Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [17th June],
That this House, having taken into consideration the proposals with respect to tariff Preference for Empire goods which His Majesty's late Government intimated at the Imperial Economic Conference in 1923 that they intended to submit to Parliament, is of opinion that the following dried fruits now subject to duty, that is to say, figs, raisins, plums, and currants, should, if of Empire origin, be free from all import duties on importation into Great Britain."—[Mr. Baldwin].
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am quite certain that the Government do not now regret that a second day has been given to a discussion of this gravity. I am quite certain, too, that in all quarters of the House yesterday—whatever views might be held as to the expediency or otherwise of the Resolutions before us—there was no one who did not feel and realise to the full that the decision we are to be called upon to take to-night is one of profound and far-reaching importance. I propose to try to trace the reasons—and they are different reasons—which attract the Mother Country and the Dominions to the idea of Preference. I propose, next, to comment on one or two of the speeches that were delivered yesterday, and then to give reasons why, in my opinion, it is of such importance to pass the Resolutions as they stand. I must, as all speakers should on this subject, apologise to the House that so much of what has to be said has been said before, for in a discussion of this kind the broad lines of argument on either side are only too familiar to those who have discussed it over a long term of years. I feel, however, that in the sketch of the conditions at home and in the Dominions which I propose to give I shall be able to carry the House with me, because I shall be dealing largely with facts which are beyond all possibility of dispute. But I do that because, unless one can realise the facts of the situation and unless one has a comprehension of the environment in which the work of our country and of the Empire has to be done, it is impossible to 2154 form a clear opinion, whichever way that opinion may go, as to the right steps to be taken at a time like this.
It was common agreement yesterday among all parties that this country is dependent in an exceptional degree on its exports, and I think it would be of common agreement among all parties that to-day we are a Free Trade country in our fiscal arrangements and that we are existing in a world which is practically entirely Protectionist in varying degree. Those are the circumstances in which we are placed. I think it would be a matter of general agreement that our trade has been profoundly disturbed by the present condition of Europe.
But even if all the difficulties in Europe were settled to-morrow, there would remain two facts to which we must have regard. One is this. In spite of all the talk—and there has been plenty—in Europe since the Armistice, in spite of conferences in various capitals of Europe, and in spite of the League of Nations, the tendency throughout Europe is to raise the tariff discriminations and not to lower them; and the creation of new countries in Europe since the War has, by their very creation and by their adoption of their own fiscal measures, contracted the areas in Europe in which to-day there is a free circulation of goods.
In the second place, we have to remember, as has often been said, and by no one more strongly than by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whose absence to-day we all regret so much—there are counter attractions to-day, as we know—that a reconstructed Europe will become a more formidable competitor than the old Europe. That is especially the case with regard to Germany, which country, as I have before pointed out in this House and elsewhere, will not only have to have as much, or even an increase of, raw material for the conduct of her own industry, but will also have to find goods for the provision of any reparations that she may make. On the top of that, you have to remember that in a Europe that is far poorer than before the War, countries to export will have to find their compensation by the last methods which we should desire to employ, namely, by the lengthening of the hours of labour and the lowering of 2155 the rates of wages. Whether we like it or not, we have to look that fact in the face, because there is little to be hoped for—as I know many hon. Members opposite hope for relief—in any international agreements that may be brought about with regard to the regulation of hours or of wages, and for this reason. The difficulty of such international arrangements is how they are understood in different countries. I think I may say that we keep in the letter and in the spirit any international agreements which we make. I am not going to say for a moment that other people do not, but I will say that wherever you get, as you do in all these agreements, exceptions to rule such exceptions are far more likely to be treated liberally and possibly to be made the rule in other countries than they are in this country; and you can hardly conceive an agreement in which there will not be a hole through which those who desire may drive a coach and horses.
This point is worth dwelling upon, because conditions to-day are far too serious for us to let ourselves be buoyed up by false hopes. You must remember that where countries are poorer than we are it becomes the more essential for them to struggle to get work, and, if they cannot get work, then of course their industrial life comes to an end. I look at it in this way. Some countries in Europe to-day are in the position of having younger or poorer industries than we have. As a matter of historical fact, such industries cannot compete on equal terms with old-established industries and old-established connections. So it is that by no stroke of the pen and by no agreement can you bring up the industrial conditions of a country which are lagging behind, and which are inferior to the industrial conditions of a country which occupies a higher place in the industrial life of the world. The thing has never been done, and it cannot be done. It was that very reason that drove Europe years ago into the use of those tariffs which to-day we find are so difficult for us to overcome. Had it not been that we were in the position of a country with established industries and established connections when we introduced Free Trade in the hope that it would be followed by the world, you would not have had the same necessity 2156 on the part of countries who wanted to establish an industrial condition of things to have gone in for that tariff system which we find such a bar to-day to our own prosperity.
More than that—as has often been pointed out and as I am sure the whole House will agree—we have the question of the settlement of the American debt, which in itself demands from us a larger amount of exports than we have ever got out before. We find the European market, the Japanese market, the market with the United States of America held against us rigidly. I mean by that that we can only break down, or, to use a figure of speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, we can only remove the bricks of the walls that surround those markets by treaties. I think that is obvious, but it is equally obvious that if you have no means to make a treaty you cannot make treaties with these countries. We have no means, and therefore we cannot make treaties. The only countries in the world with whom to-day we can make treaties, and that offer chances of improvement to our trade, are our own Dominions. We have not made treaties with them in the sense that we use the term treaties in speaking of foreign countries. We have tried, and they have tried, to make agreements by means of preferential arrangements. I would like to say a word at this point on something that was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) when he took exception to one of the Resolutions which is down, on the ground that the House of Commons should do nothing to hold the hand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and prevent him year after year from making such changes as he may think desirable. I would remind him that the holding of the hand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that way has never been a bar to the making of a treaty. It was no bar in the case of Cobden's treaty with the French which lasted for 20 years or more; it was no bar in the case of the treaty which was made between us and Japan in which we gave an undertaking not to put any duties on Japanese silk goods in return for certain advantages to ourselves; it was not held to be a bar by the last Government in the treaty that was negotiated with Spain, where by undertaking not to put a duty on 2157 Spanish oranges we obtained certain advantages in our trade.
The Dominions, as has been said frequently in the course of this Debate, are to-day the only markets in the world in which we can hope by arrangement to obtain privileges for ourselves which we cannot obtain in any other markets that exist. Markets we need to-day more than anything. Markets are essential to us just as space is essential for us in which we may hope to place a part of the population which to-day has outgrown the capacity of the country to deal with it. It is for those reasons, and owing to those circumstances in which we find ourselves, that we on this side of the House are driven to the conviction that Preference in some form or another is absolutely essential to the well-being not only of the trade but of the people of our country. The Dominions have approached this problem from another point of view. Their problem is a different one from our own. In spite of the growth of the towns in the Dominions, they remain to-day, and must remain for many years to come, primarily agricultural and pastoral countries, and it is essential for them to have an increase of population. I think the reasons are obvious, but in some parts of the world it is essential on the ground of national safety. I do not think I need develop that further.
Everyone at all familiar with the Empire knows that, if large parts of the world are to be kept, as we hope they may be, for the development of our own race, they can only be kept permanently if the territories are filled up, in process of time, by our own race. If the Dominions get the increases of population which they desire and which are necessary, their anxiety will be—where are they going to dispose of the produce of the hands of the men who fill the large spaces in the Dominions? They will be producing mainly articles of food, and they will produce far more than they can consume. The principal market open to them today, naturally and obviously, is our own, because it is a free market, but they only have a share of the trade that is done because they are exposed to competition from countries which, in many cases, have less carriage and can bring their goods to our shores more cheaply. If we can help them by giving them some Preference under our own existing financial 2158 system, or by straining the existing financial system almost imperceptibly, it will be of the greatest help to them in achieving that end.
The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) said yesterday, quite truly, that the amount of preference that can be given within our existing financial system is very small. He described it as trumpery, or something to that effect. Whatever the hon. and gallant Member may think, that is not what the Dominions think. They do not regard the concessions put forward in the Resolutions agreed to at the Conference as trumpery. Quotations from speeches were given yesterday which show that they are regarded as of the highest importance. There is no doubt that these limited concessions which are included within those Resolutions do go a long way to help them in their ultimate task—provided they get the population within their territory—to find employment for that population when it arrives. I have tried to show not only the circumstances of the problems which face us, but the differing circumstances of the problem which faces the Dominions.
I now want to refer to the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies delivered yesterday, because it did not seem to me to show that he was entering into the Debate with his whole heart as usual. He was more prone than usual to put up skittles, which we certainly had not provided, in order to knock them down in his own good time. We are in full agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said as to this country and the Dominions having complete freedom in their own fiscal arrangements, and that the ultimate voice in sanctioning or refusing any arrangement made between the Dominions and ourselves must rest with the Parliament of the Dominions and our own Parliament. Therefore, in my view, there can be no talk—assuming the Resolutions are defeated—of a breach of faith. In my opinion it will be a stupid action to defeat them, but it will not be a breach of faith, because. Parliament in all these matters is supreme. That has never been questioned. I want to point out to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that all these Resolutions, in the considered view of the Government which was in office when the Imperial Conference was held, 2159 can be fairly included as coming within the then existing fiscal arrangements of the country. The General Election in the winter had nothing to do with the decisions that were taken at the Imperial Conference. No election was ever fought on a clearer issue: it was fought on the question of a tariff on manufactured goods, and no one who looks with sympathy, from whatever point of view, at what is contained in the Resolutions need hesitate to support them on the ground that these Resolutions were considered at the last General Election. The first four Resolutions—as was very clearly explained by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely)—are Resolutions to which no orthodox Free Trader can possibly offer any objection. No one could vote against them by any reasoning or creed which he holds.
With regard to the Resolution on stabilisation of the sugar preference, I would make this observation: In my view it infringes no principle. You may think it wise or you may think otherwise, but it infringes no principle, and it gives to some of our Colonies an advantage which they eagerly and earnestly desire. It is no use telling me that, in the short time in which this Preference has been in existence, you have not yet had that fall in the price of sugar which was desired. That fall cannot come until the world production has caught up the world consumption. The more you develop the growth of sugar in your own Colonies and in the Dominions the nearer that time will come. By checking that growth, the more you will do to keep up ultimately the price of sugar or, if you do not keep it up, you get an additional growth from foreign growers and you will find yourselves entirely in their hands as to the prices they will ask you to pay. We must bear in mind that in the West Indies the island of Cuba has made most remarkable progress in recent years in sugar-growing and in general prosperity. All our Colonies in that part of the world see this growth accompanied with close economic relations with that great country, the United States of America. What I fear very much is that, if this close association with us does not lead in some degree to the prosperity enjoyed by countries in close association with other countries, it may 2160 tend in time to weaken the political tie that exists between us.
I may say this with regard to the last of the Resolutions, where small additional duties are proposed in exchange for the Preference which is given to us. I cannot think that anyone in this House will strain at a peach and swallow a plum. If you look at the case of tinned salmon, of which we have heard so much—I think it was the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs who introduced it with singular success, we have to remember that we have gained far more from the Preference which Canada has given us than she has gained from anything we have been able to give her. We have just removed from her a Preference under the McKenna Duties, which she held to be of some value. Is it too much that we should make this gesture here at this moment, if it is only to say that we acknowledge with gratitude what yon have done for us? Canada has boundless resources in those very things upon which we propose to put this small duty. Any increase of these products from that, country would tend inevitably to the return of goods from our country into that particular Dominion and, what is far more important, it would tend to direct into that country labour which at present is going not to Canada but to the United States of America.
If you refuse to pass any of these Resolutions, do not think for a moment that any action which in time the Dominions may take will be taken out of pique. It is far too serious a subject between us for any feeling of that kind to enter either their heads or ours. The problems will remain—our problem and their problem. I have no doubt the Government are now maturing some schemes for the relief of unemployment. But the Dominions' problem, which is a different one, still remains, and it will have to be approached from another angle, as economic pressure must inevitably drive them into other arrangements if they cannot make them with us. At this point we must, not lose sight of the position of India. India is a country which remained Free Trade as long as we controlled its finances. No one in this House will fail to remember the struggle that took place not very long ago when certain duties were put on in India, and proposals were made for corresponding Excise Duties here. India, having now 2161 the control of her own fiscal arrangements, and following the steps of every other country except our own, has taken to taxing imports into that country. Fifteen years ago, had this country decided to choose the path of Preference, it is probable that we could have instituted Preference with India to-day. That would have been a great advantage. But the time has probably gone by for that. Certainly at the moment it would be impossible to consider the making of preferential arrangements with the Indian Empire.
The time may well come when she may think it desirable to enter into an economic arrangement with other countries, and if we lay down as a definite and fixed policy for this country that in no circumstances are we going to enter into any form of preferential arrangements with our Dominions or with our Dependencies, we shall inevitably find that What they cannot get from us and what they feel they need for their own economic development they will get from other people. My ideal—I do not know how far it has been the ideal of hon. Members below the Gangway—has always been for an Empire or Commonwealth—whichever you like to call it—with free trade within its boundaries, with a tariff for revenue only round the outside of the whole ring.
The fault I have to find with the Government is that they have devoted no attention, so far as I can see, to these problems which I have been endeavouring to describe, and they are devoting all their attention to European matters which are important enough in themselves, but they ought not to do that to the exclusion of the others. The ideal which I have alluded to is not practical politics to-day, but it is an ideal which can be far sooner realised than any idea of internationalism in Europe. The problem is infinitely simple compared with that, and can bring about infinitely greater results for the world. To me the greatest value of the Commonwealth of Nations to which we belong is not necessarily an area in which to make money, but it is space in the world for the spreading and the increase of our own race, because I believe our own race to be the best in the world, and I believe that the progress of the world, morally and spiritually as well as 2162 economically, is bound up in the spread of our people with their ideas and with their ideals. That is the fundamental reason why I have devoted, with so many of my friends and colleagues, so much time to the study of these questions, and that is why we regard these Empire or Commonwealth questions as far the most important that exist to-day.
I would like to refer for a moment to one or two speeches made from the Back Benches opposite yesterday evening. I find myself in agreement, as I often do, with some of the things said by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). They had their heads pointed in the right direction; they were reaching out for the further shore, but they cannot swim yet, and they may do some day. If I may say so, without offence, I think, as is the case with so many Socialists, if I may put it in the language of the popular Press, their cardiac development has run ahead of their cerebral development.
They did, however, realise the underlying truth in a well-known saying of President McKinleyCheap goods make cheap men,although they did not realise that all their efforts in this House and outside end only in increasing and adding to the cost of industry and thereby depressing those very wages which they are anxious, and which we are anxious, to raise. We believe this can be done by the methods which we have put forward, and we know it cannot be clone by their methods. But in all these economic discussions, we are always brought face to face with this fact, that economics, one of the most powerful forces in the world to-day, have unfortunately become so linked—and have been linked for a century past—with party politics that it is perfectly impossible to get a fair and reasoned judgment on any questions where economics intrude. Let me give two or three illustrations of what I mean. In the old clays it was suggested that it was only necessary for a Tory to make an economic proposition for a Whig to be on his back.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I understood the hon. Member who has interrupted me to say that no Tories have made any economic 2163 propositions. He has probably forgotten that in 1785 Mr. Pitt brought forward a proposal which tended towards freer trade, he being a student of Adam Smith. The moment he did so, however, Charles Fox went to Manchester to rouse Lancashire against any proposal to make any reduction in the high tariffs that Lancashire then enjoyed. A deputation came from Manchester to London headed by Mr. Thomas Stanley, a name we seem familiar with, to protest against any change being made and alleging that the importation of fustians and cotton from Ireland would ruin Lancashire.
Again, if we go back only 20 years, I think I am well within the truth when I say that certain economic proposals were made by a man so powerful in political life as Mr. Chamberlain, and that of itself was sufficient to bring up against him half of the country that did not support him politically. Although hon. Members below the Gangway—and the hon. Members on the back benches—I am sure believe that Free Trade came to this country like the Mosaic tablets of stone, and were received by a grateful people, they have probably forgotten the letter which Mr. Cobden wrote to Mr. Bright at the time the French Treaty was made in which he said that he had forgotten the political plots and stratagems which were necessary to bring Free Trade about in this country.
I have made those remarks because I want to ask the Government whether they have ever considered this point. Would it not be possible at a time like this to bring together a body of economic experts, not too much identified with party, to study scientifically the whole question of Empire development and economic systems fitted for this country at a time like this, and in the circumstances in which we find ourselves? We have had at no time economic proposals emanating from any except from men immersed in politics, and that in itself is a very great drawback. If such an investigation could be held and a clear report made that would be the time for political leaders to come together and see whether there is any possibility of evolving a fiscal system which would help us at this time, and on which there might be sufficient agreement to carry it through.
