§ *SIR WILLIAM TOMLINSON (Preston)
said he need make no apology for bringing a subject of such great interest as that of the cotton-growing industry before the House. The cotton trade was one of the largest industries in the country. In fact, the number of persons employed in and dependent upon it was so great that it ranked next to the great industry of agriculture in importance. The Resolution he proposed to move was not framed in any hostile spirit to any section of the community or any one concerned in the industry of cotton growing in any part of the world. He had no reason, therefore to apprehend any hostile action being taken towards his Motion. To those connected with Lancashire this subject must be of very vast importance, having regard to the fact that during the past three years this great industry had suffered from very great depression, the effect of which had been seen not only in the distress directly caused among the operatives engaged in it, but amongst all classes and all parts of the country concerned in its prosperity. He had had a very lively impression recently of the effects of the depression, and the consequent deficiency in receipts of the operatives engaged in this industry. There were towns in Lancashire which depended for their prosperity upon the power of the operatives every now and then to take a few days of well earned rest from their labour, and only recently he had been informed by a justice of the peace for the county that in the last few weeks forty-seven distress warrants had been issued in a town frequented for pleasure by operatives of the cotton trade.
It was hardly necessary to emphasise the importance of this industry, because only last year it formed the subject of a few words in His Majesty's most Gracious Speech at the opening of Parliament. Those words were—The insufficiency of the supply of the raw material upon which the great cotton industry of this country depends has inspired Me with deep concern. I trust that the efforts which are being made in various parts of My Empire to increase the area under cultivation may be attended with a large measure of success.545 He believed those efforts had been successful. In various parts of the Empire they had every reason to hope that gradually a cotton growing industry would be developed which would satisfy and make good the deficiency which from time to time arose. The depression of the last years had been caused by a succession of crops very much below the average. That of course affected prices; prices rose, and those who had to buy cotton for the purpose of carrying on their manufactures had to spend the same amount of money as in previous years for only about three quarters of the amount of cotton they then bought. This produced a considerable rise also in the cost of the manufactured article. Of a necessity the direct result of this was that the demand for so high a priced article was much restricted. They could congratulate themselves that, for the moment, the depression had passed away, and prosperity was smiling on those engaged in the industry. Nothing was more gratifying than to go through the cotton manufacturing districts and see the cheerful and pleasant appearance of all engaged in this trade, for which the conditions this year were very favourable.
It might be said, "If we have a return to prosperity, why may we not hope that that prosperity will be continuous. Why should we trouble further about it?" That was amost short-sighted view to take, as would be seen if a closer and more comprehensive view was taken. The cotton supply coming from America this year would amount to 12,500,000 bales. Seventy per cent. of our raw material came from the American cotton growing districts, and while the abundant supply of the present year came from the exceptionally good American crop, it was from that source that the depression had mainly arisen. Looking closely at the facts, we found that not only had the deficiency of previous years been of very serious moment, but that a deficiency must always arise in future years with even an average crop, because the average supply a few years hence would be short of our requirements. An examination of the figures of the past ten years demonstrated 546 that we should require to obtain from other sources in the future cotton to be used in the mills in increasing quantities each year. The total American cotton crop for 1895–96 was 7,157,000 bales. Of that Great Britain took 2,302,000 bales; the Continent 2,262,000 bales, and America 2,593,000 bales. In 1903–4 the total American crop was 10,000,000 bales, of which Great Britain only received 2,500,000 bales, while the Continent took over 3,300,000 bales, and the American manufacturers over 4,234,000 bales. So that the problem was not only how to keep pace with our own requirements, but to allow for the increasing demand in America and on the Continent; and there was reason to believe that the possibility of increasing the area of American cultivation was small. He believed that our cotton industry now required a supply of 3,000,000 bales over our share of an average crop, with a probable increase of 400,000 bales a year, and this additional supply must be procurable at a reasonable price, for it did not matter how much cotton could be obtained, unless the price enabled the manufacturers to obtain a profit on what he produced, the conditions of the additional supply must be such as would enable the finished production to be sold at prices which would be remunerative under average conditions. Such arrangements would therefore have to be made, which would provide that the countries which produced raw cotton would be able to sell it to the manufacturer at a moderate price. The problem, therefore, was to find different parts of the world where cotton could be produced at such a price as would enable manufacture to be carried on. When times of prosperity come upon the people, they were too apt to consider that was going to be the normal condition of things, and were apt to relax their efforts and leave the future to chance. Cotton manufacturers in the past had been too regardless of the future, and that was the temptation which was especially likely to arise during a year of abundant prosperity. He suggested to those interested in the greater production of cotton that when their pockets 547 were full, that was the time to increase their subscription to the Cotton Growing Association, the object of which was to help the manufacturers to get a greater supply of cotton. No one who went into the facts could fail to see that whatever increase was made in the production of cotton, it would be a work of time to bring that production up to our real requirements.
