to ignore the action of foreign legislation upon the trade of this country.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he had thought in his ignorance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very much to be congratulated on the prudence he showed in answering the deputation on the previous day, because, while the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs committed himself somewhat to the views of the deputation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would take time to consider of it. He (Mr. Lowe) was afraid that he could no longer pay him that compliment; but he thought they had some reason to complain that they were arguing without knowing the words of the Reference which the right hon. Gentleman wished them to agree to. He confessed he thought they would have a better chance of arguing 891 the matter rightly if they knew what those words were to be. He had listened with attention to the speech of very great ability delivered by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), and he must say that anything more astonishing than the transformation that came over the argument of the hon. Member in the course of that speech he never heard. The earlier part of it was not very conclusive. The hon. Member did not appear to have any clear idea—any more than anybody else usually did—what was the real, actual, precise nature of the evil against which he was contending. He had endeavoured, but had never been able, to ascertain exactly what the advantage was that the French beetroot-sugars received. The amount had been placed as high as £1,000,000, and the lowest might be £94,000, and between the two they were left at liberty to arrange it at will, and to form their own conclusions. He was in hopes that the hon. Gentleman, who was conversant with the subject, would have been able to have given them some assistance; but he left the matter as dark as he found it. He gave a number of statements, some of which were not reconcilable with each other, and left him (Mr. Lowe) quite unable to come to any conclusion as to the magnitude of the bounties with which they were asked to deal. The hon. Gentleman treated them to a most fervent denial, at the outset of his speech, of the slightest intention to interfere with the received doctrines of Free Trade. That declaration re-assured him very much, because he naturally thought the proposed inquiry of the hon. Gentleman would have been limited to the question of the amount of the bounty which was given to the French and other refined sugars; and that if the worst came to the worst, and the Committee was granted, they would get no information at all. He did not see what power a Committee of the House had in the way of obtaining information, for the Government had tried for years to get information, but without success. But the hon. Gentleman, after those professions, suddenly turned round and launched into what appeared to be the utmost extreme to which it was possible to carry the doctrine of Protection. Now, what was the harm of Protection? Why was it they objected to Protection? It was not be- 892 cause it protected them. Everybody liked to be protected. If that were its only evil, it could easily be borne. The objection to it was that it implied something else besides Protection. They could not get Protection by merely saying that they wanted to be protected. They must make sacrifices in order to get it, and those were the sacrifices which a well-administered country would be the last to make. How did they protect themselves against the superiority of a neighbouring country, whether of soil, skill, position, or whatever it was? They did not merely pass a law saying they wanted Protection; but they took some step, and that step was the institution of a tax. There was the whole sting of it, and yet that was what hon. Gentlemen would not look at. It was by making some article dearer than it otherwise would be—made dearer solely that a small party of the community who dealt in that article might be benefited at the expense of the whole community. That was the most shameful course that anybody could adopt, for it sacrificed the many to the few, and threw obstacles in the way of that which ought to be the common property of all mankind. That was the sting of the matter; and what did the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets want them to do? He said he could not tell them. He said he would find out. That meant he would find out how much foreign countries gained from the bounties which the French Government, with only £110,000,000 of Revenue, were foolish enough to squander in fostering this industry. He would find that out, and then he would impose a countervailing tax, and yet he said that that had nothing to do with Protection at all. Was it not astonishing that he should put the matter in that way, and yet passed over the sting of the whole thing—the tax—and have dealt only with certain material circumstances which presented a specious appearance? He did not blame him for it; but what he was surprised at, and what was deserving of the highest blame, was that the Government of the country, who were responsible, and who ought to be aware of the great responsibility they incurred and the great necessity there was for watching in the most careful manner the incidence of taxation, should be found lightly, with so little care, to open the door to such a tremendous 893 innovation without giving the House the terms of their proposal. He would ask the House this—when they had found out the exact amount of the bounty received on the hand, and had put the countervailing tax on the other, did they suppose they were going to stop there? Did they suppose that they were going to make this an isolated exception, and that nothing more would be required? Did they suppose that there were not innumerable other cases of industries that were suffering and were oppressed by superiority of climatic advantages, and other causes which they had to struggle against, and often failed and succumbed in the struggle? What did it signify whether that arose from natural causes, or from the perversity of man? The former might have something to do in enabling them to estimate the folly of those who imposed these duties; but, so far as the suffering of the country was concerned, it mattered not one pin what was the cause. If it was a right thing in one particular case to break down those rules we had made for our guidance, and tax the many for the benefit of the few, how could we say it was wrong in others? This case might be the strongest, but weaker cases would be pressed with probably stronger influence, and bit by bit the splendid fabric of Free Trade which had been established by such noble exertions in this country would be hopelessly undermined; little by little it would be broken down as the exigencies of Party might require. That was why he would ask the Government, while it was yet time, to reconsider their decision, and not to enter on a course which might introduce into our legislation a principle which would inevitably overthrow the whole fabric of Free Trade, and make ours a country in which the people would be divided amongst themselves and split up into factions, each claiming to be benefited at the expense of all. He was shocked and grieved at the step the Government were taking. For many years Free Trade principles had been accepted, and he had hoped they would have lasted his life-time. He was one of the oldest Free Traders in the country; but if the Government went on in this way, old as he was, it really looked as if, having seen the rise of Free Trade, he might also live to see its decadence.