2164 I have one other suggestion to make which came as a result of a speech of the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Perry). He touched upon a subject which has always been of interest to me, namely, the great discrepancy between the prices received by the producers for selling goods and the prices paid by those who consume them. It is because I have been so struck by that fact that I want the whole of the facts elucidated and brought out. For that reason I have made the suggestion and I have suggested it in public that I should, if returned to power, as one of my first acts have an investigation by a Royal Commission into these matters.
Take a Government like the present one, where the Front Bench at any rate is what we may call an unrepentant Free Trade Bench. I am trying to make suggestions to help them on lines outside tariffs altogether. If, for the moment, the country will not take certain courses of action, we must try to find others. Is it not possible to enter into some arrangement with the Dominions by which the enormous amount of foodstuffs we require to-day may be obtained solely from them by bringing them into this country at cost price, and distributing them with the least possible margin? Cannot something of this kind be thought out to obtain in exchange for it the free entry of our manufactured goods into those Dominions where such goods do not compete with their own? I do not know whether something of that kind could be done, but, if it could, it might last for the best part of a generation and then the whole situation would have to be reviewed again when the population of the Dominions had filled up more, and they had decided whether they wanted to become more than they are now a manufacturing country.
I have just thrown out these suggestions because I cannot believe that the Government mean to do nothing on this question. They do not realize the gravity of the situation. If these Resolutions, as a whole, are defeated to-night, you will gravely imperil the future of the whole Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] In themselves the Resolutions are small, but I say that the rejection of the whole of them would imperil the Empire, and I will tell the House exactly what I mean. The Dominions will believe—and they can believe nothing else—that this House 2165 has deliberately come to the conclusion that, speaking on behalf of the country, it will have nothing more to do with Preference. They will believe that the people of this country, through the mouth of their representatives in Parliament, do not care for Preference and, therefore, they will reluctantly look elsewhere for what we should have given them, and they may look to the United States or other countries. There is not a country in the world that would not jump at the opportunity.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
There is no difficulty whatever about it. In coming to this country they come here on an equality, but it is perfectly possible for them to make agreements with other countries by which they may come in, not upon an equality, but on preferential terms, and considerable preferential terms. The vast trade that is done to-day between the Dominions and this country seems natural. It has always been the case that the Dominions and ourselves have done a great amount of business together, but. there is no reason why that should always be the case, and, if such arrangements as I have indicated were made with other countries, you would very quickly see a difference in the volume of trade going between the Dominions and this country. It. is that that is the grave risk of the future, because the diversion of any of that volume of trade would tell, not only directly on the industries of this country, but it would tell on our shipping too. If this House will only pass the first four of these Resolutions, the impression of which I have spoken cannot be created in the same way. It would show that, although there are many in this House who cling so closely to the old Free Trade idea that they will not even make the slight changes recommended in the last of the Resolutions, yet, amongst the House as a whole, there is the desire to do what can be done. Even the passage of these first four Resolutions would keep the whole question alive, and make the Dominions realise that the House, without distinction of party, was willing, so far as it could, to make arrangements. I hope, indeed, that, if it be impossible to-night to secure all the Resolutions, these first four at least may be passed. I beg the House to 2166 hesitate before it makes up its mind to-night to send a message round the world that this path, which is opening so full of hope before all the younger nations, has been blocked for good by the Mother Country.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The House has listened, as it always does, with respect, and with exceptional interest to-day, to the deliverance of my right hon. Friend, and I would only make, by way of preface to what I am going to say, one preliminary criticism. I think that he very much under-estimates—I will not say perverts—the verdict given by the country. He does not think it included the condemnation of these Resolutions. It certainly did. They were allied by my right hon. Friend—whether for good or had tactical reasons it is not for me to say—with larger and wider proposals. They were discussed on every platform. I myself discussed them over and over again, and I always found a very large and, indeed, an overwhelming response to the condemnation which we, both of the Liberal and of the Labour parties, passed upon them. I, therefore, cannot at all accept my right hon. Friend's view that the verdict of the country has not in advance vetoed the vote which he asks the House to pass to-night. I confess quite frankly, however, that, with the best will in the world, I am not able to flog myself into a state of excitement over these Resolutions.
There is, as I think this Debate has shown, and never more clearly than in the speech just delivered by my right hon. Friend, an unreality, even a triviality, about the ostensible subject of our discussion to-day. Here we have 10 Resolutions. Three of them deal with dried and preserved fruits; three of them deal with apples, honey and lime juice; one of them deals with various forms of canned fish. When I read them in all their pompous array on the Order Paper, I could not help thinking of the old legend of the itinerant vendor of vegetable matter who perambulated the streets of Bagdad and shouted at the top of his voice, "In the name of the Prophet, figs!" Yet this is the first instalment, at any rate, of a policy which, when developed, is to tie a new series of bonds, or, at any rate, to apply a new pot of cement, to consolidate the unity of the Empire and to develop our Imperial 2167 resources. My right hon. Friend told us just now that the rejection of these Resolutions would imperil the Empire. What a conception people must have of the stability of the Empire, the foundations on which it rests, and the bonds by which it is united, if they think that these eight or nine Resolutions dealing with fruits, honey, apples and the rest, will, if rejected by the House of Commons, lead us into serious and lasting peril! The truth is that everyone in this House knows, and no one better than the right hon. Gentlemen who sit upon the Front Opposition Bench, that these Resolutions are an attenuated, emasculated, anæmic, and even apocryphal version of the full-blooded gospel of Imperial Preference.
We are told that the representatives of the Dominions, or some of them at any rate—perhaps the majority of them—at the Imperial Conference, expressed their gratitude for these small mercies. I daresay they did, but they did not do so without the plainest possible intimation from Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, that this was not the real thing, nor anything like the real thing, for which he and his fellow preferentialists in that Dominion were contending. I am not going in any detail, after the masterly speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) yesterday, to criticise the particular provisions of these Resolutions. I say at once, speaking for myself, and, I hope, for a large number of my friends, that I shall vote against them all, because I regard them, as I believe the late Government do, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman who introduced them last night did, as a more or less coherent whole, linked together, interdependent, not to be parcelled out and segregated one from the other as of varying degrees of importance, but as part of a scheme, if you like a modest scheme, of policy. I am going to vote against them for this simple reason, that, although I do not think they can of themselves do much harm—they are on too small a scale for that—I cannot see that they would be of any advantage, economic or sentimental, to the British Empire.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The right hon. Gentleman, who is an old Parliamentarian, 2168 ought to have a little more patience. It is sought, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to differentiate between the earlier and the later Resolutions, and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely)—an old colleague of mine for whom I have the greatest possible respect—indicated, in his speech last night, a similar view. That leads me to ask the House for one moment—and this is the only detailed criticism which I will pass on the terms of the Resolutions themselves—to look at the first of them, which is supposed to be the most innocuous, and to be one for which any Free Trader may vote. It proposes that certain dried fruits now subject to duty—figs, raisins, plums and currants—should, if of Empire origin, be free from all import duties on importation into Great Britain. That was not the proposal put before the Imperial Conference by the late Government and for a very good reason. Take the case of currants. If currants were admitted under this Resolution free from duty, there would be no effective preference given to them at all—none whatever—because they would still only be sold at a higher price in the London market than our importations from Greece and from other countries. Moreover, as the right hon. Gentelman the former President of the Board of Trade very properly pointed out at the Imperial Conference —I have his words here—His Majesty's Government are prepared to offer free admission to Empire currants, and to consider what increase in the duty on foreign currants may be necessary to make the Preference effective.This Resolution is perfectly nugatory, and can only be made effective—and I say this, if my right hon and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight will allow me to do so, for his especial benefit—this Resolution can only be transformed into one giving effective Preference if you increase the duty upon foreign imported currants. It is idle to say that it is a mere remission of an existing duty. If so it is nugatory. The facts are obvious. They were put quite properly before the Imperial Conference by the late President of the Board of Trade. You cannot carry out this proposal without denouncing your treaty with Greece. You have a treaty with Greece 2169 which led to the reduction of the duty on currants.
§ Sir PHILIP LLOYD-GREAME
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The Greek Government have already denounced that.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I thought it was the other way, that His Majesty's Government had denounced it. At any rate, it is renewable every three months. Until the treaty comes to an end—it will be very curious to see what happens then—we, in exchange for our agrement to reduce the duty on currants, gain a large advantage in the Greek market for our textile, woollen and cotton goods, which are worth 30 or 40 times the whole of the currant trade.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend says that we have a large advantage. I ask him, an advantage over whom?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
In a commercial treaty there is always a quid pro quo. There is no commercial treaty between any two countries in which that has not been an essential element. It has nothing to do with Preference. It is a matter of a bargain with a perfectly independent state. If we are going to make this Preference in the first Resolution really effective in favour of the Dominions and Colonies, as against Greece and the other countries which supply us with currants, we must raise our taxes on the imports of foreign currants, at the risk of surrendering the advantage which we get under the Greek commercial treaty. That shows that these things are not Quite as simple as they teem to be on he surface. In other words, this Resolution, to be made effective, must be followed by an increased duty on the vain supplies of our currants and other dried fruit. I mention that only by way of introduction, because I am not entering into detailed criticisms of the Resolutions.
I want to deal with a much more serious matter. In the first place, we are old—not in this House so much as by our mentors in the Press and elsewhere— 2170 that if we do not pass these Resolutions in their entirety—my right hon. Friend mentioned the first four, and I do not know why he did not mention the others, because they are the gist of the whole matter—we shall leave in the minds of our Dominion fellow subjects a feeling of resentment at something in the nature of a breach of faith. We are told that outside. It is absolutely untrue, because, most properly, when my right hon. Friend and his colleagues went into the Imperial Conference they explained explicitly to their Dominion colleagues that any arrangement to which they came must be subject to ratification and approval by the Imperial Parliament. At the time that seemed a foregone conclusion, because my right hon. Friend had at his hand a compliant instrument in a House of Commons, in which he had an undisputed majority of something like 70 or 80. But by some strange intellectual process which very few of us can understand, he recommended a Dissolution of Parliament, and the Parliament to which the actual decision has come is not what he had in his mind at the time, but the more or less chaotic patchwork which I have the honour of addressing to-day.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It is a patchwork. For that situation nobody is responsible except the late Prime Minister. What I want to do is not to deal with these Resolutions, which, after all, are mere leather and prunella, but with the far larger issue which lies behind and beneath them, because these Resolutions are put forward as an instalment and continuation and development of the policy of Imperial Preference—a policy of Imperial Preference not in this limited and attenuated sense, but as it was understood and preached, and as it was propagated by its real author, the illustrious Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. I do not want to go back to the details of old controversies, but I wish to recall the attention of the House to one or two fundamental principles at issue, upon which that contest depended and by which it was decided.
I will start with two perfectly indisputable propositions. The first is that in our free, self-governing Empire, every constituent member, not excluding the Mother Country, has complete fiscal 2171 autonomy, and, not only so, but, as a corollary of that, owes its first duty to its own citizens. The second proposition, though perhaps it is more difficult in its concrete application, is, I think, logically equally clear. It is that in a democratic State such as our own and such as all our self-governing Dominions, we should avoid as far as possible creating engagements and entanglements which mortgage fiscal freedom in the future. I quite agree with everything that was said by my right hon. Friend as to the necessity, at any rate the expediency, of concluding a commercial bargain or commercial treaty with other countries for specific purposes and with the view of give-and-take on both sides. Such treaties may be and often are necessary. The treaty with Greece is an illustration. But I believe that the Dominions will agree that as far as possible we should not fetter or mortgage our fiscal freedom. If you do, as you would if you entered into a system, necessarily a complicated system, of reciprocal Preferences with your different Dominions, every year when the Budget came up for discussion you would have differences of opinion, friction, and something very much in the nature of huckstering and bargaining, as to whether or not this or that particular Preference had been beneficial either to yourself or in an even degree to the different constituent members.
You would have the engineering, the manipulation, the artificial inflation which we saw in the McKenna campaign, 10, 20 or 100 times over. No Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to budget with freedom. That is one of the enormous and inherent drawbacks in any system of Imperial Preference in an Empire such as ours. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) pointed out so well last night, what is called Imperial Preference is a totally different thing in the Dominions, which start with a tariff partly designed for revenue, but still more designed for protection, and in which, therefore, you can make relaxations and abatements in favour of the Mother Country, and in a country like our own, in which our taxation arrangements are not dictated by any regard for protection whatsoever, but for revenue and revenue alone. To them it means a lowering of, at any rate the letting in of loopholes in, an existing 2172 tariff wall in order that when they have created it we may get preferential advantages over foreign competitors. We recognise with a deep sense of gratitude such preferences as the Dominions have given to us. But I say advisedly that if Preference is to be adopted in this country in a really effective fashion it involves, as has been pointed out a thousand times and never been contradicted or refuted, the imposition of import duties on a very large proportion of your imported food and imported raw material. Roughly speaking—it is very curious how these proportions are maintained year after year, you might almost say now generation after generation—three-quarters of our imported food and one-half of our imported raw materials come from countries outside the Empire. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] The Empire cannot produce them. I am all in favour of extending its resources, but is there anyone on this side of the House who thinks we can get from within the Empire three-quarters of the food and one-half of the raw material? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] When? [An HON. MEMBER: "In 15 years!"] That is a long time. I should like to see it happen, but you will not get it by Preference, which, during the 15 years will raise the cost of the necessaries of life and the raw material on which the manufacturers depend for their export trade, till you would be excluded from competition in the markets of the world. (An HON. MEMBER: "We are now!"] We are holding our trade on the whole very well. That argument, which killed Mr. Chamberlain's proposals in a fair field 20 years ago, will kill any attempt now to impose a system of Imperial Preference.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I say it will kill you again if you attempt once more to appea to the people of the country, as I should be very glad if you would. It would not survive a general election. My opinion is absolutely unchanged. Nothing that happened in the War has in the least affected the essential facts of the situation. The position of the country remains what it was before—a country which is dependent upon external sources of supply, both for its food and for its raw materials—and anything which impedes the free influx, in the fulles 2173 possible measure, either of the one or of the other would be disastrous to our trade in the future as it has been in the past. It may be said, "Is that all? Have you nothing to propose but a mere negative?" That question, which was put prematurely 20 minutes ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities—
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman disclaims it, and passes it on to someone else. It raises the real, vital, essential point in all these matters. I was a little alarmed last night when the right hon. Gentleman who introduced these Resolutions, beginning to grapple with his peroration, invoked the authority and benediction of Milton. I forget the precise passage which he quoted. But when he soared into these heights I looked through the Resolutions and ransacked my memory of that illustrious poet, and the only relevant line that occurred to me was one which is to be found in "Paradise Regained," and which refers tothat crude apple that diverted Eve.It is going back to the origin of things. I do not know what the precise juridical status of Iraq may be at this moment. Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell us—but I believe it is in a state of dubiety. It happens to be the territory which in days gone by contained the Garden of Eden. The seventh of these Resolutions is relevant to the point. I was rather wondering whether an apple grown in the Garden of Eden would, under this Resolution, be exposed to an import duty of 5s. per cwt. as being a raw apple of foreign Origin, or would be entitled to privileged treatment.
I very much resent, as do all my friends, the suggestion to which the Colonial Secretary referred last night, that some kind of vested monopoly in the prestige, the authority and the development of the British Empire belongs to those who are in favour of preferential treatment. The Colonial Secretary said very truly that there is not a single party in the House or outside it which has not an equally keen and genuine interest in the development of the Empire. There are people in the party represented by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on 2174 these benches who believe that Mr. Disraeli discovered the British Empire, at any rate, for political purposes, in the famous speech which he made one June afternoon at the Crystal Palace 50 years ago. There was no Wembley in those days, or that would probably have been a more appropriate arena for his harangue. As a matter of fact, as we know from his recorded words and writings, he had been accustomed up to that moment to speak of the Colonies as millstones and dead weights. [Interruption. ] The hon. Member's history is not as accurate as mine. It is a very curious thing that the claim, or the supposed claim, that one particular party has this monopoly in regard to the Empire should be based on a declaration of that kind. I do not want to make this a party question, and I never have. If I did, I should say without any hesitation that the party for which I have the honour of speaking is the party—I do not want to exaggerate—which has certainly been second to none in building, consolidating and emancipating the British Empire. I see some smiling faces behind me. They will have to re-write and falsify history before they can invalidate that claim.