Where was this country to find its additional supplies? The greatest gratitude was due to the Cotton Growing Association for the efforts it had made to find out where suitable cotton could be grown, and the efforts they had made to foster the industry in those places where it could be grown. He expressed his greatest admiration for the hard work they had done and the self-sacrifice they had made. Especially was gratitude due to this association when one recollected that many of those who formed it were not directly interested in the manufacturing industry. Those engaged in the manufacture, he was sure, would be quite willing to admit the great good that had been done. The Association had stated as the result of careful examination that, with hardly one exception, cotton could be successfully grown in every British colony or protectorate with a tropical climate. It was feared that any great development could hardly take place in India of cotton of a quality which could compete with the American product in our mills. The next part of the world to which attention had been directed was the West Indies, and in Barbadoes, St. Vincent and other islands cotton cultivation had been successfully commenced and this season there had been a production of 5,000 bales, worth £100,000. He would not say more about that than that it was a most encouraging result. The first shipments had sold at 16½d. per pound, and the industry could be still more largely developed with plentiful funds. The next part of the world which was alluded to in the memorandum of the British Cotton Growing Association was South and East Africa, and perhaps he might congratulate the Colonial Secretary on the fact that East Africa had now come under the control of his Department. 548 There were found in Uganda districts in which cotton could be grown with advantage to the country as well as to our home markets. Owing to lack of funds very little had been done except to establish the fact that Egyptian cotton would grow well in East Africa. In Nyassaland machinery and seed had been supplied to the planters and some advances had been made. The growing crop was estimated at 10,000 bales of Egyptian cotton worth over £100,000. Three years ago cotton was unknown in this colony. With ample funds probably as good results could be obtained in British East Africa, Rhodesia, and South Africa, and if the capital was found there was every probability in a few years time this part of the Empire would produce annually 500,000 bales of long stapled cotton. He did hope that the attention of the Government and the cultivators would be devoted to the development of the cotton industry in these territories, and sufficient encouragement would be given to them to give the experiment a full chance of success. Last Friday he received a letter from a settler in the northern part of the Transvaal Colony who had a very strong belief, which was supported by those who knew the country well, that there were large tracts in South Africa which were capable of growing satisfactory cotton. This correspondent stated that his experimental crops of cotton were promising well, and he should send the samples when ripe for examination by the Agricultural Department of the Transvaal. There did, therefore, seem some hope that unless the price of cotton became uncertain they might establish in that Colony cotton-growing with successful prospects before it.
He passed on to West Africa. It was well known by all who had taken any interest in this subject that the conditions of soil, climate, labour, and other things were very favourable to the production of cotton of good quality in many parts of the West African Colonies, and there seemed to be a very good prospect of our being able to satisfy a large part of our requirements from those regions. The difficulty existing there, and probably in other parts of our 549 territories, was that of the cost of transport. It could easily be ascertained what it would cost to grow cotton in particular districts, but the important question was what it would cost to bring the produce to the coast. He met, last autumn, a gentleman who was a Government official in one part of Nigeria. He was the son of a very respected former Member of this House, Sir Richard Temple, and he told him that in a large district in Nigeria everything was favourable to the growing of cotton, but it was quite impossible at present to bring it down to the coast at reasonable cost. There was a further difficulty, on getting the cotton to the coast, of finding the means of transport to this country, but if cotton was grown in sufficient quantities that difficulty would be got over. What the official in question said was wanted was probably a railway of some kind to bring the cotton from the district where it was grown to some point in the Niger where it could be transported to the coast during the three months of the year when the river was high enough to allow of the transportation being carried out. This was one of the points upon which they might fairly ask for the active co-operation of the Government, and that without dealing with the question from anything like a selfish or narrow point of view.
The cotton trade was a trade of a very artificial kind. There was an element of artificiality in the fact that we had to bring the cotton from long distances to our manufacturers. Another element of artificiality was that 80 per cent. of our manufactures must be supplied for export. These things went hand in hand. We wanted cotton, and these territories if properly developed, would give us it. By this means we should civilise the undeveloped regions and turn them into much needed markets for our goods. Not only should we have helped these countries to develop their resources, but we should be able to make up the deficiency which was found even in average years in the supply of the American markets, and also provide for the increasing quantity which we required to make up for the growing amount which was consumed in America and on the Continent. He did not think 550 that a subject of greater interest, looking to the future welfare of this country, could have been brought before the House. He was very pleased that the opportunity had been given him of opening this discussion, and he had great pleasure in proposing the Resolution which stood in his name—That, in view of the peril to which the industries of the United Kingdom using cotton as the principal raw material of their manufactures are exposed by their too great dependence on the United States of America as their source of supply, and the good results of the operations already undertaken by the British Cotton Growing Association, this House desires to express its appreciation of the benefits derived by the encouragement afforded by His Majesty's Government to the work of the association, and looks to a continuance of their good offices as one of the essential conditions of a speedy development of the resources of the Colonies, Dependencies, and Protectorates of the Crown as additional sources of supply of the cotton needed for the maintenance of regular and adequately remunerated employment in one of the greatest of the national industries.