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I regret very much that, owing to the course of the debate, the words which the Government propose to substitute for the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) have not been laid more distinctly before the House; and I will, therefore, before taking notice of some of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Lowe), take the opportunity of reading once again the words which we propose should be substituted for the Resolution which my hon. Friend has moved. The words which we propose are these—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the effects produced upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of this Country by systems of taxation, drawbacks, and bounties on the exportation of Sugar now in force in various Foreign Countries; and to report what steps, if any, it is desirable to take in order to obtain redress for any evils that may be found to exist.Now, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) says that he is an old Free Trader, and that he regrets exceedingly and is greatly pained to see that stops are now being taken—apparently, he would have us believe for the first time—to come down from the high platform on which Free Trade principles have been maintained for so many years. I beg to remind the House and the right hon. Gentleman that the course which it is now suggested that we should take is precisely the course which he himself and those who have been his Colleagues have been pursuing for 20 years, and he used that argument with respect to this very article of sugar. I would remind him and the House that up to a very few years ago we had a system of sugar duties in this country, and that that system was regulated not upon the simple principle of taxing all sugar at one uniform rate, but according to a system which was from time to time revised, and revised in concert with other nations, with a view to obtain a fair and equal system of taxation as between nation and nation; and the only object which we now have in view is to insure the introduction of a system, which was sought for in 1860, and which was believed to have been attained in 1864 by a Convention concluded by a Government in which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) was a prominent Member—a system which has been more or less 895 maintained and supported by every Ministry that has ruled in this country since 1860. All that we desire is to attain and maintain the arrangement at which the negotiations of 1864 aimed. The right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues had been continually pressing upon the French Government, and the Dutch and Belgian Governments, by every argument in their power to modify their system of duties, and to adopt regulations either for refining in bond, or to take other steps, in order to bring about a fair arrangement between the industries of the different countries. Well, I do not know whether that is called Free Trade or not, as we use the term sometimes in a very lax manner. No trade is absolutely free when there are any duties at all connected with it, and nothing will amount to real Free Trade in connection with the question before the House except the doing away with all duties over all the world with respect to sugar. But the object, which I presume, so old a Free Trader as the right hon. Gentleman has had in view in encouraging the negotiations to which I have referred has been to bring about a really fair and equitable system of arrangements between the countries concerned. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) laid down the doctrine that we had nothing to do with questions of that kind, and that the only principle which we were to go on was that we should buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest. If that is so, what are the hon. Member for Liskeard and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London to say to the conduct which the latter and his Colleagues have been pursuing for so many years—namely, trying to prevent the country from buying in the cheapest market by endeavouring to induce the French and other Governments to put an end to a system of bounties which was apparently productive of advantage to this country? If the doctrine that we should buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest is correct, then we are very wrong to take official notice of this matter; we are very wrong to send Sir Louis Mallet, Mr. Kennedy, or anybody else to Paris or elsewhere, and we are quite wrong to ask the French to do away with their system of bounties. We ought, instead, to encourage them to retain a system of so excellent a charac- 896 ter. But that is not the principle which was maintained during the existence of the Government which preceded our own and I will venture to say that even among the most prominent Members of the late Government there are still those who maintain that they were not only perfectly right in the course which they took in 1864, but that even now it is right that such steps as can be taken should be taken to do away with the artificial advantage which the French have. I am going to quote from a Circular issued by the Affiliated Workmen's Associations of Great Britain, and, therefore, I shall not be quoting firsthand; but I remember seeing the letter from which I shall read, and which was one of great importance at the time when it was written, and I have no doubt the extract is substantially correct. It is an extract from a letter written a very short time ago by the right hon. Gentleman, the late Prime Minister, the Member for Greenwich. In it he says—If, as I understand, the circumstances of the case continue unaltered, I think that both the trader and the workman engaged in the business of refining sugar have great reason to complain. My desire is, that the British consumer should have both sugar and every other commodity at the lowest price at which it can be produced without arbitrary favour to any of those engaged in the competition; but I cannot regard with favour any cheapness which is produced by means of the concealed subsidies of a foreign State to a particular industry, with the effect of crippling and distressing the capitalists and workmen engaged in a lawful branch of British trade.I must assume that those are doctrines perfectly consistent with the laws of political economists, and with the principles of Free Trade, and that they are principles and doctrines which we may accept and apply without feeling any of that shame which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) seems to think we ought to feel for our backsliding in this matter. I therefore wish that we should clear this matter up as well as we can, and that we should, in the first place, agree—if we can agree—upon this point—that it is our object, and ought to be our object, if possible, to get any unfair advantage in the nature of bounties, open or concealed, abolished. Well, when we have agreed upon that, we have two things to consider—First, whether these bounties really do exist, and what is the real effect which they produce; and, 897 secondly, whether there are any means, and, if there are any, what means we can take to do away with that disadvantage? I do not mean to say that you are to assume, if you ascertain that the disadvantage exists, that you are justified in using every means to get rid of it; but you will be justified in considering what means there are by which to obtain its abolition. We have had a great deal of discussion in and out of Parliament upon this subject, and we have had a great many communications with foreign countries, and there has been a great deal of Correspondence; and I think those who have read the Blue Books, and studied the negotiations which have been held on the subject, must see that the question is one of a very complicated character. The right hon. Gentleman refers to something which passed yesterday in another place, and he says that I was cautious and prudent in reserving my opinion as to what the advantages of a Committee might be. Undoubtedly, I was anxious to reserve my opinion; but I did suggest, in a few remarks that I made upon the occasion to which he refers, that I saw some possible advantages in an inquiry instituted in order to clear up matters which I think are very doubtful, and require clearing up. I think there are facts, to which I alluded yesterday, which require explanation, and I should be very glad to have those facts investigated by a competent tribunal. In an open inquiry, to which witnesses can come and be examined and cross-examined, a great deal can be brought out which cannot otherwise be arrived at. There are undoubtedly some startling facts relating to this matter. Undoubtedly there exists great distress in certain places among persons who have been carrying on the trade of sugar refining under certain conditions. But, on the other hand, we certainly see that the imports of raw sugar are increasing in this country; we see that the export of what is called refined sugar has increased; and we see, when we analyze the question, that while there is a great falling off in some parts of the Kingdom—London and Bristol for instance—the very reverse is the case in other quarters; and that, though in some places the number of refineries is diminishing, the output is nevertheless increasing. These points all require investigation, as well as 898 the suggestion that the existing unfavourable circumstances arise not only from the operation of the bounty system, but from other causes too, such as alterations in our system of refining. Well, I do not say whether this suggestion is right or not; but I think it would be very desirable that the points to which I have referred should be thoroughly tested and explained. Then we have the question, what is the real effect and operation