Who was it who gave freedom and self-Government to Canada and South Africa? How is it these Dominions of ours are able now to bargain with us, to meet us, as I am glad to say they do, upon equal terms with complete autonomy? Because of the efforts which have been made in the past to emancipate them from tariffs, from Downing Street government and from bureaucratic control, and to enable them to grow up, as they have grown up, in complete freedom to political independence and maturity. There is no one less callous, less indifferent, more keen and more zealous than we are to tighten the bonds which unite this great partnership of free nations, but not by sordid bonds, not by debasing the moral currency of the Empire. What do we give them now? We give them the freest market in the whole world. We give them the most complete access, on the most favourable terms, to British capital. We contribute at least our share to Imperial defence. It is not a one-sided bargain in which the Dominions give everything and we give nothing. I agree we have not done all we ought to do. There is a great deal 2175 still left undone in the development of Imperial resources, in the extension of credit facilities, in the improvement of transportation and the storage and marketing of produce. I welcome—here I speak for myself and do not for the moment bind anybody else—the suggestion that was made by the late Government at the Imperial Conference, which was taken up last night by the Colonial Secretary, for the establishment of a permanent Imperial Economic Committee, in which the Mother Country and the Dominions side by side, not excluding India, can discuss and co-ordinate further schemes and further methods for developing our common resources and increasing the strength and authority in the world of the British Empire. That is the policy and those are the lines on which alone we can not merely retain but strengthen and develop the ties which bind us one to another. As far as I am concerned, and as far as my Friends are concerned, it is upon those lines—not upon these so-called preferences, disadvantageous to this country, without being really advantageous to the Dominions themselves, which would raise constant causes of bickering and friction and which would weaken and not strengthen the Imperial tie—that the future of the Empire must develop.
§ Lieut.-Colonel A. POWNALL
Before I develop my own theme I must dwell upon the arguments which we have just heard from the right. hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). It is impossible for him to say how it is that we can have Treaties of Commerce with Greece and can give Greece special terms over here and yet, when anything of the sort is attempted for Australia or the other Dominions, those arrangements immediately become "sordid bonds." Why should not such an arrangement with Greece be as much "sordid bonds" as any arrangement with Australia, especially in view of the very large concessions that Australia gives to us? I can only say that it is thoroughly typical of the general attitude on these Imperial questions taken, with one notable exception, by the Liberal party. It reminds one of the unfortunate words used by Mr. Winston Churchill, when he was spokesman for the party now below the Gang- 2176 way, 15 years ago, when he said that the door was "banged, barred and bolted" against Imperial Preference. He has since seen the error of his ways, and I wish the right hon. Member for Paisley had seen the error of his ways.
May I say a few words in regard to one branch of Imperial trade of which I happen to have exceptional acquaintance? Fur 25 years I was engaged in the Australian wine trade. I have now no personal interest in that trade, so that I am not speaking from any financial interests in the matter. For the last five years the Australian wine trade has enjoyed a considerable measure of Preference in the British market. It has had a Preference to the extent of ls. a gallon lower duty on wines. I am afraid that the right hon. Member for Paisley would call that a sordid bond, but it is not so regarded by agriculturists in Australia. Instead of that benefit being taken by the producers or by those who deal with this particular commodity, the fact is that on the very day, the 1st September, 1919, when the lower duty came into force, the prices were reduced to the consumer in this country. The consumer got the benefit directly, but the producer indirectly got benefit, because it put him into a position to compete more fairly with the producers in Spain, Portugal and France.
I do not think that anyone who has had business dealings with Australia can fail to appreciate how very difficult it is to overcome the effect of the 12,000 miles which separate this country from Australia and New Zealand. These preferences are not really regarded in the sense of commercial preferences, but as something which neutralise the disadvantages which confront those who deal with our Dominions, in view of the fact that 3,000, 6,000 or 12,000 miles separate us from our Dominions as against the few scores of miles that separate us from foreign countries whose products to a large extent come here. The lower standards of living and the greatly depreciated exchanges in foreign countries have also made it very difficult for Dominion producers to compete in the last few years.
With regard to these Resolutions, there is one which deals specifically with the wine trade and which gives an extra 2s. a gallon Preference on certain types of 2177 wine. Those wines will have to pay 2s. duty instead of the 4s. which they are now paying. The cost of that to the Exchequer is a mere bagatelle On the last year's figures it works out at about £84. It would, however, give a chance to the Dominions to compete with wines such as port and sherry, which have long been in vogue here, with the result that it has been very difficult to get the people of this country to take Australian wines to the same degree as the more familiarly known Continental wines. The right hon. Member for Paisley said that the 2s. Preference on currants would not equalise the difference between the prices of Australian and Greek currants. The price of Australian currants is 60s. per cwt. and of Greek currants 54s. per cwt. The 2s., however, would be a step in the right direction. It does do something to make more equal the conditions, seeing that the present Preference is only 4d. I have authority for saying that if we grant this 2s. Preference, it will be greatly appreciated by the currant growers in Australia, the majority of whom are ex-service men.
In these matters we need to take a broad view. Australia might say to us, "For many years we have given you a big Preference, and unless you do something in our favour we shall have to reconsider our position." There are murmurs on those lines from Australia already. In 1921 Australia gave us a remission of import duties to the extent of £8,750,000, while Australia only benefited to the tune of a little lover £1,000,000 in the remission of our import duties. Therefore, we must realise how very much more in this respect Australia has done for us than we have done for Australia. There are other ways of looking at the matter. There is the protection of the British Navy, and there is the fact of the opening of the British Stock Exchange to Dominion securities. In a good many respects the Mother Country has clone a great deal, but in the matter of trade Australia is doing seven times as much for us as we are doing for Australia. Even if these proposals are carried, Australia will be doing five or six times more for us in these matters than we are doing for Australia.
It was stated by the Labour party, when the question of Singapore was being discussed, that Mr. Bruce only spoke on 2178 behalf of a certain section of the Government in Australia. It was an excellent point to make by the Labour party, that the Labour party in Australia was opposed to the Singapore Base proposal. I was, therefore, specialty interested to hear the Colonial Secretary say that it would be a good thing to have the Leaders of the Opposition taking part in these Conferences. I have made it my business to find out what the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton, Leader of the Labour party in Australia, would have said if he had been present last autumn at the Imperial Conference. On 27th July of last year, in the Debate which took place immediately before Mr. Bruce left to attend the Imperial Conference, Mr. Charlton said:I am quite in favour of Empire Preference.Later on, in the same speech, he said:I wish to make it quite clear that I am in favour of a preferential tariff.He also said:The standard of living and social conditions generally are much higher here than in other producing countries nearer to the homeland and our produce is probably dearer—a very real danger of loss of trade.It seems a great pity that Mr. Charlton did not accompany Mr. Bruce to the Conference. He might have had an opportunity of talking to the present Colonial Secretary and to the present Prime Minister, and they might have taken from him advice which they will not take from hon. Members sitting on these benches. For that reason, I welcome most heartily the suggestion of the Home Secretary.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald)
Is it not perfectly cleat from the context that when Mr. Charlton used the expression "Preference," he meant the Preference that Australia was giving to us and that, as a matter of fact, in his speech when the House was considering how Mr. Bruce was to act in the discussions at the Imperial Conference, Mr. Charlton dissociated himself from asking for Resolutions such as those which we have now before us?
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
I read the speech only yesterday, and my recollection is not the same as that of the Prime Minister
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
He said:I am quite in favour of Empire Preference.Empire Preference means Preference throughout the Empire. It is not unilateral, but bilateral. When he referred to other countries and the standard of living and social conditions, surely he made it clear that he considered it necessary for us to give some measure of Preference to Australia, in view of his statement that there was real danger of loss of trade. Otherwise, Australia could not compete.
May I bring the Prime Minister a little nearer home? May I quote the Labour Hand Book for 1924, of which he wrote the foreword. On page 221 it says:It will be seen that these proposals form into two parts. On those relating to dried figs, raisins, plums, apricots and tobacco, it is proposed to reduce the existing duties on imports from the Dominions. They are, therefore, unobjectionable inas-much as their effect is to lighten the burden of fond taxation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
I am sure, in view of the "hear, hear," which the Prime Minister gave to those sentiments, that as regards those specific articles he hopes to go into the Lobby with us this evening. This is the political scripture of the Labour party from which I am quoting, and, therefore, I do not think I can be accused of quoting Scripture for devilish ends. When the Labour Hand Book makes it absolutely clear that these duties are unobjectionable because they reduce food taxes, surely with regard to these proposals it is possible for the Prime Minister and his Friends to go into the Lobby with us. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who spoke yesterday, with the intimate knowledge which he has from the Board of Trade of certain questions, said that much lower duties were charged in France than are charged in Australia and New Zealand. I make him a present of that particular point, but what we should look to is the total volume of trade that is done and not the tax which Australia puts on a special article. We should look at the total volume of trade done between ourselves and our French friends a few miles away, and with Australia 12,000 miles away. Australia and New Zealand do with us some 15 to 20 times as much per 2180 head as does France, and Australia and New Zealand do with us more than that amount in proportion to other European countries.
It is all important for us at present to try to increase our export trade to the United States in view of the sum of £35,000,000 a year which we are paying in liquidation of War debts. Our trade with the United States is 8s. 8d. per head. Canada, with a very similar population, close alongside to the United States, takes exports to the amount of £2 12s. 8d. per head, or six times as much. Surely that shows that Dominion Preference is of very considerable value, and if it were possible to get better arrangements with the United States that would go far to increase our trade and so help to pay off the £35,000,000 which we have to pay each year. The Imperial Conference is the only advisory body which we have in the British Empire, and any proposal that it puts forward, I do suggest, ought not to be turned down except for reasons of very dire necessity. The accidental change of Government in the House of Commons in either the Mother Country or any one of the five or six Dominions ought not, in my view, be a reason for altering the decisions come to by that Conference without some very broad reason behind it.
At all events, as regards the first four of these recommendations, I do not see that anyone can object to them on broad grounds of Imperial policy. As regards number five, which involves necessarily a tariff, I am sufficiently broadminded to appreciate the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, though I do not agree with the principle which they have adopted with regard to them, but as regards these four points, which only involve the remission of a very few hundred thousand pounds of taxation, the House Would be well advised to accept them. We all want friendly terms with foreign countries. We are all agreed that the Prime Minister should make friendly gestures to continental countries, but I do say, first of all, let us begin by making our friendly gestures to our own kith and kin beyond the seas, and if we are going back upon the decisions come to at the Economic Conference last year, I am very much afraid that, separated as they are by 12,000 they would not under- 2181 stand the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that this would be taken, not as a friendly gesture, but as an unfriendly gesture.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I did not intend to intervene at any length in this Debate, because, at any rate, for one reason—that which was indicated by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)—I really cannot flog myself into any excitement about these Resolutions. The Opposition itself knows that they do not amount to very much. They have pruned and pared them to make them respectable. They have done their very best to provide four innocent Resolutions to enable them to challenge us to vote for them in order that we might fall into the little snares that have been laid with so much care for the purpose of entangling our feet. My hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down knows perfectly well that the surface appearance of those four Resolutions is not their real value. These four Resolutions must be taken with all the others. Even if they were taken alone for the purpose of this Debate to-day, these four Resolutions are a preliminary declaration in favour of the full programme of Imperial Preference, and whoever votes for them must vote for them with the knowledge that he is not voting for Resolution 1, 2, 3 or 4 upon its verbal meaning, but upon the spirit of those who have drafted the Resolution.
From that point of view I am going to have no difficulty in voting against the four innocent-looking Resolutions. It is not the first time in the history of the world that sin has come in with a smiling and an innocent face, but it is well to be clear about what we are speaking. Very much to my regret I had to differ from my hon. and gallant Friend opposite as to the meaning of the expression "Imperial Preference." My Friend quoted Mr. Charlton as saying in the Australian House of Commons that he was in favour of Imperial Preference. The meaning of those words was that he was in favour of Australia giving the Mother Country a preference. That does not mean that any large section of the Australian people expect us to change our fiscal system in order to make an extension of that preference to this country possible. I do not believe for a moment that either Australia or Canada 2182 ask us to do that, and that is the unproved and fallacious assumption that underlies all the speeches from hon. Members opposite in the Debate yesterday and to-day.
The preference which Canada or Australia gives to us means really that the Australian consumer, without altering his system, without abandoning any protective ideas, without in any way departing from his conception of national economy which he holds, says to us: "Because you are the Mother country, because there is some relationship between you and us, which does not exist between ourselves and France or any other country, because you give us this, outside that which is declared in the clauses of commercial Treaties, we will express our gratitude to you and our friendship to you by this special arrangement by which we keep up our tariff walls against you, quite effectively for our own purposes, but lower them slightly in your favour in relation to foreign exporters who are outside the Commonwealth." That is Imperial Preference from the Australian and Canadian point of view, but what is the thing—a totally different thing—called by the same name which right hon. and hon. Members opposite wish to impose upon us? It is not a thing which can be done and can be recognised within our views of sound national economy.
It is not a matter which can fit in with our scheme of raising revenue. It is not part and parcel or merely a modification of the best economic policy for this country. No, in order that we may conform to the demands of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, we should have to change all that. We should have to abandon our principles; we should have to re-create, not only our relations with the Empire, not only our relations with the self-governing Dominions, but we should have to produce a fiscal system which would re-create our relations with every country that sends goods to us or competes with us in foreign or neutral markets. That is the difference which has not been emphasised on the other side. I believe that if this House not only gave two days to this discussion, which some people might call dull, but which serious minded people consider important, but gave two weeks or two months to the exploration of those matters, it would be none the worse for 2183 us and none the worse for this country, and none the worse for the Empire itself. But there is one question which ought to have been raised and I think has not been raised. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition indulges in dreams in which we have all indulged, the dream of a great Commonwealth of self-governing nations which within themselves will be free trading and outside themselves will be protective—in other words, the idea that the British Empire might become something economically like the Federation of the American States.
§ Mr. A. CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to say that that was not what my right hon. Friend said. He said Free Trade within the Empire and a tariff for revenue purposes against foreign nations.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is better. It comes much nearer to me, but I would have been quite grateful for the statement having been made by my right hon. Friend in the way in which I put it. However, this is still better. If these four Resolutions were to be a certain step to that end I would vote for them to-night, and the reason why—though I am sneaking for myself—I do not think that they are a step to that end, but the fact that I do not think that the idea of Imperial Preference is a step to that end compels me to vote against them. The hon. Member who preceded me quoted from a Debate in Australia which was opened, I think, on the 27th July. It took place in both the Upper and Lower Chambers. The object was to enable Mr. Bruce to receive some indication of the mind of both Houses of the Australian Commonwealth before he left to take part in the Economic Conference. If the House will allow me, I will indicate what Imperial Preference means from the Australian point of view. Senator Lynch, speaking on 1st August, 1923, as reported on page 1930 of the Australian Parliamentary Debates Official Report says:Preference may be regarded as a means for the protection of our own industries, first of all by imposing such a handicap on competitors that they will find it difficult to meet us in the local market.That is no approach to the ideal of my right hon. Friend. Senator Gardiner, 2184 who spoke on the 31st July, as reported on page 1839 and subsequent pages of the Official Report, could also be quoted, and hon. Members will find in his speech the most complete statement of what Preference means, as against us, that has ever been compiled by any member of the Australian legislature. I happened to be in Australia myself when one of the imperial Preference Bills was under discussion. It was in Mr. Deakin's time. There was an Imperial Conference here immediately afterwards, and Mr. Deakin came over, and he used in those early years all the arguments which I have heard to-night. I happened to have the Bill in my possession when I came back, and I engaged in a very slight and friendly controversy with Mr. Deakin in the columns of the "Times." I pointed out to him then, what I am pointing out to the House now, that whilst we ought to be very grateful to the Australians, to the Canadians, and to all the others for taking down, in our interest, one or two of the top bricks from the wall, we should not come to the fallacious conclusion that Imperial Preference was ever intended by the Dominions who gave it, as a first step to Free Trade within the Empire. I put no more emphasis upon it than that. Senator Gardiner gives case after case. He says:Plain plate sheet iron up to and including one-sixteenth inch in thickness, is subject to a duty of 65s. a ton.That is against British imports. Here is another extract: "The British manufacturer has to buy our wool, pay freight upon it to Great Britain, make it up into textiles, and pay the freight back here, and even then we are so afraid to meet our British brother in competition that we place an impost of 30 per cent. upon him.Further, on page 1839, the same speaker says:I point out that that country (Great Britain) manufactures bar, rod, angle, and tee iron, and we say that they shall pay 44s. duty on every ton of that iron they send to Australia.That is not Imperial Preference. I am perfectly certain that everybody who has studied Australian tariff history will shake their heads without shaking their hearts, to use a somewhat exotic expression, at the dream in which my right hon. Friend has indulged of a Free Trade Empire protected from outside—whether for protective purposes or merely 2185 for revenue-raising purposes. I have said that this is a dream of my right hon. Friend, but I always understood that when he or I dreamt these dreams, however remote it might be, we had a sort of idea away at the backs of our minds that we were going to do our best to realise them. Now these Resolutions, as one of my hon. Friends behind me said, represent a first step. I agree. One of the things for which I like the Leader of the Opposition is that he is always absolutely candid. He never seeks to conceal the big things at which he is driving, and I wish there was far more of that to-day in public life. The impressiveness of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-day lay in this fact, that it was not a plea for Imperial Preference, but was much more than that and was much deeper than that. It was a plea for tariffs; it was a plea for Protection. All he said about Imperial Preference was merely a footnote to what he said and what he thought about the new reconstruction of fiscal policy which, in his heart, he believes we must undertake, not because we belong to a Community of Dominions, not because we are the Mother Country of an Empire, but because we are a producing nation, facing new conditions after the War, conditions which we cannot face without tariffs—according to his argument. I like that, because there is a great deal to be said for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I do not think there is enough to be said for it to make one agree with it, but it is the sort of thing on which I think two days or two weeks or two months might very well be spent in a thorough exploration without our being put into any high state of frenzy. But we have here a first step, and I would like to warn my hon. Friends behind me that, whatever may be the verbal expression of these first four Resolutions, they are a first step. Even supposing we keep that fact in some remote or relatively remote back-ground, yet they are a first step to something else. They are the first step to an inevitable conclusion—to an increase of food taxation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It may be, but I am one of those people who see in small things the possibility of great 2186 changes. They have been constantly going on, but in very exceptional circumstances—the circumstances of the War—and the time has come for us to define our position. Let us consider where we stand if we grant the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition regarding currants and raisins, and regarding land settlement in Australia, and so on. Let us consider our position if, above all, we grant his assumption—I do not suppose he meant to make it, but I understood and felt him to be making it—that all that has been given up till now has been given by the Dominions, and all that has been taken has been taken by the Mother Country. If we once allow our fellow countrymen in the Dominions to think in that way, to talk in that way, to quote in that way, then there is no statesman alive who can keep our Empire together for another 50 years. That is the first step to food taxation. In order to come in the end to the possibility of Imperial Preference, we must first have a tariff raised for the purpose of revenue. We should then develop it in its own interests and for its own sake, and in accordance with its own philosophy. One of the points in the most interesting speech to which we listened this afternoon was the indication of the way in which the Conservative party has now reached a sort of settled stage in the evolution of its mind regarding this matter. They are not now going to say to the Dominions: "We have a certain tariff which we impose in accordance with our own idea of wisdom, and within this tariff and in relation to this tariff we will give you a Preference." That is the first stage, but they have now come to the dangerous second stage. "We believe in Imperial Preference for its own sake, we believe in it as a political proposition, we believe in it as an essential bond of Imperial unity, and therefore we are now prepared to change our own national system of economics in order to enable us to make room for a scheme of Imperial Preference." That is the second stage, and the beginning of the dangerous stage. When that is once accepted either as a matter of right by the Dominions or as a matter of unquestionable and unquestioned common sense by us here, then we cannot head ourselves off from a complete change in our own national fiscal system.