§ *MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
seconded the Resolution, and said that both operatives and employers were very pleased that the hon. Baronet had had an opportunity of raising the question. The urgency in regard to the supply of cotton in Lancashire had gone on for four years, and it had reached a pitch at which they felt that something should be done and they were anxious to do it. Looking back four years, those of 1901 and 1902 were depressed, and 1903 saw many people idle, and it was estimated that the loss was not less than £2,000,000 in the way of short time, loss of wages, as well as of profit. Coming to 1904 the loss could not be estimated, but for the first six or eight months such a condition of things prevailed in Lancashire that none of them wished to see again. Short time was very general, and thousands of pounds were paid out of the operatives' funds. It had been said that the condition of things in some of their large towns, chiefly those dependent upon American cotton for their mills, had never been witnessed since the days of the cotton famine, and he was sure those who lived in those times did not wish to see them recur. That condition of matters had brought about a desire on the part of the trade to do something to remedy 551 the evil, and, as usual in their county, this was a matter which both sides could look at with similar interest, so the employees and employers decided to take joint action, and as the result, the British Cotton Growing Association was formed, which was bearing good fruit. That association was governed by representatives of the employers' associations, representatives of the operatives' association, and individuals in the county of weight and influence who gave valuable aid to the work of the association. Both employers and employed had contributed to the funds. The operatives had contributed money to the extent of £9,000 or thereabouts from the different trade unions, and some of the workpeople had contributed a day's wage. The co-operative societies had also contributed a large amount of money in shares towards the formation of this association. In 1901–3 they thought that £50,000 was sufficient to carry on this work, but in November of the following year they raised a sum of £100,000, and last year it was felt by those responsible for the movement that nothing less than £500,000 was required to give this scheme a thorough trial. This was the sum which they believed would enable them to obtain relief from the monopoly and risk from the cotton corners to which they had been subject during the last few years.
The figures as to price showed the need for relief in regard to their dependence on America for 70 per cent. of their cotton supply, and encouraged them to widen the field of growth so that a sudden drought or a sudden demand in America might not send up prices. Mr. William Tattersall stated that in January, 1904, the price of cotton per lb. was 6.88d.; in March, 8.78d.; in May, 7.l2d.; in July, 6.18d.; in September, 5.80d.; in November, 5.08d.; and December, 3.77d.; showing a difference of something like 4d. per 1b., or 107 per cent. on the same article. They did not want these fluctuations, which were governed by the supply, to continue. Mr. Tattersall also stated that the cotton crop from America for 1898 was 11,181,000 bales and the average price that year was 3 5/16d.; in 1900 the crop was 9,440,000 and the average price 5 15/32d.; in 1901 the crop was 10,425,000 and the price 4¾d., 552 while in 1904 it was 10,124,000 bales and the price was 6.6d. They had to include in that calculation the excepttional demand made in America for the cotton and a greater demand on the Continent, the result being that if the growth had only gone down 250,000 bales the price had gone up 2d. The large American crop this year—he thought it was estimated at over 13,000,000 bales—did not effect the urgency or the importance of this work, and the necessity of new sources of supply remained. In the words of the Report of the Cotton Growers' Association—''A shortage may occur next year or the year after with the same disastrous results to the cotton trade as have been experienced recently. In any case, some few years must elapse before the cotton grown under the auspices of the association can be of sufficient quantity to have an appreciable effect on the market. In the meantime the requirements of the world are increasing year by year and the necessity for new sources of supply are as urgent as ever.''What had the association been doing? Their work had covered something like twelve or fourteen districts and they had excellent reports from many of them, although in a few they had only just started in their work. Experimental work was going on in India, the West Indies, West Africa, Gambia, Lagos, Southern Nigeria, and British Central Africa. As an example of the kind of work that was being done he would take the case of West Africa. The council stated that they had been advised that in order to encourage the natives to take up cotton it was essential that they should be able to depend on a ready market at a fixed price for their produce, and they had entered into an important agreement with the Government of West Africa whereby in consideration of certain grants being made to them by the Governments of Sierra Leone, Lagos, and Southern Nigeria, amounting on the aggregate to £6,500 a year, the association guaranteed to purchase all seed cotton offered at a fixed price of a 1d. a pound for three years. The association further undertook to provide efficient ginning and buying facilities and to provide experts for the instruction of the natives. The association further undertook to establish a model plantation and to spend the sum of £10,000 gross in each colony annually for the next three years. They 553 expected that the next three years would and show the possibilities of these districts, they anticipated, that as a consequence of this expenditure of £30,000, they would be assured of a constant supply from this part of the Empire.
This was not merely a question affecting the cotton trade only; it extended to dyers, printers, bleachers, and finishers, the banks and railway companies, merchants, shippers, colliery owners, machine makers, and many others, not forgetting the workpeople employed in those trades. All these people were directly interested in the success of the movement. He had no complaint to make against the Government in the matter; the Colonial Office had given them the assistance of their influence as far as they could; but it was desired to impress upon the Government the necessity of there being no relaxation of effort or withdrawal of sympathy simply because a good spell of trade was being now experienced. Hay must be made while the sun shone, so as to ensure that when a cloud did come there would be means of coping with it. The association wished it to be clearly understood that what they were doing would benefit not only the trade of this country but also the colonies themselves. What they asked was that the Government should assist the development by encouraging the provision of transport facilities and railway communications. Their object in bringing forward this matter was to let it be seen that the movement was not dead, and that they did not mean to let it die; and also to ask the Government to continue their sympathy with the movement and, if possible, to give more assistance in the way of transport facilities. He begged to second the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in view of the peril to which the industries of the United Kingdom using cotton as the principal raw material of their manufactures are exposed by their too great dependence on the United States of America as their source of supply, and the good results of the operations already undertaken by the British Cotton Growing Association, this House desires to express its appreciation of the benefits derived by the encouragement 554 afforded by His Majesty's Government to the work of the association, and looks to a continuance of their good offices as one of the essential conditions of a speedy development of the resources of the Colonies, Dependencies, and Protectorates of the Crown as additional sources of supply of the cotton needed for the maintenance of regular and adequately remunerated employment in one of the greatest of the national industries."