of the foreign systems? As to this question there is a good deal of difficulty, and, in spite of the cutting sarcasm of the hon. Member for Liskeard, I believe that a Committee would be able to get a good deal of information on the subject; and I am not at all sure that a discussion conducted in open day by a committee of this House might not have some effect even in foreign countries in opening the eyes of certain classes to the defects of their systems. We know that among the great statesmen who are now the Rulers in France, there are men who are good political economists and have won great distinction in the field of political economy; and we cannot assume that those men will be altogether insensible to the arguments that may be adduced and the facts that may be brought to light in an inquiry such as is proposed. Our view is, that the opinions expressed after an inquiry in Parliament would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage in the prosecution of negotiations with foreign countries. Our object is to continue those negotiations, and we should, therefore, be prudish if we refused to go into such an inquiry for reasons based upon grounds which may never be apparent, or because it is possible that such inquiry may lead to proposals that will be objectionable in their character, or because objectionable proposals may be afterwards made or even adopted in this House which could never be sanctioned. I hold, as strongly as I ever did, that countervailing duties and reciprocal arrangements are open to serious objections, the principal of which is that when a countervailing duty is imposed you can never tell what its indirect effects may be. In regard to the particular trade concerned, no one can tell, when they put on duties for that purpose, what their indirect effect may be; and, therefore, the greatest caution ought to be used before 899 such a step is taken. What we now propose is that a Committee shall be appointed which will go into this question, and which will have the power of inquiring into all the allegations, of ascertaining what the facts of the case are, of bringing those facts before the eyes of the world, and which shall prove to our own people that we are honestly endeavouring to get at the root of the matter. In that way, we may be able to derive information which will assist us in our negotiations with foreign countries. [Mr. LOWE: And to suggest remedies.] Yes, that is so; but there are remedies and remedies, and it will be competent for the Committee to state what in their opinion is the best remedy, and their Report may possibly assist the Government in their negotiations. For instance, here is a case in point to which an hon. Member has adverted. Some little time ago I brought down upon myself—indeed, I acknowledge I was the guilty party in the matter—the wrath of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), and some of his clients, by venturing to suggest an improved system of saccharometry, which might be pressed upon foreign countries that were not disposed to adopt refining in bond. I am told by my hon. Friend that saccharometry could only do harm, and could not do any good; but this is one of those points which we wish should be discussed by the Committee, as it may be that if we can hit upon some new principle which may not be objectionable a portion of our difficulties may be removed; and, further, because, a few years ago, the refiners in this country were setting their faces against refining in bond, and arguing entirely in favour of saccharometry. It might be proved that a system of saccharometry might be more acceptable than any other. But I do not think that we ought to go into these remedies to-night; and all I ask is that a Committee shall be appointed to go into this question and all the facts relating to it, and tell us what the best remedies are, so that we may judge of the advantages and disadvantages on the other side. In this course, I can see nothing which in the least derogates from the principles of Free Trade.
MR. MAC IVER
said, that the inconsistencies of the Free Traders were to him perfectly delightful. He thought the 900 Free Trade of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) was very much like the Free Trade of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney); but their view was not that of the sugar refiners, and was not only foreign to his (Mr. Mac Iver's) view, but was entirely opposed to the view which he believed this country was every day coming more and more to believe in. He should not have thought it necessary to have spoken at all on the subject, if it had not been for what fell from his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). He thought there was some misunderstanding, not only in regard to what was meant by Free Trade, but that the House ought not to accept the view of what Reciprocity was from those who were opposed to it. He wished to say what he meant, and what he believed many other hon. Members meant, by Free Trade and by Reciprocity. He believed true Free Trade was not what had been expressed by the hon. Member for Liskeard. We had tried that system for 33 years in England; but all Mr. Cobden's hopes had been utterly falsified. If those hopes had been realized, we should then have had something like true Free Trade, instead of the miserable Brummagem sham to which the country had been accustomed. He (Mr. Mac Iver) had read with very much surprise a pamphlet written by Sir Louis Mallet, in which that gentleman commenced by saying that he had some difficulty in imagining what was meant by Reciprocity. Before that, he (Mr. Mac Iver) had thought there could not be any reasonable doubt as to what most people meant by Reciprocity. In his amazement that Sir Louis Mallet could not ascertain what was meant by Reciprocity, he could not help wondering whether the Cobden Club possessed such a thing as a dictionary. Surely Sir Louis Mallet might have borrowed Webster's Dictionary somewhere, and found there that the definition given to the word "reciprocity" was "equal mutual rights or benefits to be yielded or enjoyed." He wished to refer for a moment to what other people had said. It was only the other day that he turned up a magazine called The Nineteenth Century, and the first thing that met his eye was that Reciprocity was true Free Trade. That was exactly his idea. He 901 did not think true Free Trade could exist without Reciprocity. That which was wrongly called Free Trade—Brummagem Free Trade, as he (Mr. Mac Iver) preferred to describe it—meant, in regard to this sugar interest, the practical ruin of the British sugar refiners for the sake of the theoretical benefit of the consumers. The bounty system had located in France, at a trifling expense, a valuable industry which this country had all but lost. Considering the interests of those who were engaged in the carrying, the buying, and the selling of sugar, he hoped his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would, in the negotiations with France, and in the Reference to the Committee, bear in mind the surtaxe d'entrepôt. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had said he could state the object of the negotiations in a few words; but his hon. Friend could have stated their result in one—namely, "None;" and he might have said that they were never likely to have any result. The reason why we were treated as we were was because the French did not believe we should ever do anything of the nature which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets desired. He (Mr. Mac Iver) felt that the sugar refiners had a very hard case indeed; but he could not sit down without expressing his regret that his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, and the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), who seconded the Motion, should have brought so broad a question forward on the very narrow lines of the sugar refining industry alone, because their case was only one out of many other industries that were being destroyed by unfair foreign competition.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
, in moving the Amendment which had been suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said, he would take that opportunity of expressing his entire concurrence with all that had fallen from his right hon. Friend. He wished to remark that the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets did not in any way affect the principle of Free Trade. All Governments in this country had, during the last 20 years, endeavoured to induce foreign Governments to deal with the system of bounties. We had not yet succeeded; but this was no reason why we should not try again to prove to 902 other countries that they ought to alter their system.