The next point about which I am concerned, and in regard to which these 2187 Resolutions are the first stage, is this. My right hon. Friend said quite plainly that this House was free to come to its own decisions, and that nothing militated against its freedom to settle its own affairs. Sometimes you say the House is free, that Parliament is free, when, as a matter of fact, it is nothing of the kind. Nobody has ever prevented it from being free, but circumstances at times have been created which have headed us off on this side aid on the other side, and prevented us from going in certain directions. The last Government created conditions which tied this Parliament in regard to its fiscal system. Nobody addresses the House on this subject, certainly nobody from this side, without feeling unhappy. I am very unhappy, and the reason is that in resisting these Resolutions I am conscious that to-morrow morning the Government will be misrepresented in the Dominions as having taken a step towards breaking our word, or as saying "Good-day" to the Dominions, who wish us to pay court to them, or are paying court to us, and turning to them the cold shoulder. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, that is the danger, and it has even been said that some of us are going out of our way to promote trade with Russia, and are also going out of our way to depress trade with our own kin. That is said, and it is untrue, and if it is untrue it is very cruel to think it. We are offering no preference to Russia; we are offering her no tariff.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
An Export Credit is not a special privilege. The Colonies and the Dominions have got that. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must not shuffle. If they make a statement, they must stand by it, and if they find that they are wrong, like gentlemen they must take off their hats and apologise. Having been proved to be wrong, they must not simply shift along. Perhaps I am sensitive about this, so that the Dominions should not misunderstand me, but the whole charge is this, that we are giving 2188 special privileges to Russia in order to get Russian trade, and that we are refusing to give ordinary privileges to the Colonies and Dominions in order to get their trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am sorry to say that there are handbills out, and if I had thought I should be challenged I should have armed myself with them. I say that there are handbills out for public circulation, in connection with political fights and with political propaganda, accusing us of that. In any event, my concern—do let us get into proper touch with each other—as the head of the Government is that it should not be said in the Dominions that that is the position of the Government.
The only other thing that I need say is this, that there are two arguments which I consider the House should approach with an absolutely open mind. The first is this, that in order to develop the resources of the Empire, Preference such as is adumbrated in these Resolutions is necessary. I would invite hon. Members opposite to go through a detailed study of the productions that have been benefited by being made the subject of Preference, and to tell me which of them have undoubtedly benefited by the operations of a Preference. The only one that I can find is the possibility of unmanufactured tobacco. Tea, sugar, cocoa, coffee—the development of these is all normal, all explicable by circumstances clearly written on the face of the industrial and geographical, sectional history of the countries where they are produced. Unmanufactured tobacco is about the only case that can be made out by anybody who carefully analyses the geographical and economic forces that have been playing upon those countries. In any event, I admit that the experience has not been very wide, but that leaves it in the position of the Scottish dictum — "not proven," and until I get some proof of its efficacy I am not going to embark upon a scheme from which it is impossible for the country to withdraw if it should find it unsatisfactory.
The other argument is this—the connection between emigration and Dominion settlement and Preference. We are told that the Murray River Settlement depends upon Imperial Preference. I do not believe it for a moment. I know perfectly melt that some Australian statesmen and some Aus- 2189 tralian politicians say that it does, but other Australians, who know the Murray River area quite as well as those who say that it does, take the opposite view and say that it does not, and if hon. Members will go into the experience of the prices that are paid, the distribution of the Preference between the grower, the middleman, and the consumer in this country, I am profoundly convinced that they will also come to my conclusion. If they were asked to put their own private money into the Murray River Settlement on the faith that Imperial Preference was going to make it a success, I doubt very much if a silver sixpence of their money would go to finance that scheme. I believe the Murray River can be made a success without it. But that is not all. Do let the House remember that we are not simply throwing our people upon our Dominions like cast-off clothes. We are paying money for it. We have got an emigration scheme which is going to cost us millions upon millions of pounds, and if that scheme is going to he successful at all—and I believe it will; I am backing the scheme for all it is worth—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Certainly, and my colleague of the Overseas Trade Department made a speech the other day that surely left no doubt in the mind of the people on that subject. We are not back alley, harum-scarum politicians.
We are working out schemes of migration, and the proposal to migrate families en bloc, the proposal to create settlements that will be family settlements, and the proposal to finance those settlements in the peculiar and special way that those settlements require, has been through our hands, has been discussed and considered, and is now having the finishing touches put upon it. I do not want to get on to a separate issue, but the point I want to make is this, that these migration schemes are already being promoted by mutual co-operation between the Dominions and ourselves, that they are going to cost us money, that it is not a Dominion risk alone. As a matter of fact, the very latest proposal—I do not want to make this controversial—is even this, that if you get migration schemes away from railways now, as I think you must, who has to find the money for building the branch railways out to them? Evidently, whoever does find the money, the community that is going ultimately to 2190 benefit is Australia itself—South Australia, West Australia, and so on. It may be a losing proposition for a year or two, but we know very well that by-and-by these things will develop, that markets will be created, that exchange will take place, and whoever gives a loan for those things is not merely giving a loan for to-day, or to-morrow, or next year, but is giving a loan that is assimilated into the whole vitality of the nation which spends the money upon its development. We are going to help in that. Therefore, it is not enough to come and say—[Interruption.] I am not going to say Preference or no Preference.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The materials will be provided here. The hon. and gallant Member is discovering, in a piecemeal way, that first of all his use of the word "Preference" is rather rule of thumb, and that he himself has not a monopoly of those ideas, although we have had to correct them very much before adopting them.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In all those ways I think we can draw the self-governing Dominions nearer and nearer to us. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies made a certain suggestion yesterday about an Economic Committee. The last time that I spoke in this House I drew its attention to another matter of equal importance, namely, the creation of some sort of workable machinery, so that the public opinion of the whole of -our Commonwealth of States should influence the policy for which the Commonwealth must be responsible. I feel perfectly certain that on those lines, far more than the adding of a halfpenny preference on a pound of fruit or a farthing preference on a pound of apples, far more than wondering whether black spot Tasmanian apples are equal to unspotted Californian apples, far more than on those lines, the large lines of political development, the large lines of constructive democracy will solve the problem of how this little island, free trade on account of its economic problems, the centre, the motherland of self-governing nations, themselves protectionist, as they say, on account 2191 of their economic position, may nevertheless create with them an economic policy that will give them freedom to be protectionist, that will give us freedom to be free trade, and yet co-operate in building up a strong Commonwealth unity based upon sound economic policy. If I am going to vote, as I am, against the Resolutions, it is because I think that they will not do what my right hon. Friend expects them to do, but will impose rather upon this nation a burden which, as the years go on, will become less and less tolerable for us to bear.
§ Captain D. HOWARD
I do not intend to intervene for more than a very few minutes, and this being the first occasion on which I have addressed this House, I am going to ask it for that indulgence which it always accords to a new Member under such circumstances. Nor is it for me to attempt to deal with the arguments raised in the speech from the Prime Minister to which we have just listened. I will leave that to others more competent than myself, but I cannot resist just saying this, that when the Prime Minister found some difficulty in really believing that our proposals of Preference were going to do some good to Australia and to other settlements in other Colonies, one is inclined to wonder why it is that France, America, Japan and other foreign countries have all thought it wise to give a Preference to their own Colonies on a much larger basis. I will not, however, pursue the speech of the Prime Minister any further. I wish to point out to the House what I think are two interesting points which have not been touched on very far in this Debate up to the present. There is, first of all, the historical point of view on the question of Imperial Preference, and, secondly, there is what I might call the practical or the commercial point of view.
Before dealing with either of those aspects, I should like to say that, to my mind, it is a great pity that in this Debate we hear so much of the question of Free Trade and Protection. I should like to see Free Trade only used in this Debate in the far wider sense which appeals to me, of Fair Trade or Free Trade between the Empire. Looking at the historical point of view, one is impressed, I think, by two facts. First of all, in the early 2192 part of the last century, it seemed a very curious thing that, with the growth of political freedom and autonomy in the Colonies, we found at the same time a rise of the feeling against Preference in this country. It was one of the curious facts in the political history of the last century that the more the Colonies developed their own political freedom, the less we seemed anxious to help them on commercially. The other fact which does strike one is this. If one looks at the history of Imperial Preference, one cannot resist comparing the results with what might have been had we succeeded in keeping our American Colonies. In 1680 we were giving a preference on tobacco from Virginia and Maryland. In the middle of the last century the position was so far reversed that we were being gradually forced to repeal our navigation laws, as the result of pressure being brought upon this country, largely from what by then had become the United States of America. That was the change which had come over the new world, and that was the loss to the Empire which rose, as we know, from the peculiar circumstances of that day.
To turn from the historical to the practical point of view, I think it has not been made sufficiently clear in this Debate that the demand for Imperial Preference has arisen largely as a result of two great wars. As the result of the South African War, and the conferences that followed, we began, for the first time, to see in this country a realisation that we could produce a self-supporting Empire. As the result of the last great War, that idea of a self-supporting Empire was further developed. It was realised that it became a vital necessity for this country to have in the area of its own Empire sufficient food for our own subsistence, and that view found a place, as has been said several times in this Debate, in the proposal, which was accepted by the Imperial War Conference, in 1917, and that Imperial Conference represented members of all political parties in this House. Furthermore, it has, I think, been rather lost sight of that not only did Imperial Preference receive the blessing of that Conference, but the Joint Manifesto issued by the Coalition in 1918, under the signatures of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the 2193 late Mr. Bonar Law, also drew attention to Imperial Preference in these words:At the same time a preference will be given to our Colonies upon existing duties and upon any duties which, for our own purposes, may be subsequently imposed. One of the lessons which has been most clearly taught us by the War is the danger to the nation of being dependent upon other countries for vital supplies on which the life of the nation may depend.That comes from the Joint Manifesto issued before the Election of December, 1918, and, therefore, we may say, I think truthfully, that we shall expect, in putting our proposals to-day, to receive the support of all those Members who came to this House as a result of standing at their election upon that Manifesto. I will not weary the House with figures to prove the case we bring forward in this Debate. We have had somewhat of a plethora of figures already. I cannot help thinking that anyone who reflects on the position of this country in its dependence on other countries for its supply of sugar after the War will realise the necessity for the production of sugar in our own Empire. I will leave it to other Members, who, I know, wish to speak, to develop the value of Preference on sugar and other articles, but my point in mentioning it was this. Hon. Members on the benches opposite have a very healthy—I regard it—dislike of trusts. Nine-tenths of our sugar at the present day comes from abroad, largely, as we know, from America. There are large trusts controlling the price of that sugar. The bulk of our meat supply comes from foreign sources, and there, again, we are up against meat trusts of an enormous size, with a tremendous effect, ultimately, on the price the consumer has to pay for his food. We must safeguard the food supply of our own country by developing the production of our own Empire as a weapon against these trusts. We have no legislative control over foreign trusts, but we have in the Empire the possibilities of production of food, which, in my opinion, is the only way in which we can get that freedom from the claws, if I may say so, of these trusts, and that is the only way in which we are going to be able to guarantee, in the years to come, the price which the consumer in this country will have to pay for his food. I do not think anybody who has studied the question at all can entirely disagree with that, and I hope the argument, which, I believe, is absolutely 2194 genuine, that in doing this we are eventually protecting the consumer in this country, will appeal, as I know it already does appeal, to some hon. Gentlemen opposite.
That is all I have to say to-night on this question. There is, as I have pointed out, a historical, a practical and there is certainly a sentimental point of view in this question. We, on these benches, I think, are apt to be accused of putting forward the sentimental issue to the disadvantage of the other issues, but I cannot close without drawing attention to a speech which I read the other day, I confess for the first time. It was one of the last speeches made by Lord Beaconsfield in another place, in which, speaking on an entirely different subject, he gave voice to the remark well-known, that "the key of India is London." In this question to-day, I think we might say, with equal truth, that the key of the Empire is London. We to-day have the power, with that key, of opening the doors to the Colonies, just to the extent they want, just to the extent to give them confidence to develop their own schemes, and, by doing that, we are ensuring for ourselves something in the future, something in the way of food supply from the Empire, which, if wars have to come in the future, will be a great blessing, I am sure, to any future war Cabinet. And so, I hope to-night we shall get in the division lobby the support of all those Members who really look to the future with an eye for the benefit, first of all, of this country and of our own Empire, and, secondly, for the benefit of our countrymen, both as consumers in this country and as producers in the Colonies overseas.
§ Mr. FISHER
Although I cannot agree with all the economic propositions of the hon. Member who has just sat down, I hope he will allow me to congratulate him—I do so very sincerely—upon a most excellent maiden speech. I trust this is not the last time we shall have the pleasure of listening to him. The Free Trade case upon these Resolutions has been stated with so much force and lucidity upon these benches that I shall not occupy the time of the House by travelling once more over the high ground of abstract economic argument. In point of fact, the really important issue was decided some months ago when the 2195 electorate decisively rejected what Signor Mussolini, speaking rather in sorrow than in anger, described as "the terrible electoral platform of Signor Baldwin." Upon that platform few still remain. I am told that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Sparkbrook Division of Birmingham (Mr. Amery) still stands upon the burning deck, but the majority of the crew, headed by the Dukes of Rutland and of Portland—Minions of splendour, fleeing from distress"—as Byron prophetically described them—have long since taken to the boats, and I do not think we are at present concerned with insular protection as a living issue.
I am aware that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have a very great and genuine belief in the value of Imperial Preference, and there is much in the idea, which at first sight is most attractive to anybody who desires, as, indeed, we all do, to promote Imperial development; but if we are frank with ourselves—and in this matter frankness is essential—we must realise, as Mr. Joseph Chamberlain realised, and as Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, has recently reminded us, that no effective plan of Imperial Preference can be devised unless this country is ready to impose taxes upon staple articles of food, or on the raw materials of our industry. I do not imagine that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will ever be prepared to go to the country with a plan of food taxes emblazoned on their banner. I consider, therefore, that Imperial Preference on the grand scale, and in the only manner which will content our Dominion statesmen, is, for reasons inherent in the industrial structure of our Empire, a practical and permanent impossibility, and the sooner we realise this the better. Consequently, the only question which we now have to consider is, how far it is desirable to retain some measure of Imperial Preference within the framework of our existing fiscal system.