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
said this matter had changed considerably since last year. Then the price of cotton was about 9d., and this year it was about 4d. Last year the crop in America was 10,000,000 bales, this year it was about 13,500,000 bales. It was true that only about 12,500,000 bales would be delivered, and 1,000,000 would be carried over to next season. The world's total consumption of American cotton was 11,500,000 bales, so there would be a surplus of 2,000,000 bales. The extraordinary scarcity of last year was due to a succession of unfavourable seasons, coupled with an insect pest which had done great harm. There had been an immense increase in cotton growing in America, but he could not agree that the land available for cotton growing was practically exhausted.
§ SIR WILLIAM TOMLINSON
said he did not intend to go so far as that, but probably the extent to which the area could be enlarged was inconsiderable.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
said that, as an old cotton merchant who had been in the trade for forty-five years, and had had occasion to watch very closely the development in America during that time, his impression was that, if the labour could be found, the cotton-growing area could be doubled or trebled. The difficulty lay not in the land so much as in the question of labour. It was all a matter of price. At the prices of last year the labour difficulty largely disappeared as the growers could afford to pay higher rates, but with the price at 4d. it was difficult to make growing pay. This year there had been a very good crop, and he believed there would be a good supply 555 next year also. It was very desirable to expand the area of cotton growing, as we were far too dependent upon the United States where they had a perfect genius for manipulating prices by speculation, with the result that when there was a short crop prices went up to a greater degree than was really justified, but he had not much faith in enlarging our supply by artificial means. The Indian crop last year was about 3,000,000 bales, but it was nearly all consumed in India itself, the balance going to China and Japan. His own impression was that our best chance of increasing the supply lay in Egypt, in, the Sudan, on the one hand, and in Scinde on the other, where, in the course of the next few years, irrigation works would probably make a considerable difference. But in any case the price would bring the supply. If prices ruled high, we were sure to get the supply. If they ruled low, then the supply fell. With higher prices he thought the supply from America would go on increasing, but he doubted whether it would at a price of 4d. No doubt the price suited Lancashire very well; the present year would probably be the best Lancashire had had in the life of the present generation, and would go far to make up for last year, when for six months the operatives were on short time and the manufacturers made little or no profit. But it was not good for trade to have either excessively high or excessively low prices. His belief was that an average price of 5d. per pound was the price which paid the grower reasonably well and enabled the consumer to work with advantage. He wished God-speed to all the efforts of the Cotton Growing Association.
§ MR. CRIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)
agreed that we ought, if possible, to make our cotton supply independent of a foreign country, and that, in our own Colonies and dependencies we should, as far as possible, provide against a recurrence of the unhappy events of last year. The points to which the Resolution called attention were, to his mind, exactly the points to which attention ought to be directed in regard to an important industry of this kind. In the first place, attention was called to the perils incident 556 to being so entirely dependent on a supply from one source. As long as the industry was so dependent there was likely to be a recurrence of the events of last year. The only effective remedy for the difficulties arising from shortage of crop and fluctuation of price was to have as large an area as possible from which to obtain supplies of raw material, so that under the doctrine of averages the total supply should be regular whatever might be the conditions in any one particular part of the world. It was unnecessary to emphasise that part of the Resolution. If a great industry carried on under somewhat artificial conditions, like the cotton industry, was to be maintained, every effort must be made to find a supply of the raw material which would be outside the fluctuations and perils to which attention has been called. There were undoubted perils in regard to the supply from the United States. Reference had been made to the growing demand on the Continent and elsewhere for the raw material of cotton, but the increased demand in the cotton-growing districts of the United States themselves constituted a still more serious menace to the textile industries of Lancashire. He did not believe in the prophecies of evil in which Mr. Carnegie sometimes indulged, or that in the long run the great industrial manufactures would have to be carried on where the raw material was produced. He was not an alarmist to that extent, but it was undoubtedly a most important duty of those who looked forward to the maintenance of the industries of this country and the interests of the operatives therein engaged, to make sure that those industries should not be imperilled in reference to their supplies of raw material, so far as it was possible to make arrangements to guarantee them against shortage.