To leave out from, the word "to," in line 1, to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "inquire into the effects produced upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of this Country by the systems of taxation, drawbacks, and bounties on the exportation of Sugar now in force in various Foreign Countries; and to report what steps, if any, it is desirable to take in order to obtain redress for any evils that may be found to exist,"—(Mr. Secretary Cross,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. M'LAREN
thought his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) scarcely did justice to his hon. Friends the Members for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) and Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), when he accused them of speaking against Free Trade and political economy. As he (Mr. M'Laren) understood those hon. Gentlemen, they advocated their proposal on the grounds of political economy and Free Trade. He had been a Free Trader ever since he could remember. He had had the honour of being member of the Council of the Anti-Corn Law League during the whole of its existence, and yet he held that in supporting the views of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets he was not in any shape or way opposing the principles of Free Trade. But while he approved of the Motion of the hon. Member, he was very much dissatisfied with the Amendment which had been moved on the part of the Government. Had that Amendment been proposed without any remarks, he might have allowed it to pass without observation; but the fact was that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had taken great pains to show that there were almost insuperable difficulties in connection with the subject, and how hopeless it was to get foreign Governments to concede anything; and he had ended by expressing his opinion that if hon. Members expected Her Majesty's Government to give any sanction to the principle of a countervailing duty they would be very much mistaken. After such a statement as that, it appeared to him that the appointment of a Committee would be very 903 much of the nature of a sham, and he was opposed to all shams. The evidence given before the Committee would appear in a Blue Book, perhaps next Session, and nothing would ever come of it. If he (Mr. M'Laren) had the responsibility of the Motion, he should decline to accept the Amendment; but at it was, he should follow the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), who had taken the lead in the question. After all the unsuccessful negotiations of the past 10 years, for the Government to state authoritatively, as had been done, that they would not take the only step that would bring foreign Governments to their senses, was, in effect, to tell the latter to go on as before for another term of years. It had been urged that this Motion was advocating a perpetual Protection; but it was only a proposal for tentative Protection, to continue only until foreign Governments met us fairly. As the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had said, refiners were willing to accept a duty of less than the bounty—say a farthing a-pound weight, which was less than the bounty. If an Act were passed providing that all sugars exported to us from countries granting a bounty should bear a duty of a farthing a-pound, or 2s. 4d. per cwt., with a provision by which, if Her Majesty in Council should become satisfied that any foreign Government had removed this obstacle to Free Trade, that then an Order in Council should be issued exempting that country from the operation of the countervailing duty. With all deference, he submitted that the operation of such a law would very soon bring foreign Governments to take a common-sense view of the case, and put an end to the grievance. There was an instance of such a countervailing duty of 25 per cent upon foreign spirits manufactured in Germany and Russia, and sent to this country, which gave great annoyance to the manufacturers of spirits in these countries. The natural price of these coarse spirits was about 1s. 4d. per gallon, and a countervailing duty of 4d. was imposed, because of the restrictions and disadvantages under which our distillers laboured, from the Excise regulations required for the collection of the Revenue. Some hon. Members had spoken rather hardly of France, and other countries, for giving these bounties on their own 904 manufactures; but they should remember that we had done the same thing to an enormous extent. Those of them who were old enough to remember would recollect that we gave a bounty of 20 per cent upon the exportation of herrings, with a view of cutting out the Dutch and Norwegians. Now, he wished to ask whether it would have been unjust, or contrary to Free Trade, if the Dutch or the Norwegians, seeing that we had given a bounty of 4s. a-barrel upon herrings, had imposed a countervailing duty of that amount? He held that it would have been perfectly fair and right for them to have done so. With regard to linens, we had given a bounty of about 15 per cent upon their exportation; and as much as £300,000 a-year was paid in bounties on the exportation of linens from this country. Now, that was a very large and serious amount; and supposing that the Germans, who then beat us in some markets with certain kinds of coarse linens, had imposed a countervailing duty of 15 per cent on our linens, would that have been unjust, or contrary to Free Trade principles? He held that it would not. He maintained that they ought to test this principle, on a large scale, on something else, and see what the result would be. Supposing the principle were applied to our cotton manufactures, what would be the result? They knew how absurdly the Government of the United States had acted in imposing prohibitory duties on goods from this country, and the great loss that country sustained thereby. Now, if they were to take the unwise step for themselves of giving Protection to the exportation of cotton goods, by a bounty of 15 per cent on cotton goods, as we had done with regard to linens, the result would be to paralyze our cotton manufactures by underselling us in our own markets, and wages would have to be reduced 45 per cent to meet American prices; because wages formed only about one-third of the average cost of cotton goods. If we now allowed one of our manufactures to be destroyed by foreign bounties, another might be attacked in its turn, and unless preventive measures were adopted, a great deal of misery might be caused amongst our industrial population. He was afraid, from a remark made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he had misunderstood a phrase that was 905 commonly used with regard to refined sugar. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that refined sugar was largely exported from the Clyde. That was quite true in a certain sense. They had seen a Circular stating that 20,000 loaves of refined sugar were imported daily into this country. But there were no loaves manufactured in Scotland. The sugar was, no doubt, refined—that was to say, it went through a purifying process, but it was not refined loaf sugar in the sense meant by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and therefore his argument, based on the export of refined sugar from the Clyde, did not in any way meet the arguments on which the Motion before the House were defended.