I was a member of a Government which did grant certain abatements to our Overseas possessions from our revenue duties, and having regard to the prevalent feelings in the Dominions, I approved of that policy. I thought that in spite of the fact that it is open to certain economic objections which have been stated by hon. And 2196 right hon. Members on these benches, nevertheless there was, or there might be, some advantage to be gained from it. But such little concessions—they were naturally concessions of a very restricted character—were welcomed in the Dominions. They encouraged that section of opinion in the Dominions which was in favour of freer trade, of tariff concessions to this country. Consequently, upon balance there as some advantage, although it was difficult, if not impossible, to measure it, in a limited scheme of Preference within the ambit of a Free Trade system. But, we are not now considering, and we are not bound to consider, that abstract question. We are faced with these Resolutions passed at the Imperial Conference. We have not a tabula rasa before us. We have the fact of the Conference assenting to certain Resolutions. I must admit that the late Government have no great reason to complain of us on these benches if we reject all these Resolutions. They went forward at that Conference representing only a minority of the electorate. They were aware that there was a strong Free Trade opinion both in the Liberal party and in the Labour party, which was opposed to Protection and to the imposition of duties for the purpose of granting a Preference. They knew they were making proposals of a highly controversial character. They made them. They then went to the country, and the country voted for their rejection. Consequently, I do not think it falls to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to accuse those who have always held strong Free Trade opinions, if they are consistent and reject these proposals. On the other hand, I feel that, although these proposals are not such as I greatly like, although there are many of them which I greatly dislike, nevertheless we have to balance the adverse feelings we have with respect to these proposals against the disadvantage—and I think it is a real disadvantage—of overthrowing all the conclusions reached by the Imperial Conference. I confess that I do not look at such a prospect with anything but a sense of misgiving.
The Imperial Conference is a very valuable instrument of consultation; but you cannot expect to get Colonial statesmen to travel thousands and thousands of miles, to engage for weeks upon important subjects of deliberation, and then 2197 to look with equanimity at the destruction of the most important part of their work. I quite agree that this House is perfectly at liberty to reject or modify the conclusions of the Conference. This House has not only the right, but it has the duty, of examining very closely the conclusions of the Conference. Nevertheless, I think, in view of the fact that some of these Resolutions involve no additional burden on our community, that they are really very trifling in character—little compliments thrown to the Dominions of no great economic range or significance—that they are welcomed by the Dominions and that the Dominions believe in them and regard them as an encouragement and a symptom of our goodwill; and because also they may have some effect in fortifying the movement for lower tariffs in the Dominions which we desire to encourage—in view of all those considerations, I am prepared to support the first three Resolutions, which impose no additional burden on the consumers of this country.
I realise indeed that there are sound economic objections to these Resolutions. The first Resolution, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has pointed out, really grants nothing as it stands, and there are very great objections to imposing the additional duties which will make it effective. I agree also that where you put on duties of this kind, where you make concessions of this kind, you do to some extent retard the general reduction of those duties and the fall of prices. I further realise that these concessions do involve a sacrifice of revenue without, at the same time, producing a fall in prices to the home consumer. They have all those objections. Nevertheless, when we consider how slight these concessions are, and how much importance appears to be attached to them by the public in the Dominions, I suggest that it is the path of wisdom to allow them to stand for the present, until the next Imperial Conference, when the whole question will be brought again under review, and when alternatives less questionable from an economic point of view and more acceptable—and more acceptable proposals could easily be produced—from the point of view of the Dominions, can be formulated by the Home Government.
2198 It has been already said by many hon. Members that we Free Traders have no positive suggestions to offer. One of the main objections which we always make to an exaggerated emphasis on preferential duties, is that it diverts the mind from the more intelligent to the less intelligent ways of developing the British Empire. Let me cite an instance which was suggested to me by the perusal of the transactions of the Imperial Conference. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, acknowledging the offer of a 5s. duty upon New Zealand apples, incidentally revealed the fact that New Zealand apples suffered a great deal through deterioration in the course of their passage home. New Zealand apples are not the only Colonial apples which suffer from this cause. Australian apples have deteriorated to such an extent that in 1922 no company would insure them. It was calculated that £1,000,000 sterling damage per annum was incurred through unavoidable deterioration. The remedy for that is not a 5s. per cwt. duty on foreign imported apples here. That will do nothing to arrest the deterioration of the fruit. The remedy is the application of science. It is an engineering problem; a physical problem. It is a biological problem. I am happy to say that under the auspices of the Committee of the Privy Council for Industrial and Scientific Research, the subject is being investigated, and important results are being arrived at. As the House probably knows, the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research administer a very liberal fund, which is contributed by the taxpayers of this country, and is available for the promotion of industrial and scientific research throughout the Empire.
That is only one instance of the manner in which this country can, without Preference, develop Imperial trade. Is there a Member of this House, looking at the matter without prejudice and without party feeling, who would deny that a Government which came forward with a plan for a really effective and regular airship service between the home country and all its overseas Dominions would not be able, at one blow, to achieve more for the material interests of the British Empire than half a century of trifling duties imposed on crabs and currants? I profoundly dissent from the Protectionist philosophy of trade. I have 2199 never been able to understand it. I have never been able to understand how it could be held by economists who really hold the doctrine of triangular trade which was so clearly explained last Session by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) in relation to the French occupation of the Ruhr, in the speech in which he pointed out that unemployment had been caused in Lancashire through the failure of Indian orders and that Indian orders did not go to Lancashire because German orders did not go to India. I confess to finding it difficult to understand how, holding that philosophy of trade, they can for one moment attempt to identify Imperial development with inter-Imperial trade. The two things are distinct.
I myself do not think that there is a great future for a policy of Imperial Preference in this country. I do not think it, because, as I have already said, that policy, if it is really to be effective, must be attached to duties upon the primary articles of food or upon the raw materials of our manufactures. I believe, much as we all desire to help our Dominions and Colonies, that no party in the State would ever come forward with such a proposal. A limited preference may be granted within our Free Trade system, but it can only be within very narrow limits. We are a very highly taxed nation. We are taxed per unit more than twice the amount of the inhabitants of Australia. We cannot afford to throw away very much revenue without getting something in return. Consequently, I am fully aware that in voting for the proposal to give a very moderate measure of Preference within our Free Trade system I am not doing much to forward the great idea, different to my own, but honestly and enthusiastically held, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley placed before us tonight.
§ Major CHURCH
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) is to be congratulated on the way in which he has renounced his political faith in order to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin). If I may add my quota to the good resolutions already made, I am prepared to 2200 state that I intend to vote for the first four Resolutions on the Order Paper, not in deference to the sentiments of that peripatetic purveyor of Protectionist policy, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), with whose economic outlook and with whose philosophy in life I entirely disagree, but merely because I feel with the ex-Prime Minister that the Dominions want this, and place some store upon it. They look upon it as some evidence of the good faith of this country, and of the capacity of the rulers for the time being to honour their pledges, though it is true that the ex-Prime Minister has told us only this afternoon that those pledges were not made without every reservation in regard to the possibility of their being broken.
Last evening, dealing with these Resolutions, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Colonel Wedgwood) spent a good part of his time in dealing with the points put forward by the hon. Member for North Southwark (Dr. Guest), whom he regarded as departing from his Socialist ideal. In the beginning of his speech, however, he said how much he admired the Australians for their splendid courage, how much we owed to them during the dark days of 1918, how splendidly they acted as the spear-point of the Fourth Army advance in August, 1918. Happening to be with the Australian forces at the time, and going over the battlefield with them and seeing the numbers of our own men and of the other side dead, I could not help drawing the conclusion that it was a terrible waste of the best humanity, and that the sooner the nations of the world developed some international orientation the better it would be for us all. It was a waste of the wickedest kind! Many of us then believed, with H. G. Wells and men whom we consider had the prophetic vision that we might solve the problems of trade and markets, the buying of our raw materials, the inter-relationships of peoples, of sea traffic, and the removal of all barriers between peoples and co-operation between all peoples—at any rate, the co-operation of all the progressive races on the earth, by 2201 means of the development of our resources and the prosecution of scientific inquiry into the whole of the resources at the disposal of the world for the good of humanity.
We believed these things. It was our particular dream. We thought that after the madness of four and a-quarter years the rest of the world might agree with us that war was a colossal waste; men being pitted against each other, killing each other—and the question arises whether they would not be quite prepared again to do so given the same incentive, and if the conditions still prevailed in the years to come which produced the last conflict, or which made it possible for a mad Mullah to get control of the system and set all of us at each others' throats again. Nothing of the kind has happened. That dream, at any rate, has not been realised. We see very little of international co-operation at the present time, with the exception of that encouraged by the splendid child, the League of Nations, which still is capable, I believe, of doing much for the development of world peace and world co-operation. We all more or less view the spectacle of the nations still prepared to fight each other. Employers and employed in this country acre still prepared to fight each other where only a few years ago they were sworn brothers in every respect.
We have to make the best of the present system. We cannot get beyond it for the time being. Therefore, believing as we do, thinking as we do, behaving as we do, the best thing we can do is to bring ourselves closer and closer together. After all, we have some chance of imposing upon the English-speaking nations of the world—[An HON. MEMBER: "Including America!"]—yes, including America, our own ideals in regard to the hours of labour and the other conditions of service of the working classes. There is a more fruitful field for social regeneration amongst these nations than any other. Some have gone ahead of us in many respects. I am in favour of extending that sphere of influence; in favour of consolidating those particular nations into an economic whole, if possible. Not that I think giving a preference to our Dominions is at all an effective way of 2202 dealing with the problem. I agree in this with the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke. I think we can do it far better in other ways. But the Dominions have set their hearts upon it. They have given us substantial concessions, though not such as would justify the statement that has been made on the other side of the House in regard to the increase of trade. They have given us concessions. They want concessions from us. We are making them concessions, however, in an entirely different spirit from that which prompts the concessions they have granted to us. We are making them in the hope that we shall produce Empire Free Trade. They, at any rate, have given us concessions which they consider do no harm, but which do enable them to claim from the people of this country a certain amount of support, not only sentimental support, but other support of a very material kind. As Mr. Bruce has stated, the preferences they have given to British goods represented £7,500,000 in the year 1922–23. In addition to that, they gave us a sentimental preference which amounted to something like £2,000,000, and when they found that certain manufacturers in this country could not get their goods into Australia because of the competition of Germany and other countries, they went to the extent of putting a tax on German goods which raised the price of those goods in Australia from 18s. to 41s.—1s. higher than the British goods made at Sheffield realised. But obviously, this kind of preference hits the Australian consumer, and is not calculated to improve the relations between that consumer and the manufacturer in this country, for the consumer may even have the unhappy suspicion—which has been entertained by some of us for some considerable time—that the British manufacturer in this country is not so efficient as he might be.
I should like to deal with the Motion which the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) had an opportunity of bringing before the House, but which appeared on the Order Paper of the 4th June. In it he makes the suggestion that British imports to the Dominions were declining prior to the granting of the preference, and that in each case they had largely increased since the 2203 grant of the preference. That statement cannot be accepted without challenge. The exports of British goods to Australia for the year 1903 roughly amounted to £16,000,000. In 1907 they had gone up to £24,000,000. They declined in the year 1908, the year in which preference was granted, and in the year 1911 the total imports of British goods amounted approximately to £31,000,000. The feature of that is this, that the growth of our exports to Australia was considerably greater without preference. Further, you have to take into consideration that in the years under discussion the Board of Trade index figure had gone up from 82 to 113. In New Zealand very much the same thing has happened. They gave us preference in 1903. In 1901 our exports to New Zealand were £5,500,000. In 1903 they were roughly £6,500,000. Then there came a stationary period for two years when similar stagnation followed, and New Zealand created a further preference in 1907. In South Africa the same tale has to be told.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that after the grant of further preference in 1913 British exports to New Zealand went up from £5,500,000 before the preference to £10,750,000?
§ Major CHURCH
I was dealing with the particular period up to 1913. After 1907 there was similar stagnation. Perhaps I may be allowed to develop my point. In considering South Africa we cannot place any reliance on the War period figures. But there was an increased Preference in 1906, and the exports declined from 1903 till 1908, and then they steadily increased up to 1913. In Canada the Preference began in 1897. It was extended or modified in 1898, in 1900, in 1904 and in 1907. There was a stagnation of our export trade to Canada from 1895 to 1898, and it then proceeded by a series of jerks, so that our average trade from 1895 to 1898 was £5,400,000; in 1899 and 1901 it was £7,500,000 yearly; in 1902 it went up to £11,000,000, and in 1907 it increased to £17,000,000. In spite of the Preference, the years 1908 and 1909 showed a serious drop from the year 1907. It is not suggested that Preference has been of no use; it is merely 2204 contended that the general export trade of this country has to be taken into consideration, because the boom years for our Colonies show that it has very little to do with the granting of Preference by the Colonies. Those preferences were accompanied by a trade boom, and then there was a decline. The preferences granted by the Colonies may have helped, but other factors must be taken into consideration which vitally affect our trade, and these prevent us from coming to any just judgment on the subject of preference. I thought it as well not to leave the statements of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth unanswered before I resumed my seat.
§ Captain BULLOCK
I am glad that my first opportunity of addressing this House is on the subject of Imperial Preference. I sit for a constituency which is largely residential, and it is especially in such a constituency that every effort is being made at the moment to scare the electors by laying before them the imaginary disasters which, it is alleged, may befall this country if Imperial Preference in its full form becomes effective. They are told that they will have to pay more taxes, that the policy will lead to the creation of trusts and combines, and that those trusts and combines will manipulate the markets in their own interests. These are the general considerations put before the electors in pamphlet form, and one can trace all the pamphlets in almost every case to the wholesale importers of inferior goods who see that their own very profitable trade is menaced by Imperial Preference. I am not by any means a supporter of the Preference Resolutions on sentimental grounds alone. We are all patriots at heart until our pockets are touched, and then our patriotic sentiments are apt to waver. Even if the Dominions were not part of our Empire and were willing to make such advantageous proposals, I should myself vote for continuing and increasing the existing Preferences.
In February last the President of the Board of Trade stated that the difference—based on last year's Trade Returns—between the preferential duties on the manufactured products of Great Britain as compared with the duties on similar goods of foreign origin, charged by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and 2205 South Africa, was £12,000,000 In other words, we managed to send imports into those countries to undersell similar foreign goods by means of the grant of a rebate of £12,000,000, and without that rebate we could never have got our goods into those countries. Mr. Bruce has stated that British trade with Russia before the War was no more than the British trade with New Zealand last year, and, while Russia had a population of 176,000,000, New Zealand had little more than 1,300,000. That gives us some idea of the huge Dominion trade per head. He also said that Australia with her population of 5,500,000 is our second best customer. Let us look for one moment at the way in which Australians buy our cotton piece goods. We see that each Australian buys goods to the value of £2 2s. 7d., and each inhabitant of New Zealand goods to the value of £1 8s. every year. We then turn for a moment to Greece, and we see that each Greek buys our cotton goods in the year to the value of 3s. 2d., yet Greece and not Australia has the bulk of our custom in dried fruits. If we had not obtained this rebate we should never have got our goods in last year, and the thousands of workmen who were able to be given employment by the fact of these goods being exported would now be on the dole.
I feel that quite enough has been done this year to cause unemployment without adding to it by creating the ill-will of the Dominions. The return for the week ending 9th June shows an increase in the unemployed of 24,000, and if the proposals of the Conference are not adhered to I feel we shall prejudice the smooth working of a system which must be beneficial not only to ourselves but also to our Colonies. I cannot but believe that the rejection of any proposal made by the Imperial Conference would have a far-reaching effect on unemployment. Imperial Preference must benefit the working-classes. It must benefit particularly the skilled worker, and it is by our skilled products we stand or fall overseas. If any ill-feeling were created between ourselves and our Dominions it would prejudice the schemes for training unemployed young men and for emigration, as without complete co-operation on every point those schemes cannot 2206 materialise. Preference must be closely connected with emigration, and, therefore, with the unemployed problem. Mr. Massey has stated very wisely that unemployment is interwoven with overseas settlement. The whole object of Australia in her great desire for preference for dried preserved fruits is to get on with the Murray River scheme. I cannot agree with the Prime Minister when he said that the Murray River scheme has nothing to do with Imperial Preference. I believe it is entirely wrapped up with Imperial Preference proposals. If Australia had a sufficient market for her surplus produce she would be able to take all the young men we wish to send to her. The Murray River scheme is estimated to employ some 750,000 men on the land, and it is land particularly suitable for producing dried and preserved fruits and also for growing wines, and in relation to all these products it was agreed at the Conference last year that a preference should be given. If that scheme succeeds it would be finally followed by others, but unless Australia can see her way by Preferential treatment to guarantee a livelihood to these men, how can she take them? Without Preference the employment problem cannot be solved, and I most sincerely trust that no party will be so mad as to throw away the best opportunity we have had since the War of solving the unemployment problem upon which the very existence of our nation depends.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MEYLER
I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken (Captain Bullock) upon his speech, because we in Lancashire watch with great interest any utterances which come from the noble families with which he is allied. This Debate has been most interesting and instructive. I cannot, however, say that it is interesting from the point of view of the Resolutions upon which we are to be asked to vote, because I notice that those who moved them have already abandoned the greater part of them, and the discussion is now revolving around the first four. Yesterday the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Pease) hinted that he saw no chances of the Resolutions from 5 to 10 ever being passed, and the Debate has centred upon the first four Resolutions.