The Report of the Cotton Growing Association produced a hopeful expectation, as far as experiments had gone, that over a large area of the world cotton could be grown successfully at prices and under conditions suitable for the Lancashire industry, if only the opportunity were given. So far as the Cotton Growing Association was concerned it had done and was doing a very beneficial work; it had spent 557 its own money in a way which had already produced great results, and if its expectations were realised, there was no reason why, after a series of years, we might not get a sufficient supply from outside sources to guarantee the Lancashire industry against the fluctuations and shortage which must constantly occur so long as we relied on the United States alone. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Clitheroe as to the duties of the Government. There was no desire that the Government should undertake duties that could be properly carried out by private enterprise. The resources of Lancashire were sufficient so far as the matters were those that could be properly dealt with by private enterprise; but there were a large number of important matters with which private enterprise was not suited to deal. It was not suggested that railways should be constructed through deserts, but that in districts where a probability of success in cotton growing had been shown by experiment the Government should assist by providing railways and means of communication, and thus aiding the general development of the districts concerned. He did not complain of what had been done hitherto by the Government, but he thought it right that the extreme importance of this movement should be emphasised in the House, that the real advantages the association had already conferred should be pointed out, and that it should be known that this association, with all its expert knowledge, had formed the opinion that over these large areas cotton could be grown on remunerative terms. Under these circumstances they looked to the Government to give that additional assistance which private enterprise could not supply, but which must come from the Government themselves, and therefore he heartily supported the Resolution.
§ *MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said this question was of such enormous importance to the constituents whom he had the honour to represent in that House, and also to the British Cotton Growing Association of which he was an official, that he ventured very warmly on their behalf to welcome and support the Motion. He agreed with the view of the hon. Member 558 for Flintshire that it was not the shortage of suitable land in the United States that restricted the supply of cotton that we might receive from that country. The real difficulty was the question of labour. He had had a curious confirmation of that in two different ways recently. A friend of his received a letter from a prominent politician in the United States expressing the view that sooner or later—and sooner rather than later—the people of the United States would want to deport from their shores ten or eleven millions of negroes and send them back to Africa. He (Mr. Emmott) thought that was a rather impossible thing to do, but it showed what some politicians of the United States were thinking. If that happened it would at once take away from cotton-growing in the United States half-a-million of black farmers who grew cotton in the country. Another letter was shown to him from a gentleman in the Western States who expressed the opinion that the difficulty in increasing the crop of American cotton arose from the fact that they could not find sufficient labour; and the writer expressed the view that it would be necessary if they were going to increase the crop—which he said they might easily double—to import Chinese labour to do the picking. This showed how very uncertain it was whether our supplies from the United States would increase or not.
It was clearly right that we should try as far as possible to help ourselves in regard to this matter. The earlier and initial stages of cotton-growing in a new country were very laborious and difficult; but when they had got over those difficulties and established the fact that cotton could be grown at a remunerative rate the industry became very profitable. That was shown in the case of the United States. It was shown even more strikingly in the case of Egypt, for in Egypt, although the crop was of necessity very much smaller it was so profitable that land often paid as much as £5 or £6 an acre in the way of rent, a scale which would make the mouths of many landowners in this country water. It was shown also in the case of Brazil, where the production of cotton had increased enormously, and also in the case of India. Obviously if they 559 could grow a larger quantity within the British Empire there would be a doubly beneficial result, for it would be beneficial to the trade of Lancashire, and be even more beneficial to the places where the cotton was grown.
He would state one or two specific results which had resulted from the action of the British Cotton Growing Association. The quantity of sea island cotton grown in the West Indian Islands last year was about 1,000 bales of this particular kind of cotton, and this year the crop was expected to produce 5,000 bales. Not only in this instance had the quantity increased but the quality of the cotton had also improved. The inhabitants of the United States were becoming jealous of this success in the West Indies, and they were reconsidering the exportation of cotton seed, to diminish the risk of competition between the West Indian Islands and themselves. In the Soudan he believed there was a great field for an increase in the growth of cotton. The most encouraging results had been shown, for in 1902 the production was 800 Kautars, in 1903 7,000, and 1904 12,000 Kautars. In one portion of Central Africa last season, a season which proved to be unfavourable for cotton growing, 1,000 bales were produced, and the British Cotton Growing Association believed that 10,000 bales would be grown there this year, and they would be worth £100,000. The entire exports from British Central Africa only amounted to £30,000 at the present time, and it was therefore evident what a immense benefit might be done this colony by an increased growth of cotton. He might refer to Lagos and other places where, although the results had been slow, something had already been achieved, and if the Government would continue to help as they were helping, he felt sure that with patience, perseverance, and scientific aid, a great deal more might be done for the cotton industry and for our possessions across the seas.
He wished to thank the Government for the assistance which the Colonial Office had given upon this question. He knew that the Colonial Secretary was deeply interested in this question, and he thought they also ought to give 560 their thanks to the Under-Secretary the Duke of Marlborough, who had taken such a continuous interest in this matter from the moment he took office down to the present time. The Colonial Office had helped them in many ways by providing scientific experts and to some extent paying for them. They had also helped the association by advice, and they had arranged to give free carriage to cotton grown in that area for a specified time. They had some grounds therefore to hope that in future there might be a very great increase in the growth of cotton in the British Empire.