§ MR. THORNHILL
said, he thought that, as a sugar grower in the West Indies, he ought to say a few words on the subject. It was with sugar growers simply a question as to whether they could keep on working, or whether they would have to stop their works altogether, if things went on as they were at the present moment. The exports of Continental beet-sugar into England increased from 80,000 tons in 1868 to very nearly 333,000 tons in 1878. If, therefore, things went on at the same rate for the next 10 years, it would be quite impossible for them to keep their sugar industries going, at all events in the West Indies, as at present there was a very small margin of profit indeed. That would throw a very large population out of work and ruin one of the oldest and most loyal of Her Majesty's Colonies. If it were an independent Colony like Canada, of whose internal political economy the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) seemed to stand in such horror, it might impose its own duties and do what it liked to protect itself; but being, on the other hand, dependent upon the Mother Country, it must look to her to help it in its time of need. They were already most heavily handicapped by having to compete with the slave-grown sugar of Cuba, which the philanthropists of England were not ashamed to use, though in every other way they would fight tooth and nail against the Slave Trade. It was very hard, therefore, to have to compete in addition with bounty-fed sugar, and the importation of which, under the present arrangement, was 906 contrary to the principles of legitimate Free Trade. He was very glad that Her Majesty's Government had agreed to do something in the matter. He did not think that the most ardent Free Trader in the House would object to the very modest request for a Committee to inquire into the question, which was a real grievance, and not the ordinary grumblings of a disappointed trader.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not rise for the purpose of adding to the arguments that had been advanced in the course of the debate upon this question, which he was content to allow to rest upon the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) and the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). But he wished that the House should exactly understand what would be the effect of their accepting the proposal of the Government for a Committee of Inquiry. He asked whether, in doing this, they were or were not taking a step against Free Trade and in favour of Reciprocity? The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), who brought forward the Motion upon the subject of sugar bounties in foreign countries, had stated the case very ably and clearly from his own point of view; but he (Mr. W. E. Forster) thought he was right in saying that the remedy for the grievances of which complaint was made, to which the hon. Member looked forward, was that of retaliatory duties. On the other hand, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs appeared to disavow that remedy, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given no impression that he was in favour of it. The Home Secretary, also, had made some very encouraging remarks, among which he stated that he trusted the appointment of a Committee would not be considered to mean a step in the direction of retaliatory duties. All this was very well so far as the speeches of Ministers were concerned. He now turned to what had been said by those who supported the proposal for a Select Committee. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver) evidently believed the appointment of a Committee to be an acknowledgment of those views in favour of Reciprocity which he almost alone in that House stood up to advocate; and he (Mr. W. E. Forster) 907 was inclined to think he was right in his belief. The country, also, would look at it in the same light; especially after the statements of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), which he (Mr. W. E. Forster) had heard with greater astonishment than he had ever felt at any speech delivered in the House. The view of the hon. Member, if he was right in his recollection of it, was that unless they had Reciprocity, and unless they had counteracting duties, the appointment of a Committee would be very much in the nature of a sham. It was not necessary to weary the House by showing why, in his (Mr. W. E. Forster's) opinion, the establishment of retaliatory duties, as a means of counteracting the effect of the bounties given by foreign Governments on the export of sugar, was a step backwards in the direction of the old principles of Reciprocity. The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Thornhill), who evidently spoke with a knowledge of the trade, said it was a hard case that the traders in sugar should be injured, by these bounties. But how did he propose to meet it? The French Government taxed and robbed its consumers, and it was proposed that we should follow their example and rob our consumers; for that was what the imposition of retaliatory duties actually meant. He wanted to know for what purpose the Committee was to be appointed? The Government said it was not a step towards the imposition of compensatory or retaliatory duties; but their supporters evidently thought they could gain that point. In his opinion, it was better to have a sham than that the Committee should do harm; and as a test of what the Government intended to do, he asked them if they were willing to introduce into their Motion, after the words "steps, if any," the words "other than the imposition of compensatory duties?" [Mr. RITCHIE: No, no!] Of course, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets said "no" to that; but if the Government did not mean that it should be understood by the country and foreign nations that the Committee was to give effect to intentions precisely opposite to those which they themselves had stated they would agree to the insertion of those words.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
did not think it would be possible to accept the words, although, un- 908 doubtedly, they expressed the entire feeling of himself and. others that the imposition of compensatory duties was not the right way of dealing with the question; but it would be absurd to propose the introduction of a limitation of the sort proposed into the inquiry.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he was not disposed to vote for a sham, as the right hon. Member for Bradford described his proposed Amendment. He could not help thinking that those who kept their eyes open would see that there were many in the country who were not quite satisfied with the results of Free Trade, which might yet become a hustings' question; but until the majority of the consumers were ready to submit to a tax upon food, it would be useless to talk about Reciprocity or anything else. He thought that, ultimately, they would consent to that, if they found the price of their labour enhanced in consequence. The question was now simply one of inquiry, and it would be a matter for consideration afterwards whether any of the recommendations of the Committee should be acted upon. He should like to know what was the real question before the House, having regard to the Amendments proposed? He was in a fog, and wished to know what he was going to vote for?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said that the Original Question must be first put, and in the event of that being negatived the Amendment of the Government would be proposed, and it would then be open to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford to propose his Amendment.
MR. LEVESON GOWER
remarked, that the House had been given to understand that under no circumstances whatever was the country to be supposed to be willing to sanction a policy of retaliation. That was a very important point. But now the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to have gone back upon that declaration. If he had not, why could he not accept the words of the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster)? He thought it was most important that it should be thoroughly understood, not only in England but on the Continent generally, that the Government had no sympathy with the Party who were in favour of Reciprocity, or Protection. He agreed with the object which the friends of Re- 909 ciprocity had in view—namely, more liberal tariffs abroad, though he differed with thorn as to the means whereby they would obtain that object; and it appeared to him that if the Motion for the appointment of this Committee were carried, without a clear understanding with the Government that there was nothing of Protection about it, great harm would certainly be done to the cause of Free Trade on the Continent.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, he was not at all surprised that the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was so strongly objected to by the hon. Members who were moving for this Committee, for it was now quite evident that their object was to impose a protective duty on sugar, though they seemed anxious to avoid the use of that term. The Amendment seemed to him perfectly reasonable and necessary. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs distinctly repudiated the introduction of anything like protective duties, and rather taunted his hon. Friend (Mr. Samuda) with suggesting the prohibition of manufactured sugar, on which a bounty had been paid by the exporting country. Yet, after the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he thought they were bound to divide the House on the question of granting this Committee. It was said that without the extreme powers sought by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) the Committee would be a sham; but, on the other hand, as they had heard from the Government that they had no intention of proposing protective or retaliatory duties, to inquire into their wisdom would be so much wasted time. But the fact was that the Government did not like to refuse a demand from a large commercial body, which was evidently smarting under a grievance, and so this Committee was to be given as a tub thrown to the whale.