2207 This Debate has shown the very great interest taken in Colonial affairs in every corner of this House, and even if we do not agree we have agreed to differ on some of these points, and there has been very little to which one can take any exception. Although to one who has lived in the Dominions some of the arguments have not been attractive they have been at least sincere and honest. In some respects there are some of the arguments which we are bound to criticise, but before starting criticism I think praise is more appropriate. I was very glad to hear the utterance made from the Government Front Bench about Colonial matters, especially the statement made by the Colonial Secretary. If we on these benches who dared to take the action which destroyed the late Government and which had the effect of putting the present Government in office did nothing else, at any rate we ensured the Colonial Office falling into very much better hands than it had been in before.
I was very much surprised at some of the arguments which have been used. One would think to hear them that the colonial farmer was a poor ground-down fellow scraping along for a mere existence, but everyone knows that is not so. Often settlers have a difficult task for a few years, but they soon get on their feet, and the ordinary colonial farmer lives a life very much like the life of a country squire in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I know how they live in comparison with the person who slaves in the factory in this country. If you compare the life of a settler having a hard time is it not a good deal more pleasant than the person who has to live in the slums in this country?
The settler tills the soil in the sunshine, or perhaps gets other people of a different colour to do it whilst he rides round and inspects them. Does he ask that you should put extra taxation on the food he supplies and sells to the men and women who live in the slums in this country? The Colonial is essentially a generous fellow. He will take anything you offer to him, but he is not going to demand it when he really understands the prevailing conditions. That is the reason why the people of this country, realising that if tariffs were going to be put on the goods 2208 imported from different parts of the Empire, obviously the price would rise. It is not necessary to argue that point, because it has been fought out on every platform in the country. The only person in this House who really believes that tariffs do not increase the price of goods is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin). I give him credit for being honest, but I do not believe other people can possibly believe that doctrine, because it has been proved over and over again, and I do not propose to argue it afresh. The people of this country, realising that prices are sure to go up if tariffs are put on these goods, gave a definite mandate against them at the General Election in December, 1923. We have not forgotten what the people then decided—
§ Lieut.-Colonel MEYLER
They put us into a great deal better position than we were in before. Over 4,000,000 voted for the Liberal party, and it was only the fortunes of an atrocious system that did not place us in a majority. I have mentioned the Colonial farmer who leads a pleasant life which I should like to live myself if I had the opportunity. We have other people to consider. What would be the effect in South Africa if you put a Preference on tobacco? It would raise the price, and the large tobacco trust would be about the only people who would benefit by such a Preference. If you are going to get manufactured articles from South Africa, do not forget that the factories out there have men working in them who are not paid a white man's basis of wages but a black man's basis.
I have always advocated in South Africa that they are entirely wrong in doing that. If they had started by paying a white man's basis of wages they would have been able to draw an immense amount of white labour from Europe, but they started with the cheaper labour, but in South Africa now they have almost used up all their cheap native labour. This was accentuated not long ago, when the influenza epidemic came along, with the result that a large proportion of the coloured population perished. They cannot extend their factories there now because they have no more cheap labour to exploit. When they decide to employ 2209 labour on the white man's basis of wages, and take over labour in large quantities from Europe, that will be the time to consider protecting those industries. At present we are only nibbling at this question. At the most these discussions have only dealt with a few thousand people. The biggest number spoken of is 750,000 to be employed on the Murray River Settlement in Australia, but do not forget that other countries have dealt with this question on a far bigger scale. America in a period of 10 years took 8,000,000 people from Europe, and you are not going to do anything like that with our Dominions until you can give them a home market for everything they can produce.
They have the natural facilities for producing everything in the way of food supplies we require in this country, but there are other valuable things a which they cannot produce. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) seemed to think that we could produce everything we require in the Dominions, but what about petroleum, which is a very valuable import? What about nitrates, potash and cotton, which I hope we shall yet see entirely produced within the Empire. I believe that there are 20,000,000 acres under cotton alone in the United States, and, of course, it will be a long time before we can catch up to anything like that extent. Nevertheless, we should aim at it, and see what we can do. I am hoping we shall see Central Africa within a generation at any rate—the hon. Member for Stafford said 15 years—producing all the cotton that we require.
We ought to be able to obtain our food supplies from our Dominions. The opportunity is there, and there are only three things wanted. The first is population, the second is money, and the third is the market. The market is what we cannot give them at the present time. If the people of this country could buy everything that the people in the Dominions can turn out at the present time in the way of foodstuffs they would be very lucky, and they would be in a much better position, but our financial system has so completely broken down that the people of this country cannot absorb the produce they put out at the present time, and therefore the only way to make a success 2210 of our Empire is to increase the capacity of our people to absorb the agricultural produce of the Empire. The agricultural produce of the Empire is of far greater importance than anything else the Empire turns out. The real backbone of the Empire lies in farming and with the crops they can produce, and the wool and meat they can produce. What we want to aim at is to develop the Empire.
We often used to say in South Africa, or at any rate those of us who looked into things, that it was a bad day when gold and diamonds were discovered, because the labour which has been devoted to those industries could have been far better employed on the land. The time may come when those mines will he worked out, and then a large amount of extra labour will be available. In the meantime the people in Europe are crying out for opportunities to go to the Dominions, and the Dominions are only too anxious to absorb them. It is not because they want to get more settlers, because they have now to make restrictions about the type of people they accept. The reason is that they have not the markets at the present time. Let us multiply our Colonial markets by 10, and then you will find all the questions as to how much your goods are going to cost will be solved, and you will realise how the Murray River Settlement scheme can be made a success, and all these things will become perfectly simple the moment you increase your market over here.
We have heard some constructive suggestions made from different quarters of the House as to how you can increase the possibilities of the Empire. One of them, in which I know very great interest is taken in Canada, is the storage of grain in this country—not only of wheat, but also, perhaps, of the large mealie crops from Africa. The possibilities of maize growing in Africa are without limit. Farmers used to wax rich in South Africa by selling their maize before the War at 5s. for a 200-lb. bag, and that maize used to be shipped to Hamburg and sold there. That market is closed to them now, and that is one of the reasons why there is depression. There are many purposes for which maize can be utilised. It is a valuable food for stock, and can be used for a number of industrial purposes, and if we could absorb their maize at a reasonable price to the farmer, and store it here 2211 we should get an advantage. Let these grains that are produced in the Empire be milled here in this country. Then you would have the offals for cattle feeding, and would be giving a great advantage to farmers here. In dealing with this question, I would never suggest that we should give any advantage to the Dominion farmer as against our own farmers. Let us take the whole question as one. Farmers in this country, as well as in the Dominions, are in a bad way; let us give them the opportunity of progressing together.
Another suggestion that has only just been touched upon is in connection with a Commission that was appointed as long ago as 1912. Hon. Members opposite have been saying during the Debate, "Why do you not make concrete suggestions" They, however, have been in power, or have been the dominating factor in the party in power, since 1916. This Commission, which reported in 1917, was appointed in 1912. I was a Member of the South African Parliament at that time, and recollect the great interest that we took in the appointment of this Commission, and the great pleasure that was expressed when we were able to send one of South Africa's most leading men, Sir Richard Solomon, to sit on that Commission. They went to the different Dominions all over the world and studied the conditions there. It took over five years. Some of the matter that they collected was upset by the advent of the War and the changes in the conditions, but the Commission reported in 1917, and, as far as I know, nothing has been done to carry out the terms of their Report. One of the most important things that they suggested was the formation of an Imperial Development Board, which was to deal with the whole supply of materials, not only from the Dominions but to the Dominions. This Imperial Development Board was to go into, amongst other matters, the question of harbours in the Empire, A scheme was suggested by which the Dominions that were profiting by the fact that the ships which came to them used various harbours en route, should help to pay for those harbours, because it was realised by the Commission that vessels of great length and draught were necessary in order properly to develop 2212 the Colonial trade. Nothing has been done, as far as I know, in that direction. It is no use for the party opposite to say now that nothing has been done, because they are the people who from 1913 to the end of 1923 have had the opportunity of doing these things.
The Commission recommended that, in order to secure uniform progress in the future, schemes for scheduled ports and dry docks—not like Singapore, but dry docks for commercial purpose on the great trade routes of the Empire—should be submitted to the proposed new Imperial Development Board, so that, while not interfering in any way in the details of construction, the Board might advise on the schemes from the standpoint of Imperial requirements. How many docks throughout the Empire have been examined in that way under the regime of the party opposite? Much to my surprise, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Greene) went so far yesterday as to accuse hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of want of patriotism in regard to this pettifogging matter—because this question, in my opinion, is nothing more; it only touches the very fringe of the Imperial question. I would not take the trouble to answer the hon. Member if it were not that what occurs in connection with this matter, and this Debate particularly, will be read throughout the Dominions, and, as I sit on these benches surrounded by hon. Members who have done the finest service in the War, I am not going to allow a statement of that sort to pass unchallenged. If hon. Gentlemen wish to cast a slight of that sort, and suggest that there is any want of patriotism on these benches, let them go down to the monument in Westminster Hall and read the names there which interest those schoolboys who go round to visit the precincts of the House. Do those names show want of patriotism on the part of hon. Members who have sat in this House and who belong to this party? Let. them look at the names of Gladstone, the Cawley brothers, Agar Robartes, Neil Primrose, and others who did not belong to the Liberal party, but to the National party, which had nothing whatever in common with hon. Members opposite; and, if they wish to know, I can assure them, if I may be forgiven the personal reference, that, although I am a Free Trader, 2213 and have been all my life, and hope to remain a Free Trader, I was the first Member of any Dominion Parliament to go into the trenches in Flanders. Many others followed afterwards. You see, we are not all suffering from a lack of patriotism just because we happen to be in favour of Free Trade. We sometimes think we are a little more intelligent than some other people; that is the way in which we would prefer to put it.
Then a suggestion has been made that we are not honest in our dealings on this matter, but we have been honest enough to fight election after election on the Free Trade platform, and we shall continue to do so, to the great discomfiture, I am sure, of hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is another possibility in connection with Imperial development to which I should like to refer before I sit down. We do not look upon Preference as being merely a one-sided matter. The word has got mixed up with the idea of Free Trade and Protection, but there is another direction in which there is a possibility of giving Preference to Imperial products, and that is to give the opportunity, which I have already mentioned, to people in this country who want to buy Imperial products, of buying more than they were ever able to get before. If we come down to basic facts, it will be found that it is the housewife, who goes with her basket to market on a Saturday morning, who is really the person who decides the success or otherwise of our Empire. She is the person who can buy Imperial goods, and if you can increase her capacity to buy them you will immediately solve most of these problems with which we have been dealing. There are two or three ways in which this might be done. In Australia, in 1912, they started a Commonwealth Bank, which has been of enormous value to that particular Dominion. That Bank had behind it nothing but British credit. British credit was all that they needed, and they started with a money capital of only £10,000. Since 1912 they have made a profit of £4,500,000, one-half of which has gone to a sinking fund, and one-half to paying off part of the National Debt of Australia. That will show what can be done in the British Empire. They also raised during the War through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia no less than £150,000,000.
2214 If we could form something on that basis, of the nature of an Imperial bank, in which all the Dominions would be interested and which would pay no interest on capital—because no capital would be needed but the credit of the British Empire, which does not require the payment of interest—we might assist Imperial development to a very large extent; and there is a big group of this opinion in Canada—the Free Trade Farmers' party, I think it is called—which has pledged itself to look into this matter. There is a big group of the same opinion in Australia, and South Africa also is interesting herself. They are all beginning to consider whether we cannot do something in the direction of putting the power to create credit, not in the hands of privately-owned banks, or even of Commonwealth or Imperial banks, but, into the hands of the Governments themselves. I would ask the Government to consider this, and I am glad to see that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is here, because he is a man whose brain could devise a suitable scheme for this purpose. If we could devise some schemes of that sort, including all the Dominions as an Empire, it would be the strongest financial combination in the whole world, and we might be able to do wonderful things. Our financial credit is demoralised, especially in Europe, but our real credit is colossal, and if only we could change over from the one to the other, and work upon our real credit instead of on what is known as our financial credit, we should have a weapon or lever by which we could lift up the whole of our trade, and throw open the gates of the Empire to as many people as are willing to go there and do an honest day's work. The business men have failed in dealing with this financial question. The factory hands are either under-employed or complaining that they are underpaid; prices are high, profits have diminished, and our ships and machinery are standing idle; but what are we doing? We are only looking to what has happened in the past, and trying to deal with the old out-of-date financial machinery that we had in the past. It is not until we begin to look to the future, and look for new machinery for dealing with these matters, that we shall ever solve these 2215 great Empire questions. They cannot be solved by paltry methods such as these small preferences that we are asked to give.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
On this side of the House we have been accused by the last speaker of saying that those who sit on the benches below the Gangway opposite are unpatriotic. I really think that it is not a matter of patriotism, but a matter of imagination. I do not propose to weary the House with a lot of figures and statistics, but I want to deal with what I may describe as the wider aspects of the question we are discussing. In the first place, it has been said by several speakers, and particularly, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), that at the last election the electors gave a verdict against any extension of Imperial Preference. I entirely deny that. I maintain that, if this question had been put to the electors as an Imperial question, and not merely as a question whether they had to pay a little more for a tin of salmon, they would have supported these Resolutions. My own experience is quite different from the experience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley. He said he found that there was great objection to these Resolutions in his constituency. I found just the opposite, and I fancy that if he had taken my line, and put this as an Imperial question, his majority might have been more like mine. It is useless, of course, to suggest such a course to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, because they are Free Traders, and believe that the salvation of their souls depends upon sticking to the orthodox Free Trade faith. The fact that historical criticism has rather upset our belief in these days in the disinterestedness of the people who founded that faith makes no difference to their sanctity in the eyes of their followers. As far as those hon. Gentlemen are concerned, all we can do is to hope that they will reap the reward of their constancy to their faith by losing their seats in this House at the next election.
When I come to hon. Members of the Labour party I think there is more hope. 2216 The Election is over. They sowed their wild oats at the Election, and the magnificent indifference of hon. Members opposite to the crop of broken pledges which they have reaped leads me to hope that they may possibly be prepared now to consider this question from a rather wider standpoint. This question is a very great question; I think it is far the greatest question that we have discussed this Session. It is great, not in the immediate issues that the Resolutions raise, but great in its bearing upon the future of this very great Empire. When I say "this great Empire," I want to associate myself with what fell from my leader, namely, that we do not merely mean great in extent, but great in the principles for which it stands. I believe that the Empire stands for freedom above all things, and for progress. For that reason I beg hon. Members opposite to consider what they are doing to-night. No institution is perfect. I am not claiming perfection for the Empire. All human institutions have the imperfections of the individuals who create them. Let us think for a moment. Something like 10 years ago the freedom and liberties of Europe were challenged by what was an entirely premeditated and unprovoked attack. What happened? From the East, West and North and South the Empire rallied, absolutely unconditionally, to defend those principles for which the Empire stands. Then in 1917, in the year of our greatest peril, the statesmen of the Empire came together and they passed that Resolution which has been read, but which I will read again:The time has arrived when all possible encouragement should be given to the development of Imperial resources,' and especially to making the Empire independent of other countries in respect of food supplies, raw materials and essential industries. With these objects in view this Conference expresses itself in favour of, (1) the principle that each part of the Empire. having due regard to the interests of our Allies, shall give specially favourable treatment and facilities to the produce and manufactures of other parts of the Empire; and (2) an arrangement by which intending emigrants from the United Kingdom may be induced to settle in countries under the British flag.Do not we hear in this Resolution an echo of the dark peril that we were in? What was that? That peril was starvation. Why? Because this country, 2217 having been mistress of the seas for years, had forgotten two things—that food is more necessary to mankind than wealth, and, secondly, that you should not depend for necessities upon countries which may be your enemies, but upon countries which will always be your friends. We all know that in 1918 came the victory. But at what expense? I do not want to talk sob-stuff, but there is hardly a country where fighting took place which is not soaked with the blood, not only of our own kith and kin, but with the blood of all the races who live under the British flag. What about this country after the War? We all know the history of it. Our merchants and manufacturers, looking out on a Europe devastated and needing everything, said, "Let us get busy and produce everything which we know that Europe needs." But Europe could not pay; it bad been ruined by the War. Then you got the terrible spectacle of unemployment in this country.