He had also indicated that there were very great and serious difficulties to be met. In the first place they must find suitable soil and suitable seed, and that was often a matter of careful experiment extending over many months, sometimes years before they achieved the most satisfactory results. In the second place they must interest the natives and the native chiefs in the growth of this commodity or else they could not get best results. In the third place they must be willing to offer, as the British Cotton Growing Association had agreed to offer, for a series of years a certain specified price. They must take the risk of loss and the chance of gain. In the last place it was necessary, if cotton was to be grown on a large scale, to arrange for roads and railways in order that they might carry to the coast and ship to England and elsewhere. Matters of this kind could best be done by cordial co-operation between such an association as the British Cotton Growing Association and the Government. They could not expect great results quickly. Patience and perseverance and, above all. scientific experiments were required to arrive at the best results. He was told that Germany, which country had for some years been experimenting in this matter, had not been put off by the fact that some of her earlier experiments were unsuccessful and had gone on experimenting with artificial manures and with different seeds. They had found out what was the best seed and the best soil for that purpose. That was the kind of work which the British Cotton Growing Association must go on with for many years if they were really to arrive at the result they desired.
561 Some money of, course, must be wasted. Some had already been wasted, but the association was learning Wisdom and buying its experience, and if the happy co-operation between it and the Government continued to exist—as he hoped it would—great results would be achieved. He thanked the Government for making the grant to the Imperial Institute for the purpose of experimenting in regard to cotton. He believed there would very shortly be opened in the institute an exhibition for the purpose of allowing anybody who was interested in the matter to see what was being done in various parts of the world in regard to cotton. But their gratitude to the Government was of the kind that looked for favours to come. He would like the Colonial Secretary to tell them when the British Central African railway to Blantyre was likely to be opened. A considerable quantity of cotton was being grown in that country, and it was very important that railways should be opened as soon as possible. He also wanted to know what the Government intended to do for the development of Northern Nigeria. It must be very difficult for the Colonial Office to extract from the Treasury any more money in regard to Northern Nigeria, and it was very natural when money was not plentiful that the Government should be afraid of public opinion not backing them up in any large expenditure there. Meanwhile he asked them to remember that the cotton trade was a trade of national importance, and to take care that we did nothing to injure it, but rather to increase the supplies of raw material from the British Empire, the production of which would benefit not only the Cotton trade of this country but also the colonies, dependencies, and protectorates where that cotton was grown.
§ MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)
said that as one of the Members representing Liverpool he desired to associate himself with the proposition now before the House. Up to the present most hon. Members who had taken part in the discussion were those whose constituencies were interested in the manufacture of cotton goods, but he wished to point out that Liverpool was doubly interested in the cotton trade, 562 because it was, in the first place, the port through which the cotton supplies reached the United Kingdom, and it was also the principal port from which the manufactured cotton goods were exported. It was also the principal market for the sale of cotton. Therefore, in Liverpool they naturally took a very great interest in this movement. It was evident from the discussion which had already taken place that this movement was viewed with favour on all sides of the House. This movement was promoted by the people engaged in the trade, including both employers and employed, merchants and spinners, who felt the necessity for securing a greater supply of raw cotton, and who had started this movement for the purpose of growing cotton in parts of the British Empire where the climate and soil were particularly adapted to the growth of cotton, but where there was a great necessity for some encouragement being given in order that the cotton-growing industry should be planted in those parts. Speaking as the representative of the merchants of Liverpool, he was authorised to inform the House that they felt very strongly upon the question of doing something to make this country less dependent upon the American cotton supply. They recognised that, at the present time, and for some considerable time in the future, the American supply of cotton must be the principal supply open to this country, but, at the same time, they were fully aware that the fact that they had only one supply made the market particularly susceptible to corners and other inconveniences detrimental to the cotton trade. They also knew that the demand for cotton in America was increasing faster than the supply, and they recognised that in a few years time the exports of cotton from the United States would begin to decrease owing to the increased demand for it in the United States itself. On these grounds, it was desirable that they should increase their sources of supply from various parts of the British Empire. The Imperial aspect of it was that they found in this movement a means of drawing the Colonies and the mother country closer together, and this was a method of accomplishing it which was approved by all Parties. While it was not desirable to 563 discourage individual initiative, the Government ought, in view of what was done in other countries, to do something to assist the trade of this country, and at all events to give it their hearty and sympathetic co-operation wherever possible.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he thought the debate which had taken place was likely to be a very useful one. There was a general concord of opinion, and although there was not a large attendance of Members that was no doubt due to the fact that it was felt that there was nothing controversial involved, and that those who were not present agreed that this subject was an appropriate one to which their attention should be directed, and one upon which the Government might very properly be invited to give such help as a Government could give. He thought the hon. Baronet the Member for Preston was entitled to their thanks for having brought a very important subject to the notice of the House. He wished to join in urging the Colonial Office and the India Office to take all such steps as they properly could to foster the growth of cotton in British dependencies and to obviate the necessity of our depending so largely for our supplies on the United States. It was clear, from the growing number of cotton mills in the United States, that they would absorb a greater and greater quantity of the cotton produced there; and when the cotton supplies were drawn almost entirely from one country it was more easy to organise rings and capture the market than when there were a number of sources of supply. These were two reasons for concluding that in this matter the interests of the whole British Empire coincided with the interests of the trade in Lancashire. Among the numerous places in the world where cotton could be grown, he had not heard much said that evening about Uganda and the East African Protectorate, where much cotton could be grown and where labour was comparatively abundant. From Burma, where there was a good deal of land still unoccupied, a considerable supply could be drawn. In joining other hon. Members in commending this subject to the benevolent consideration of the Colonial Office, he 564 did not suggest large direct expenditure, but rather that opportunities of growing cotton should be brought to the attention of growers, that communications should be developed, and that something should be done in the way of helping scientific production of the best kind, as had been done in the West Indies with regard to sugar production. Whatever the Colonial Office might do in this matter would have, the hearty sympathy of the House.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON, Warwick and Leamington)