§ MR. MARTEN
could not agree with the speeches of hon. Members opposite. He always understood that the main object of the existence of Parliament was the redress of grievances; yet the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) seemed to treat the fact, that a large and important trade, consisting of a large number of persons, who were very much excited by a grievance under which they considered they were labouring, 910 as a matter of no importance whatever. The object of these Gentlemen at present was to obtain an inquiry into their complaints, and to ascertain whether or no there was any reality for this alleged grievance. There were two ways in which that grievance might be redressed. One was to adopt what the right hon. Gentleman called a retaliatory duty, and the other was to persuade foreign nations to adopt some other system than that which they at present pursued. The matter was one affecting the principles of Free Trade collaterally rather than primarily. It was alleged that a foreign nation, desiring to promote a particular trade in its own borders, gave it, as carried on there, a large and important bounty, with the view of fostering that trade in their own country to such an extent that the trade should be destroyed in other nations, and with the expectation that, finally, by moans of the peculiar encouragement of this trade, the one nation should possess a monopoly. When they had obtained that, they would then levy prices which would recoup them for the bounty they had previously expended. This point of view was not at all affected by the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), or the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). At present, no doubt, it was for our advantage in this country, by the generosity of France in paying part of the expense of refining our sugar, by which the consumer obtained it so much cheaper. But, at the same time, the object with which that bounty was given must be remembered. France had no intention to benefit our consumer. The object was to drive competition out of the market, and give one nation the control of the prices. Therefore, not merely from the refiners' point of view, but in the interests of the consumer also, it was the duty of this country to do what lay in its power to prevent this plan being carried out. The principle now adopted was the same as that adopted by the great Napoleon, when he tried to exclude English manufactures from the Continent. Of course, if France and these other countries where bounties were given succeeded in their object, the English refiners would 911 be ruined, their trade broken up, and their work-people dispersed. Then, having no fear of competition before their eyes, those countries would be able to raise prices with impunity. No doubt ardent Free Traders would rejoice to see these men all swept away; there was nothing these gentlemen delighted in more than that theory of buying in the cheapest market without regard to the ruin of your neighbours. But the House must consider the case of the consumers also, who, if this monopoly were established, would suffer severely from the increase in prices. This complicated question could not be dealt with on the simple principle of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market; for he (Mr. Marten) ventured to say, no one in his own village would act upon the principle which Free Traders of the type of the hon. Member for Liskeard wished to establish. They must regard this question of foreign bounties not merely for the present, but for the future. It was not merely a question of obtaining sugar cheaply at the present time. If this system were permitted, a monopoly would be created; and, therefore, he hoped the House would do what in it lay for the prevention of so undesirable a result by passing the Resolution.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was perfectly willing to accept the Amendment to the Resolution which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Amendment to that Amendment, proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), he could not, however, accept; and if it were accepted by Her Majesty's Government he should deem it his duty to vote against it, for he should decline to have any responsibility in the appointment of a Committee, the inquiry of which would be limited to that degree, if the words proposed by the right hon. Gentleman were added to the Reference, as to amount to a complete and absolute sham. As to a countervailing duty, although he argued that it would be no infringement of the Free Trade principle, yet he saw many difficulties in the way of carrying out that plan. He thought a Committee would be the best means of sifting to the bottom any proposition which was made; and then, if they came to a Resolution assenting to a certain principle, they would have to 912 consider whether there were any practical difficulties in the way of carrying that principle into effect. That was a very different thing from going into a Committee with a foregone conclusion that a certain remedy should not be adopted. He had heard with some regret the remarks of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had led the House to suppose that the question of a countervailing duty was one which could not be considered by the Government. But he noticed, also, that that expression of opinion on the part of his hon. Friend did not receive confirmation from anything which was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The arguments urged by him had been altogether ignored, and refuge had been taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite in the old argument that it was a protective duty which he (Mr. Ritchie) and those who supported him demanded. He should have liked to have heard the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) support his proposition by some stronger arguments than those which he had actually adduced, and which did not apply to the proposal of a countervailing duty. The hon. Gentleman said the question of a countervailing duty had been often discussed and shown to be merely Protection. The instances adduced by the hon. Gentleman in support of his proposition were three in number—namely, rags, corn, and slave-grown sugar. Not one of those instances applied in the slightest degree to the present case; for a countervailing duty was levied, not against anything grown under natural advantages, but against what was produced under an artificial system of bounties. What the sugar manufacturers wanted to do was to re-establish the natural position of things as between the foreign producers and themselves. They did not fear the competition of the foreigner. If the foreigner could refine cheaper, if his labour was cheaper, let him enjoy that natural advantage; but the English producer wished the Government to prevent the extinction of his industry by the artificial advantages given to his rival. The whole basis of the argument he had used earlier in the evening in regard to a countervailing duty was that if such a duty could not be justified on the ground of political economy it must go to the 913 wall. The hon. Member for Liskeard appeared to discard the authority of Adam Smith, Ricardo, and M'Culloch as antiquated and musty, and to substitute for them a system of his own. For himself, however, he (Mr. Ritchie) preferred the text-books of those great writers to the new-fangled political economy of the hon. Member for Liskeard. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had completely answered the speech of the right hon. Member for the University of London. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) would hold good against their doing anything to get rid of these bounties, and yet the right hon. Gentleman himself had been a Member of a Government which had done all in their power to bring about their abolition. He could not believe that the right hon. Gentleman had taken an active part in doing that which he now said was the worst possible thing for the consumer. It was not good for the consumer to buy anything below its cost price, because the inevitable result of such a course was to drive capital out of the particular trade so affected, and so to enhance prices ultimately. That was to confer a benefit upon the consumer of to-day at the expense of the consumer of to-morrow.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
observed, that this grievance seriously affected not only a number of manufacturers and working men in this country, but many persons in their West Indian Colonies; and he was, therefore, surprised to find hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite refusing a Committee to inquire into it. Why did they do that? Because they were afraid of the bugbear of Protection. Surely that could be put on one side, and the Committee be left to deal as it chose with a grievance which everyone knew to exist. His hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) only asked for fair play; he wanted the whole question investigated by an impartial tribunal, and that he (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) was sure the House would grant, and not leave the matter unexamined until their manufacturers had been ruined and their sugar plantations thrown out of cultivation.