It was in such circumstances that the last Imperial Conference met. Is it any wonder that, having in their minds the experience of the War, having before them the Resolutions passed in 1917 and accepted, and having before them the spectacle of unemployment, these statesmen, who were and are the trustees of our great undeveloped estate, had a vision of what might he and should be if we did the right thing in the Empire? What they said, in effect, was this "Give us men and money to develop the outlying parts of our joint estate, and then open your markets; give us preferential treatment in your markets to enable us to sell the products of the industry of the people whom we will take from you and settle in these outlying parts of the Empire." It seems to me that that plan would inevitably occur to men who sat down to consider what they should do in the circumstances that faced them. I listened to the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), but I do not think I heard him mention the effect of this Preference upon the unemployment problem. He dealt merely with the question, who paid these duties? Really what does it matter? MEMBERS: "Oh!"] What does it matter if you are going to relieve the unemployment problem in this country? Do you not think that what you will save in taxation and in rates to keep the men now 2218 unemployed will far more than compensate you, even if there is any increase in prices, and I do not admit that there will be? Have you no vision of the thing as a whole? It is one problem. You cannot regard these things in pieces.
There is another point. When you take an unemployed man from this country you are not merely relieving this country of the burden of keeping him, but you are making a, customer. You have a man who is unemployed. Take him to the Colony and you make him a producer of wealth and a customer of this country. Therefore, you achieve three things. I do not pretend that you can do this all at once; nobody does. But it is a beginning in the right direction. I ask hon. Members to look at these Resolutions and to consider what they imply, for this reason. I grant, as was said by the right hon. Member fur Paisley (Mr. Asquith), that the Resolutions are very small in themselves and perhaps trifling. The right hon. Gentleman made a great deal of fun about it. The real point of the Resolutions is that they are a beginning, and that they aim at a very great end, which is Free Trade within the British Empire. I would remind Liberals that Free Trade within the Empire is far nearer their ideal than a system of free imports into one country, such as we have now. It is because these Resolutions are a step towards that ideal that their importance is so great. You invited your Dominion statesmen to come here. These are their considered suggestions. Are you going to turn them down? Do you think that your wisdom is greater than the collective wisdom of the men who are responsible for these Dominions? I would be very sorry to say so in my own case, and I believe there are very few hon. Members who would say so individually. It seems to be absolute madness at the present time to turn away these suggestions. You admit that they are very small, and that their effect is small. Why turn them down?
Let me appeal to hon. Members in this way: For one moment let us try to get rid of these walls here which shut us in and confine us in space and time; and let us in imagination put ourselves upon the plane of history. From this point of time where we are to-day let us try to look back upon those great civilisations of the past which have now gone, some 2219 of them for ever, some of them now mere relics. Let us remember that in the case of each of those great Empires and civilisations there was a moment when some wrong decision by those who were responsible for their destiny was taken, and that that decision was pregnant with disaster to those great Empires and civilisations. I believe that we are at such a moment to-night. I believe that future generations will look back, as I am asking hon. Members to look back, and that if we take a wrong decision those future generations will say that on this night this House knew not the time of visitation.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am sorry my colleague the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who was in possession of the House at the Adjournment last night, had to leave and was not able to make the speech he intended to make to-day. I propose to develop the argument that he had begun when he was addressing the House last night. There is a remarkable unanimity with regard to the importance of the development of the resources of the British Commonwealth, but there, is a diversity of opinion with regard to the development of those resources. We have had two points of view stated. There is that embodied in these Resolutions, which represent the point of view of hon. Members opposite, and it is interesting that they always like to regard themselves now as the defenders of the Empire—Empire builders, the party beyond all others who are concerned with the maintenance of this Empire—and yet with the best will in the world to find reasons for supporting these Resolutions there has been nothing practically in the statements made from the opposite side of the House to encourage us to go into the Lobby in support of those Resolutions. The policy of the Opposition is the same with regard to Empire as it is in the domestic sphere. It is a mixture of sentiment and arrogance. There is the talk, for example, about our kith and kin. Hon. Members opposite very often get very sentimental about our own kith and kin, especially when they are away in some far-flung part of the Empire. They even get concerned about our own kith and kin at home, but when a strike or a lock-out takes place, we get their domestic policy 2220 with regard to their kith and kin expressed in the excited injunction to "shoot down those disturbers of the peace." It is the same with regard to Imperial policy. Whenever the natives of some part of the Empire are anxious for a fuller measure of freedom, at once we get the excited injunction again of hon. Members opposite to "put it down with a firm hand."
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
On a point of Order. May I ask your ruling, Sir, as to which of the Resolutions this is relevant?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am trying to state what I consider is the Imperial policy of the Opposition. It is embodied to a certain extent in this Resolution.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
We are not discussing the Imperial policy of the Opposition. We are discussing these Preference Resolutions.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am sorry if I have not made plain what I am anxious to be at. [An HON. MEMBER: "We understand."] I am very sorry if I have overestimated the understanding of the hon. Member opposite. We have got in these Resolutions a certain policy, and I am seeking to show that they are going to offer nothing that is really material with regard to the objects for which they are set forth—the maintenance and development of the unity of the Empire.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
If that is the hon. Member's purpose it is quite in order, but it has nothing to do with lock-outs and strikes.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am very anxious to bow to your ruling, but surely every Member of the House in developing his argument is allowed to take an illustration in order to make his point. I submit that I am not going half as far a field as the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench went himself. I have been very anxious to find reasons for going into the Lobby in support of these Resolutions if arguments can be adduced to show that by carrying them we were going to do something effective with regard to the development of the 2221 British Commonwealth, but they are too paltry. I want to ask whether the statement of the ex-Prime Minister is the policy of the party opposite with regard to Empire development, when he said he believed what we should do was to set up a buying agency in order to buy up the surplus products of the Dominions and market them in this country. Was he simply expressing a pious platitude, or was he regarding these Resolutions as a step towards the development of some such policy when the Government would be responsible for the taking over of those goods at cost price? I should be glad if that can be made clear, because some of us will support him and will even be prepared to go into the Lobby in support of these paltry Resolutions if we get his assurance that this is going to be his policy. I am afraid myself it was simply a pious platitude. These Resolutions suggest to me that the point of view that the Opposition have taken in this connection is the point, of view that they are landowners with an estate to develop. A certain part of it has been developed so far and now there is coming the development of the more distant parts. Hon. Members opposite are looking favourably on those distant developments. They are saying to this House, "It is very good that our estate is being developed in this fashion. It is a very good thing that we are having these changes taking place," but they are always looking at it from the point of view that it is theirs, that they are going to reward those who are responsible for carrying out its development, but that the profit from it is all to be theirs. I do not believe that there is any genuine concern with regard to the effect of these Resolutions upon the ordinary people of the Dominions—the ordinary working-class people. We have had appeals made from the opposite benches that we should put aside prejudices. We would be willing to put aside prejudices if we had any real assurance that hon. Members opposite were anxious about the ordinary working people in the Dominions. When we get an opportunity of testing the effect that such Resolutions would have, say, on certain developments, such as the Sudan Plantation Syndicate, we find that. the people they are interested in are not our own kith and kin, but their kith and kin in finance—the people of whatever race who are 2222 concerned in the great finance houses of the world.
There is the policy which has been put forward against the policy set forth in the Resolutions, the policy which regards as essential to the prosperity of this country the maintenance of a system of Free Trade. That is a policy which is opposed to these Resolutions, because it is conceived that these Resolutions interfere with the theory of Free Trade. Along with many hon. Members opposite and many hon. Members on these benches I am not in the least concerned as to whether the Resolutions interfere with the Free Trade theory or not. I am not in the least concerned as to whether we are to remain Free Trade purists or not The way in which we ought to regard these Resolutions is, as to what effect they will have with regard to the entry into this country of goods which are produced under favourable conditions of labour.
Our point of view is, that the determining factor with regard to Preference on goods, and with regard to the giving of permission to goods to enter, should the conditions under which the goods are produced. If the conditions are good conditions, as good as the conditions which rule in our own country, we say, "Let them come in." If they are not produced under as good conditions, we do not say, "Give the Dominions a Preference of 5 per cent. or 10 per cent., as compared with these other goods." We say, "Keep the sweated rubbish out altogether. Do not let it come in, and if the Colonies can bring in goods that are not produced under sweated conditions, we shall be very pleased to receive them." That runs counter to the opposition, which has been put forward from the Front Bench, on this side of the House below the Gangway.
These Resolutions are not enough. They are only playing with this question of developing the British Commonwealth. We have to look at the British Commonwealth with a broader vision than that which has inspired the framers of the Resolutions, and I propose to suggest an alternative to the two policies which have been so far debated. The British Commonwealth consists of two classes of Dominions. There is the self-governing Dominion, on the one hand, and the Crown Colony on the other. The fiscal arrangements of the self-governing 2223 Dominion and its policy with regard to fiscal affairs are its direct concern, and it will decide that for itself. The true policy of Imperial Preference will not make a timid suggestion, about apples coming into this country or a tin of salmon coming from somewhere in the Dominions. The true Preference policy will be a policy which will mean an offer to the Dominions by the home country to take the surplus goods that they can produce and to distribute those goods in the markets of this country. Not a distribution through the middlemen, but a distribution authorised and developed by the nation itself.
The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) stated that one of the problems that worried him to some extent was the difference in the price paid by the consumer and the price paid to the producer of the goods. If I am allowed to travel a little wide, following the example of the ex-Prime Minister, I would say with regard to the alternative policy in which we believe that we are anxious to cut out these middle people, these parasites who are responsible for the big increase in price which the consumer has to pay over what is paid to the producer. For example, we would say that we would take all the Australian wool clip, all the butter that New Zealand could send to us, and all the timber that Canada coud send to us, the State being responsible for the distribution and marketing in this country of the produce of the Dominions. That would be a real Empire policy and a policy which would tend to bring the various parts of the British Commonwealth into a real unity of interest and of effort. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was done during the War!"] My hon. Friends say that it was done during the War. It. was done to a certain extent then, and if only we had the vision and the will, and if only the right hon. Member for Bewdley is in earnest, we could make the British Commonwealth a tremendous force in the world, a real basis for the federation of the peoples of the world.
Then there is the question of the Crown Colonies where the people have not attained that measure of political culture that has been attained by the self-governing Dominions, and I believe that here you have got to have a real policy. 2224 I can suggest something that might help to solve our relations in that part of the Empire. When the Coalition Government was in power a proposal was put before the Nigerian Government for a bridge over the River Benue in Nigeria. Upon building that bridge depended the development of that Colony. The Coalition Government considered the proposal and decided that nothing could be done. Then our Friends opposite, when they became the Government, got an opportunity. The Nigerian Government, knowing that hon. Gentlemen opposite are the great Empire builders and the great protectors of the Empire, came to them with the assurance that now they would get something done. But the last Government decided that nothing could be done. So the Preference policy embodied in those Resolutions is of no use to those parts of the Empire, and you have got to say to them, "Yes, we will give you the money to build bridges and we will set up a service such as we set up in connection with the Indian Civil Service," and we have got to send out men from this country and give them conditions which will make them efficient servants of the Empire for the production of goods in those parts of the Empire.
That to my mind is a real Imperial policy, but the thing embodied in those resolutions is simply an attempt to make a fool of the Colonies and to delude the people in the Dominions. But the people in the Dominions are not so simple as to lay any great stress on them. It is only when we come to consider the British Commonwealth as the basis of a great federation of free peoples of all the world, and not simply as a British Commonwealth with Free Trade within the Empire, but something with a far wider sweep, that we shall have an Empire policy that will be worthy of the support of this House. If the Prime Minister gives us an assurance that the policy of the party opposite is this national marketing and national buying of all surplus Colonial produce we will vote for these paltry Resolutions. Otherwise we will show our independence of the point of view there and the point of view here by not going into the lobby at all.
§ Captain BRASS
I do not propose to answer the arguments of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, because I 2225 want to refer to another phase of this question. I was very pleased, in fact delighted, to hear what the Prime Minister had to say to-day when he informed the House that he was going to develop an Empire settlement scheme. I am afraid that I disagree with him when he said that he thought this could be done and made beneficial without Imperial Preference. Personally I do not think that it can be done, especially after the evidence which we had at the Imperial Conference and the remarks of Mr. Bruce made at that time. Though I am a Free Trader, I propose to vote in favour at any rate of the first four of the Resolutions which are on the Paper. I do it not on Free Trade principles, but because I think that we should make a gesture to the Dominions to try to help the Empire settlement scheme.
The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr Asquith) told us that there was no change in the position of this country to-day as compared with 1914. He also told us that we were holding our trade very well. I entirely disagree with him. It is now nearly six years since the Armistice. Up to the present we have not got up to 75 per cent. of our pre-War export trade. In 1922 we imported into this country £450,000,000 worth of food and £300,000,000 worth of raw material. We paid for that by the export of goods from this country, and those goods had to be exported as cheaply as possible so as to be able to compete in the markets of the world with the other goods which are exported from other countries. I am glad to see the Minister of Labour in. his seat, because I understand that on the Resolutions concerning the Unemployment Insurance Bill he stated that the number of unemployed in this country was estimated to be 1,000,000 in 1925, 1,000,000 in 1926, and about 800,000 after that. That is a permanent handicap on the people of this country in the production of goods, because a portion of the cost of the production of goods is the number of unemployed people whom we have to support doing nothing.
I am convinced that we cannot get back to a big enough trade to be able to support the 1,500,000 more people whom we have in this country at present. The reason is because our export trade has been reduced to 75 per cent. of what it was before the War. The cotton industry 2226 is an example. Before the War the cotton industry represented one-third in value of the exports of the country. To-day the cotton industry cannot flourish because raw cotton instead of being 5d. per 1b., as it was before the War, is now is. 10d. per 1b. Another very important trade, one of the greatest exporting trades in this country, is the engineering trade. That has been hit by the artificial stimulation of the engineering trade all over the world. Another of our great exporting trades is the coal trade. That is indirectly hit by the depression in the engineering and the cotton trades, but it is going to be hit presently even more than that, directly. At present 27 per cent. of the whole of the mercantile marine of the world is using oil fuel. Before the War only 5 per cent. of the mercantile marine of the world was using oil fuel.
The coal industry, the cotton industry and the engineering industry are the industries by means of which we pay for the goods we import and for the raw material and food which we consume in this country. We have to export out of this country goods to pay £32,000,000 a year to the United States, for which we receive nothing in exchange. The latest trade returns show that the imports of this country are rising very fast. The last return shows an increase of £35,000,000 during a month. We are piling up an adverse trade balance, and I am firmly convinced as long as the country goes on under present conditions we shall never get rid of the unemployment problem. We have to migrate and to settle a certain portion of the people of this country in the Dominions. I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite have at heart the interests of the working people of this country, and I ask them to vote in favour of the Resolutions, or, at any rate, for the first four, which do not in any way increase the cost of living in this country, hut, in fact, decrease it to a small extent. I ask hon. Members opposite to do so as a moral gesture to the Empire and as a help in the development of a big Empire settlement scheme.
§ Mr. H. H. SPENCER
I should scarcely have ventured to intervene in this Debate had it not been for the extraordinary speech made last night by the hon. Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. T. Johnston). I do not 2227 propose to follow the hon. Member into a discussion which has really nothing to do with the subject of this Debate, namely, the question of whether or not we made £64,000,000 profit by State trading in wool during the War. There are many opinions on that subject, and although I am not going to discuss whether we were successful or otherwise in our wool trading, I suggest that the hon. Member should take the whole of the war trading together. We made a profit on wool, but what did we do on sugar? Personally, I do not eat bacon, but probably one of the well-nourished gentlemen on the Government Front Bench could tell us something about war bacon and the money which we made out of it. If one wishes to form a fair and true judgment about Government trading one should not take a single item which shows a profit but should take all together. The hon. Member, however, made a very important and serious contribution to this Debate. Speaking for himself and I presume for some of his friends—because the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has confirmed his statement—he said that his position and the position of his friends was that all goods made under sweated conditions should be kept out altogether. They did not want a duty but wanted to keep these goods out altogether. [How. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to note that admission. We now know where those hon. Members stand on this question. I ask them where are goods made under the most sweated conditions and with most distress to the workpeople? I should think of all countries in the world in Russia, and yet for years we have been told that the prosperity of the Empire would only be restored by restoring trade with. Russia.