said it was a matter of great satisfaction to him that for once the Department over which he had the honour to preside had met with the approval of all sides of the House. Government aid had been invoked very freely from all quarters of the House, and the circumstances under which it was invoked marked an interesting change of opinion. The Continental nations who had colonies, and more particularly the French and the Dutch, had set us the example of developing the great estates under their charge, an example which it was almost necessary that we should follow to some extent. He thought even the strongest believers in private enterprise and freedom from State interference recognised that the conditions under which that maxim might be quite applicable in former days had altered in the present time. Nowadays it was almost hopeless for individuals to conduct undertakings that involved a very large expenditure, a return on which could not be expected for many years, for they found themselves confronted with the far-sighted and most formidable rivalry of States and cities. We spent immense sums in acquiring large territories, and very large sums were granted from the Exchequer for their administration. In the case of Northern Nigeria, as had been pointed out, £450,000 a year was annually granted for administration; and, personally, he held the view that it would be good business, when there was such an expenditure as that on administration, to spend also £5,000 to £10,000 a year in prospecting and discovering, so as to get more return to the country. His term of office, however, had been in the lean years, and 565 he thought hon. Members would recognise that to approach the Treasury in such years with a demand for large grants for these purposes would be useless. But he would like to point out what had been done at the Colonial Office, the India Office, and the Board of Trade for the assistance of the British Cotton-Growing Association.
That association was formed in 1902, and they had co-operated with them with great promptitude. He thought he was accurate in saying that the production of cotton within the confines of the Empire since 1902 had been trebled. The best way of fostering the cotton industry within our Colonial Empire was in general to educate the natives in the production of that commodity. The greatest success which had taken place, so far as the operations with which we had been concerned went, was in the West Indies. Although the production in 1904 was very small, there was an estimated production for this year of 5,000 bales. The quality of the cotton produced there was, as had been pointed out, one which was specially desirable for Lancashire. A system of scientific superintendence had been in operation in the West Indies, and the Government had endeavoured to follow somewhat similar methods elsewhere. Since last year they had in West Africa agreed to appoint a scientific agricultural Commissioner, who would supervise all the cotton-growing operations, and would, so far as possible, superintend, educate, and instruct the natives. It was hoped that good results would be obtained there. In British Central Africa a very considerable result had been achieved. In 1904 the value of the cotton produced was not much more than £1,000; for 1905 the estimated production was some £50,000. In Sierra Leone, Lagos, and Southern Nigeria the colonial Governments had contributed to the Cotton Growing Association £2,500 a year. The railways in these States had carried free of charge all cotton which had been produced by the British Cotton Growing Association. Experiments had also been made in Gambia. He maintained that a good deal had been done by the Colonial Office for the association considering the time which had been available for the purpose. The Secretary of State 566 for India had made representations to the Indian Government, and that Government had undertaken, conjointly with the association, to bear the cost of an experiment which had been started in Bengal. Our best hopes in India were centred on Scinde, where operations had been going on very briskly, and where an officer who had had great experience in India was now making experiments with the seed of the Egyptian plant. He was sanguine that in Scinde this cotton might have a very great future. The increase in the acreage under cotton in that province was very considerable, and the output had nearly doubled in the last three years. He ought not to omit to mention what the Board of Trade had done also for the assistance of this great industry by granting another £500 a year to Professor Dunstan and his staff at the Imperial Institute for scientific investigation and selection of seeds. It had already been recognised how valuable a service had been rendered by these investigations. He did not wish unduly to glorify the Departments of which he had been speaking, but he wished to point out that they had not relaxed their efforts for a moment since last year. In conclusion, he would add an expression of his hopes that Lancashire itself would co-operate readily and liberally with the British Cotton Growing Association, which had worked so hard in the last three years in this great enterprise. It had been supported by some of the employers, but the present time was one in which surely a great effort ought to be made, and he trusted that out of its present prosperity Lancashire would contribute liberally to the magnificent work which the association was doing.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
said that as a member of the Cotton Growing Association, and one engaged in the cotton trade, he should not be suspected of opposing this Resolution, but he did regret the bringing forward of the Resolution because he thought it was quite unnecessary. It was really a testimonial to the right hon. Gentleman and the Colonial Department. If the Department had done everything they could have done and should have done, and were going to do everything they could 567 do, why bring this matter before the House? He was quite prepared to join in a testimonial to the right hon. Gentleman and his Department on a proper occasion, but there was a danger about it of which he wished to warn the House. They in that House, knew quite well what the motives and feelings of the Government were, but what would outsiders say? They would reflect upon the reputation of Lancashire, and would say that the county was coming to the House of Commons in a selfish way. Lancashire had the reputation of being a selfish county, and he had heard it said that they looked keenly after their own interests. He wanted to warn the public and Members of the House that Lancashire did not want anything different in this matter from any other place. The people of that county were not coming cap in hand for any particular favour. He knew the fiscal question was, like King Charles's head, always bobbing up, and he did not want to frighten away the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman was gallantly sticking to his position to-night as a Lancashire Member, even though some people thought he had not always done so. They had heard about Empire-grown cotton, and he could not help thinking of the parallel idea of Empire-grown corn. Lancashire was quite sound upon this matter, but it did not want anything contrary to the fiscal principles to which the county was so enthusiastically devoted. They did not want any Empire-grown cotton grown on false economic principles—grown by Government bolstering up of any kind whatever. During the American War Lancashire stuck faithfully to the North, though it suffered tremendously for its faithfulness. It would stick with equal faithfulness to its economic principles. They did not want Empire-grown cotton at the expense of sound fiscal principles. All they asked was that the Government should treat the Empire as an estate and develop it not for any particular trade.