said, it was not the fact that the deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of these bounties had its origin in a de- 914 sire to introduce Reciprocity or to impose retaliatory duties. He had himself been present on that occasion, and listened with great attention to all that had been said by those who advocated the appointment of a Select Committee, and it appeared to him that the desire expressed by the deputation was for diplomatic action alone; and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had, moreover, stated that it would assist the diplomatic action of Her Majesty's Government, if a Committee of the House of Commons were to report upon the question of the effect of foreign sugar bounties upon the home and Colonial sugar industries. That was the only reason given by any Minister present on the previous day. That being the case, he was unable to see that there was arty ground for saying that the Government in any way countenanced or desired a return to Reciprocity. If Free Trade was supposed to be imperilled by diplomatic action, in attempting to induce France, Holland, and Austria to alter their tariffs, that was a course which had also been pursued by all previous Governments. There was not the least doubt that the system at present pursued by those countries had the effect of making sugar cheaper to the consumer. He quite admitted that, and was also prepared to admit that, so long as it lasted, it had precisely the same effect as if France, Holland, and Austria possessed some great national advantage in the production of that article. He therefore agreed with the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), that if any offer should be made by the Governments in question, neither the one nor the other should be allowed to alter the present system of affairs, supposing that the present fiscal arrangements of France, Holland, and Austria were likely to be perpetual. It could not be considered, and it could not be asked, that the present state of things should be treated as constituting a great natural advantage, because that term implied that which was of a lasting character. On such ground, therefore, it could not be demanded that the advantage in the production of sugar, by which consumers in this country benefited, should be taken away. But the reason which justified the last and present Go- 915 vernments in trying by diplomatic means to alter the fiscal arrangements of foreign countries was the fact that if we permitted the sugar manufacturers in this country to be stamped out there was no security that the advantage at present enjoyed by the consumer would be maintained. It might be that foreign countries would, too late for us, see the folly of their ways, and then proceed to alter their fiscal arrangements, thus depriving our consumers of the advantage which they at present possessed. That was a reason for inducing foreign countries, if possible, to alter their systems by every means which the Committee was to be made competent to suggest. He would not say any more in justification of the appointment of a Select Committee than by an allusion to the remarks of the hon. Member for Liskeard, and others, who had, in addressing the House, cast doubt upon the allegation urged by the supporters of the Motion, that we were suffering from the effects of the bounty system. The assertion that the manufacturers in this country should be able to compete with foreign refiners had to be tested, and that was a sufficient reason for submitting the whole case to the investigation of an impartial Committee.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) to reconsider his Amendment, which had come with surprise upon the House after a long discussion. There was no greater advocate of the principles of Free Trade in the House of Commons than he (Sir John Lubbock). The position was this. Certain drawbacks had been granted by foreign Governments, and our own Government had endeavoured through a long succession of years to induce them to establish a better state of things. Now, supposing the right hon. Gentleman succeeded in carrying the Amendment of which he had given Notice, the Government would be much embarrassed in these negotiations. If, as had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), the drawbacks allowed to the exporters of sugar in foreign countries constituted a great advantage to the consumers in this country, foreign Governments ought to be induced to do more in that direction. The Government of which his right hon. Friend was so distinguished a Member endeavoured to in- 916 duce foreign countries to diminish the drawbacks. But if it was laid down that, under no circumstances, would we impose countervailing duties, we should be acting in the same way as when we told the Turks that we wished them to take a certain line of action, but, at the same time, that it would make no difference whether they did what we wanted or not. He (Sir John Lubbock) saw very great difficulties in the question of countervailing duties; but, at the same time, he thought it would be bettor to leave the whole question open to the Committee to suggest any course which might appear to them best, after considering the evidence that would be laid before them. A strong feeling existed on the part of our Colonial possessions, which were precluded from negotiating with foreign Governments on the subject; for they could not go to the foreign Governments and endeavour to get them to reconsider their arrangements. The question was one in which the West India Colonies were very deeply interested; and it was not, in his opinion, much to ask the House to allow the Committee to consider it. If the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford were carried, we should be prevented from negotiating with foreign countries, and be committed to a course which many thought would lead to considerable difficulty. He therefore trusted that the hon. Member would reconsider his proposal.
§ Question put, and negatived.
That the words 'inquire into the effects produced upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of this Country by the systems of taxation, drawbacks, and bounties on the exportation of Sugar now in force in various Foreign Countries, and to report what steps, if any, it is desirable to take in order to obtain redress for any evils that may be found to exist,' be added, instead thereof.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
proposed to insert in the Amendment, now before the House, after the words "steps, if any," the words "other than the imposition of compensatory duties." In doing that, he believed he was really carrying out the wish of the Government, as expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who distinctly stated that he did not contemplate the imposition of compensatory duties. He therefore claimed the vote 917 of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour), who took the same ground, and limited the Reference to the Committee in precisely the same way as was now proposed, when he said that "there ought to be an inquiry as to how far diplomatic action should be taken."
§ MR W. E. FORSTER
Exactly. The hon. Member approved of diplomatic action, and quoted the words of Lord Salisbury in favour of the appointment of a Committee; at the same time, he strongly disavowed a desire for retaliatory duties. On those grounds, therefore, he (Mr. W. E. Forster) claimed the vote of the hon. Member. But he did not take the position that the bounties should be continued. It might be true that we got our sugar for the time a little cheaper while they continued; but the general result of their removal would, in his opinion, be an enormous advantage. That, however, was a very different matter from our proposing to meet those bounties by a tax on our own consumers for the purpose of making sugar dearer. The discussion of this evening had confirmed his belief that if we admitted the principle of looking forward to meeting the foreign bounties by retaliatory duties we were to that extent giving up the principles of Free Trade and returning to the principles of Reciprocity. He agreed with one of the remarks of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon), that the principle of Reciprocity was concerned in the question before the House. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver) was clearly of that opinion. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) believed that some employers held the view that a tax should be imposed upon food; but the enormous multitude of the working classes thought the country knew very well what was meant by a food tax, and had not the slightest intention of reverting to it; and he, therefore, desired to make his protest against that course. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) had said that by the admission of the words of his (Mr. W. E. Forster's) Amendment the Committee would not be able to report in favour of retaliatory duties; and that, therefore, the Government could not use the threat of imposing them. He (Mr. W. E. 918 Forster) thought that in matters of Free Trade, as in other international matters, an empty threat would have no weight; and if we really believed that the country did not intend to resort to retaliatory duties—that was, to levy a tax—we had better let foreign countries know it at once, and not practise the folly of talking of what we did not mean to perform. The present question, especially in the state of depression of trade throughout the country, was one of a very serious character, which above all required that men should act according to their convictions, and know exactly what they were voting about—voting, in fact, for what they meant to do, and not for the purpose of making empty threats to foreign Governments. He moved to limit the inquiry of the Select Committee by the addition of the words "other than the imposition of compensatory duties."
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
To insert, after the words "if any," the words "other than the imposition of compensatory duties."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
wished to point out that by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) the Committee would be placed in an absurd position, inasmuch as they would be precluded from examining into some suggestions that might be made, if only to show their fallacy. By carrying his Amendment, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would be in the position of the gentleman who shut his park-gates to keep out the crows; for, while it withdrew from the consideration of the Committee the question of compensatory duties, it did not exclude other suggestions perhaps as wild and foolish. The position of the Committee would be absurd, because if anybody began to suggest compensatory duties it would be impossible to cross-examine him. And, again, if anybody were to propose that we should grant a Vote on our own side, in return it would be competent to the Committee to go into the question.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that nothing but an uneasy conscience could so alarm the right hon. Member for Bradford 919 (Mr. W. E. Forster) at the mere prospect of having an inquiry into Free Trade and compensatory duties. The right hon. Gentleman was consistent; he objected to this country asserting her position in the international controversies as to the boundaries of States, and on questions upon which the peace of Europe hinged. According to the right hon. Gentleman, this country was never to assert herself. Our representatives were to occupy the position of beggars throughout the world—never to hint the possibility of this country's imposing compensatory duties lest—and it was a strange fear—we should make the French Government indifferent to our representations.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, it appeared to him that he had been thoroughly misunderstood. He conceived he was making the most liberal proposal possible in putting forward his suggestion, and yet he had been told that he was proposing absolute prohibition. He had said that he would maintain absolutely free entry for sugar from foreign nations; but that the concession should be accompanied with a demand that they should refine in bond—that was insisting on what France and Holland had both agreed to do, and the only method, in his opinion, which could be adopted between one country and another to put them on an equal footing.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 43; Noes 70: Majority 27.—(Div. List, No 71.)
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, that he had to state that three hon. Members were in the Lobby, but their names were not counted. They were himself, the hon. Member for Barnstaple, and another hon. Member.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the number of the hon. Members who passed them was counted by the Tellers, and they made a report to the House. He must point out to the hon. Member that the numbers having been reported to the House by the Tellers, and not challenged before the report was made, those numbers must be accepted.
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE
thought he ought to give the House some information with regard to the matter. Whilst he was advancing with the Paper in his hand to read out the 920 numbers, his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) stated to him that he had been left out; but he did not say from what side. It was impossible, then, to attend to what the hon. Member said, because he did not know from what Lobby he had been shut out. The difficulty he (Sir William Hart Dyke) was placed in for the moment was this—that he was actually advancing to the Table to read out the numbers, when his hon. Friend drew his attention to the fact that he had been excluded from the Division. If he had come one instant before that, the one or two Members who had been detained in the Lobby, and did not come before the Tellers, could have had their names added to the list. But when they did come forward, the names had already been given to the Clerk at the Table, and he could not deal with information coming to him at the very last moment. This was an instance of hon. Members coming forward at the very last instant, and saying that they had been left out of the Lobby for some reason or other, when it was impossible to alter the figures.
That the words 'inquire into the effects produced upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of this Country by the systems of taxation, drawbacks, and bounties on the exportation of Sugar now in force in various Foreign Countries, and to report what steps, if any, it is desirable to take in order to obtain redress for any evils that may be found to exist,' be added after the word 'that' in the Original Question,
put, and agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the effects produced upon the Home and Colonial Sugar industries of this Country by the systems of taxation, drawbacks, and bounties on the exportation of Sugar now in force in various Foreign Countries, and to report what steps, if any, it is desirable to take in order to obtain redress for any evils that may be found to exist.
And, on May 20, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. BOURKE, Mr. ALEXANDER BROWN, Mr. SAMPSON LLOYD, Mr. BELL, Mr. THORNHILL, Mr. STEWART, Mr. JAMES CORRY, Mr. NORWOOD, Mr. BALFOUR, Lord FREDERICK CAVENDISH, Sir JAMES M'GAREL HOGG, Mr. COLLINS, Mr. ORR EWING, Mr. MORLEY, Mr. ONSLOW, Mr. COURTNEY, and Mr. RITCHIE:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.