§ *MR. PEEL (Manchester, S.)
said the very much regretted the tone of some of the hon. Member's remarks, because he remembered he made the same appeal on behalf of Lancashire last year when the matter was discussed.
§ *MR. PEEL
said the appeal was made when the hon. Gentleman asked the House not to imagine that Lancashire came cap in hand in order to get something out of the Government. The hon. Member said so last year. He himself was glad to see this sudden renewal of interest in the cotton-growing industry on the Opposition Benches. It was unfortunate that the hon. Member for Bolton should have insisted on bringing forward the fiscal question on which there had been a good many discussions during recent Tuesdays and Wednesdays. [An HON. MEMBER: How do you know?] The hon. Member seemed to object to a testimonial being offered to the Colonial Office in regard to this matter.
§ MR. HARWOOD
What I said was that I did not like its being brought forward because I thought it might lead to a misunderstanding of the position of Lancashire.
§ *MR. PEEL
said he did not think there was the slightest fear of any misunderstanding of the position of Lancashire by the bringing forward of the Motion. He wished to join in the congratulations to the Colonial Office, and the other Departments concerned, on the work which had been done during the past year for the development of cotton growing. He was glad that attention had been given first of all to West Africa, because it offered perhaps the best field within the British Empire for an increased production of cotton. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken of the possibilities of East Africa and Uganda, pointing out, quite rightly, that there was a large native population whose labour was available for the growth of cotton. It should, however, be remembered that Uganda was a considerable distance from the sea, and that the cost of transport must for some time, at all events, militate against the production of cotton in marketable quantities. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had read an interesting book by Sir Charles Elliot on East Africa, in which he indicated the opinion that he was not hopeful for the present that much could be done 569 in the way of cotton growing. In West Africa there was a very different position, ample opportunity being afforded for the production of cotton on a large scale. He need hardly remind the right hon. Gentleman, the distinguished historian opposite, that West Africa, especially the northern parts of Nigeria, had had for centuries a reputation for its supply of cotton and its fine cotton cloths. The population of the country had been accustomed for these centuries not only to the growth but to the manipulation of cotton in various ways. Therefore, there was the advantage of native labour, which had been disturbed when the slave trade was put an end to, but which was now reaching its old proportions since we had given the natives security of government. A great development of the cotton industry might consequently be expected, as the natives had a very strong commercial instinct, and as soon as they knew that there was a demand for it they would grow and deal in it most freely. In Northern Nigeria there was an immense extent of the very best class of cotton ground. He might remind his right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary that last year he had promised that experiments would be made in cotton growing and management, and also in supplying good seed to the natives. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had done that on a large scale.
§ *MR. PEEL
said he had not heard every word of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because there had been so much hilarity on the opposite side of the House. He was, however, extremely glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman had said, because this was one of the cases where Government might co-operate with private enterprise. He was very much against setting up large plantations for cotton growing; his idea was small holdings cultivated by the natives themselves, and central ginning factories of the best type in each district. He had every confidence, from all the reports he had had from West Africa, that there would be a great development in the growth 570 of first-class cotton there, and that a sufficient quantity would be raised to make it marketable in Lancashire, and sufficient in amount to meet any shortage there might be in the American production, although it must be some time before their markets could be in any sense independent of the American supplies.
§ Resolved, That, in view of the peril to which the industries of the United Kingdom using cotton as the principal raw material of their manufactures are exposed by their too great dependence on the United States of America as their source of supply, and the good results of the operations already undertaken by the British Cotton Growing Association, this House desires to express its appreciation of the benefits derived by the encouragement afforded by His Majesty's Government to the work of the Association, and looks to a continuance of their good offices as one of the essential conditions of a speedy development of the resources of the Colonies, dependencies, and protectorates of the crown as additional sources of supply of the cotton needed for the maintenance of regular and adequately remunerated employment in one of the greatest of the national industries.—(Sir William Tomlinson.)