§ Mr. SPENCER
At the present time all goods made in Russia are made under sweated conditions. Let me go further. Let me take our Indian Empire. The City which is so well represented by the teetotal Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) depends for its prosperity 2228 upon the importation of Indian jute made under what I suppose hon. Members would call sweated conditions. My point is that the way to improve these sweated conditions all over the world is to give these poor folk the widest market for their production. The Indian peasant in the Punjab, the wheat grower, was a desperately poor man, and nothing has done him quite so much good as irrigation and a free market for his wheat in England, while nothing has done England so much good as the enrichment of that peasant which enabled him to buy our cotton manufactures. That is my philosophy of trade, not the Socialist philosophy of prohibition against the poor man.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Then hon. Members are quarrelling among themselves. Let me get on to the real subject of the Debate. The other matter was not of great importance in this connection, but I wished to nail that particular argument to the counter. I regret the way in which Imperial Preference has been advocated for the last 20 years. The basic argument put forward in support of it is, to my mind, an insult to our Colonies. It will be remembered in 1903 we were told we could only hold the Empire together by Preference. In 1906, as Mr. Churchill put it, the door was bolted, barred and slammed against Colonial Preference. In 1911 the Tariff Reform League told the world that the choice before the United Kingdom was not a choice between Free Trade and Preference, but between the adoption of Empire reciprocity and the break-up of existing commercial and Imperial relations. That was at the end of 1911, and in the middle of 1914, the various parts of the Empire which was to-be broken up were rushing to the help of the Old Country in her extremity. The argument that the Empire depends upon or is built up upon tariff haggling is an insult to our Colonial brethen and to our daughter nations.
I am speaking as one who has lived in Australia and as an old member of the Australian Forces. I was a "Tommy" in the Australian Forces and so I have got the point of view of the Australian Tommy on these matters, and I never heard an Australian whisper any idea of basing his loyalty to the Empire on pre- 2229 ferential duties. I have talked with shearers who were earning 30s. a day, and earning it well, and I have put to them the position of the agricultural labourer in England earning 30s. a week and earning it very hard. They would despise themselves if they thought of putting a burden upon the shoulders of a man much worse off than themselves to enrich others in the Colonies who are much better off. If there is one thing on which we can agree in this connection it is that each nation and each Colony is free. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon said these preferences were in the interests of the smallholders in Australia and Canada. I agree that smallholders are having a pretty thin time, both in Australia and Canada, and I should like to see them prosper for their own sakes and for mine, because if they prosper they buy more of my goods. But why are the smallholders not prosperous? Because of the tariff policies of their own Governments. A distinguished predecessor of mine in this House once, in order "to point a moral and adorn a tale," produced a dagger and threw it on the Floor. Unfortunately, I understand, the dagger fell rather flat. In order to give point to my argument I have taken the liberty of having a new suit made for the occasion. This particular suit is made of a cloth which is made of fine Australian wool. It is an Imperial article if anything is. It is made from Australian wool and, like everything else that comes from Australia, it comes in duty free. We welcome all their produce.
§ Mr. SPENCER
The suit was made by a London tailor, and the cloth was made in Bradford. This cloth is made from Australian wool, it is woven and dyed in Bradford, and when that has been done I set off to try to make a humble but sufficient livelihood by selling the cloth. I find that the Dutchman puts a tariff of 5 per cent. on this cloth, the Dane 5 per cent., Switzerland 6 per cent., France 10 per cent., Sweden 10 per cent., and Australia 30 per cent., on cloth made from their own wool! It is with great diffidence that I disagree with my leaders, but the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) yesterday described Preference as taking a few bricks from off a wall, which has 2230 already been built high enough. That is not Australian Preference. Australian Preference consists in starting with your wall, building it a little higher against British goods, and then putting 50 per cent. more on against the foreigner. That is exactly the description of how Preference was introduced into Australia. In 1907 the Australian tariff was raised an average of 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. on British goods, and all of a sudden they remembered that the Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, had promised Preference to Great Britain, so the telegraph wires were set to work all over Australia., not decreasing the added duties to Great Britain, but increasing the existing raised duties against the foreigner. That is Preference in operation.
I want to take a very serious view of these things. What will happen as between us and our Colonial friends when, as will happen, we climb further new tariff walls? We are over the Canadian Preference wall already, and the Canadian woollen manufacturers are clamouring to put the tariff up again. We are over the Australian tariff wall already. This particular cloth that I have instanced is about as standard an article of men's wear as there is in the world. If is an ordinary Botany blue serge. We in England fear no foe. The Australian Preference does not help us against the Germans, French and Japanese, because the Germans, French and Japanese do not count. It is the 30 per cent. tariff against my goods put on by the Australians that is preventing inter-Imperial trade.
§ Colonel MORDEN
Is it not because of the Australian Preference that you are able to sell your goods there at all against foreign goods?
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SPENCER
No; it is because the manufacturers in Canada and Australia at every end and corner of their business are handicapped by tariffs that they cannot compete with us. The primary industries are not much affected. The great woollen industry, where the capital employed is a pair of shears and a bag of sacking, does not fear the tariff very much, but the fruit farmer does. His bottles, his tins, his railway freights, his cases, his catalogues, his clothes, his boots, everything he uses, are taxed 20 or 30 per cent. for the 2231 benefit of the Australian manufacturer. I have no complaint to make. I am merely trying to put the actual facts before the House, but I want to point out the Imperial dangers of this policy. As a commercial traveller, I come back from Holland and Denmark, and say, "Yes, I got orders, and I sold lots of goods there," but this House is destroying the purchasing power of Holland and Denmark in order to benefit Australia and Canada, because that is what Preference means. If we are to buy our fruits and cheese from Australia and Canada that we are now buying from Holland and Denmark, we shall destroy the purchasing power of Holland and Denmark. That may be desirable and Imperial. If the Australians and Canadians will replace in my factory, my warehouse, the demand that the Dutchmen and the Danes are now making, it does not matter, but if the Dutchmen and the Danes are freely taking in my goods and putting only a 5 per cent. tariff on them, and the Australians and Canadians are doing everything they can to shut them out, I say that that is not the spirit of inter-Imperial trade or Preference.
The hon. and gallant Member for Brentford (Colonel Morden) made a most astonishing statement yesterday in an interjection. He said that Canada was giving everything, and that we are giving nothing. But the boot is entirely on the other leg. In the last year, for which the figures are taken out, of all the goods that the Colonies sent to Great Britain, 99¾ per cent. came into this country duty free, but of all the goods that we sent to our Colonies, 71 per cent. were not protected from tariffs. Who is giving the Preference in that case? Personally, I have every kind of regard for Mr. Bruce. I knew him when he was a little boy, 30 years ago, but we must face the facts that Mr. Bruce comes and tells this country. He tells us that they have had offers from other countries. Is there any country in the world that would let in free the whole of the produce, in equal competition with their own producers? Has Mr. Bruce got any offer like that, or is he likely to get any such offer as that?
§ Mr. SPENCER
I agree, but my point is that we are treating the Australians far better than anybody else is doing or is likely to do We are treating them equally well with anybody else.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I am an unrepentant Free Trader, first of all, because it is necessary for our own folk, and particularly the poorest of our folk, but secondly, and almost more, I am a Free Trader because I know that the greatness of our Empire has been built up on Free Trade. The fact that for many years England, having all the places in the sun, has given everybody equality in those places has been a far greater security for this Empire than any armaments, or ships, or fleets could be. It is the feeling that all the world has, that it is desirable that Great Britain should hold a Colony, that has made for the security of our Empire. I shall have the greatest pleasure in voting against these Resolutions, and for every resolution which proposes to tax the poor for the benefit of any particular Dominion. It is because I believe that our Empire has been based upon Free Trade, peace, and goodwill among nations that I am going to vote as I am to-night.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
I do not intend to follow the last speaker, except, perhaps, to say that the proposals made, with all good will, by the opposite side, are not an insult to the Colonies. There is no intention to insult the Colonies, and, in a serious Debate, we should be above flapdoodle of that sort.
§ Mr. H. SPENCER
I never said anything such as the proposals being an insult to the Colonies. I said the statement that the Empire depended on Colonial Preference was an insult to the Colonies, which is a different thing.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
There is another way of saying the same thing. I do not intend to follow the last speaker, and to-morrow's OFFICIAL REPORT will prove which of us is right. If I have misrepresented the hon. Member, I am sorry, and I apologise, but that was the impression his speech gave me. This Debate, up to the moment, has been remarkably free from party feeling, and I am glad. We all want to know, irrespective of party label, what is best for this country, what is best for the British Commonwealth of Nations, 2233 and what is best for the world as a whole. We all want to know the whole truth and not merely what we want to be true. We want to know what are the actual facts. In spite of what the Prime Minister has said, in spite of what the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has said, this question is a very serious question, and we ought to approach it without any favouritism, without any preconceived notion, without any instincts or tempers, and judge upon facts, and facts alone. The times are much too serious for us to indulge in prejudices. I happen to take the view that the economic future of this country is sadly precarious unless something be done. We have lived in the past by co-operating with the other fellow, and if the other fellow everywhere likes to become his own manufacturer, and will not give us, in return for our manufactured goods and service, his raw materials, then we become the fifth wheel on the chariot. Some people imagine we can live without the Colonies and the world. There are some people who believe that, by some system of French gardening, we can live without the help of the world. We might manage to live, but there would be no bananas. We live by exporting manufactured articles, and we get in return our wool and wheat, and if the other fellow decides to make his own penknives and so on, the economic outlook is particularly serious, and if ever there were a time when we could afford to neglect any opportunity, this is not the time. The trick of manufacturing, which was a monopoly up to a few years ago, or relatively a short time ago, is no longer a monopoly. The other fellow has discovered the trick of manufacturing, and the other fellow, instead of being a customer, is gradually becoming a competitor, and, as time goes on, a more serious competitor, and the Colonies are competitors as well as everyone else.
The point, therefore, is, what are we to do? You have a coolie who will take a handful of rice per day, and you have America, with her tremendous resources and her measures of Protection. I suggest we should put all temper and pre-conceived notions aside, and try to find out how we are going to get out of this mess. [An HON. MEMBER: "What mess?"] There is a considerable mess. 2234 I can understand people, confronted with these difficulties, disappointed, disillusioned, finding out that a new heaven is not here, and that, instead of a new heaven, perhaps, there is the old hell, new devils, new kinds of brimstone, hard times and unemployed, looking for a way out and saying, "Let us crawl back into our Imperial shell. Develop the Empire. Never mind the rest of the world, but let us look after ourselves." I can tell the House one thing, and that is, that with the idea behind the proposals I am in complete agreement. I believe that the British Commonwealth of Nations—the "British Empire" is a misnomer—is the greatest idea that ever struck the world, and I should like to see India and Egypt and other places join the Commonwealth of Nations. I believe the British Empire is a forecast of what the world ought to be, that is, independent nations managing their own affairs, composing their own differences, and a jolly good feeling all the way round. Let us talk real, hard sense, and not talk about the ownership of the Empire. We do not own the Empire, and the people of this country do not. We do not own Canada, Australia or South Africa. It reminds me of a story when patriotic speeches were being made at the time of the Coronation procession. A man was heard to say, "I am a very important man, but, in spite of the fact that I am an Englishman, and therefore own part of Canada, Australia and the rest of the Empire, I have got no place to sleep, and am pretty hungry. I wonder whether any moneylender would advance me anything on my Colonial possessions?"
My point is that the Colonies are independent countries, and I should like to go so far as to follow Mr. Mackenzie King, and give them diplomatic independence. It would do good, and increase the decent spirit between the two countries. We do not own the Empire. The world has been our Empire. For instance, Lancashire is dependent far more upon Louisiana, upon the cotton fields of the United States, than upon Ontario or even Cheshire. We have lived internationally, and co-operated with the world, and that co-operation is interfered with because the other fellow has insisted on becoming his own manufacturer. If the Colonies would consider a Zollverein, which was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's idea and ideal, there might be 2235 something to be said. If only we could get absolute Free Trade within the Empire, but the Colonies at the moment insist on being their own manufacturers. They have their own infant industries, their own economic babies, and will not consider the proposition of Free Trade within the Empire. I should like to see Free Trade within the Empire. I should like to see Canada accept the ideal of the Zollverein, but the Canadian Manufacturers' Association controls largely Canadian politics and the Press. One Protectionist Member of the Canadian Parliament said, not so long ago, that they were not prepared to be ruined by their American cousin or their British brother. The last paper I read from Canada—and I read the Canadian papers regularly—being a Canadian, through no fault of my own—there was a strong article against the dumping of British goods on the Canadian market. The Canadians not only insist upon being their own manufacturers, but they are competing with us in the markets of the world. Canada is developing her trade interests not only by tariffs but by bounties. I can understand the rhetoric which would go up from the benches opposite, if France, or Germany, or the United States of America, for instance, were to develop their industries by subsidies and bounties. I can understand how angry we should all be about it. I want the Colonies to have a square deal. I believe at the moment we are giving the Colonies a very much fairer and squarer deal than they are giving us.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
I did not know hon. Members had so many children. What is the real test of a square deal? The only test in this matter is whether we should be satisfied if the Colonies should give us what we give them. We should rejoice if they did so. I do not believe in Churchillism. I believe we ought to explore every avenue of feasible Empire development in working for fair play and mutual advantage. I do not believe in slamming, barring, and bolting the door.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
I know Mr. Churchill has changed his opinions. He has practi- 2236 cally boxed the compass of political ethusiasm.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir EDWARD GREIG
On a point of Order; Mr. Deputy-Speaker, what ground has the hon. Gentleman for making these statements about Mr. Churchill?
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
I am a member of the Labour Commonweath group, and we have had schemes outlined to us whereby this country should provide greater facilities for helping to give us a better supply of grain, and it is suggested that this would not only be advantageous to the farmers of Britain, but advantageous to the consumers in this country. We have been told by one hon. Member about the margin between the producer and the consumer. There is a tremendous margin of difference between the price paid to the producer in the Colonies and the price paid by the consumer here. We can get better transport facilities. There is no reason why we should not have these, and so we could get these boats over to Australia and bring back their mutton. There are many, many ways that could be devised in which we could develop the Empire and develop it without hurting anybody. We have got, not only to develop the Empire, but to keep on good terms with the peoples of the world. I would not ask that the terms I have suggested should be exclusive. We will require the co-operation of peoples of the world. What the world needs to-day, more than anything else, is a more generous spirit all round. The interests of the nations ought to be and can be harmonised. If we sell the foreigner goods, and if we do not buy back from him, then somebody has got to buy back from him. Let us pursue this ideal of the Empire with a desire for the good of the whole world in all possible ways, scientific, economic, and the rest of it. The world is large enough for us all. There is no shortage from either Colonial or foreigner. Let us have a policy, a right policy, a right foreign policy, a right national and international policy; and a right division of labour so that we may be all able to live, and to live more abundantly.
§ Sir PHILIP SASSOON
The last speech seems to suggest that the hon. 2237 Member who delivered it proposes to vote for the Resolutions that have been put forward. I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and I must say that I have some little difficulty to reconcile the attitude or the professions of Ministers with regard to the Empire with their attitude on this particular question. I have heard the Secretary of State for the Colonies say that he is very much impressed with the possibilities of inter-Empire trade. I heard the Leader of the House say that we ought to do everything we can to foster trade within the Empire. Hon. Members opposite have expressed no little indignation at the assumption—as they term it—that the Conservatives make out that they are the only true and orthodox champions of Empire. We welcome these declarations. We disclaim any intention of making Imperial concerns a party preserve. But when we come down from words to facts, we on these benches cannot help thinking that if the Government oppose these Resolutions to-night they will in fact, whether they wish to or not, be discouraging inter-Imperial trade, and this perhaps would give offence to the Dominions. I hope they will not do that, because I think it would show a very narrow view, and one that might be disastrous in its consequences in our relations with the Empire.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) declared that the Election had been fought very largely on the subject of Imperial Preference, I should like to say that I did not agree with him. I think that if the subject of Imperial Preference were put to the voters to-day, it would be passed by a very large majority. I think when the Colonial Secretary, the Leader of the House, and other Members of the Government make these remarks about the Empire, that they are quite sincere. I think they would like to foster inter-Imperial trade, but party considerations are too much for them. After all, Preference is an offence against the pure doctrine of Free Trade! I should not like to think that the intentions of the Dominions were going to the wall so that the Government might placate the Liberal party. If the Government are doing that, they are acting like the boy scout who, after he had got into bed at night, remembered he had not done his daily good deed. 2238 So he ran downstairs and gave his brother's white mice to the cat. I think they are really doing so if, in their desire to placate the Liberty party, they are sacrificing the interests of the Empire to acquire virtue in that party's eyes. After all, not only the word of one Government but the word of the whole country is concerned. The Ministers of the Dominions were invited to this Conference to discuss a problem common to the whole British commonwealth of nations, and they came to decisions that affect us as well as themselves. Consideration ought to be given to them. The Colonial Secretary said in this House that it was really the fault of the last Government, who convened that Conference, but surely that is not evident. The proposal he outlined yesterday, that these Conferences should be composed of people of all parties, or should be non-patty Conferences, seems to me to be impracticable. After all, such a Conference would have to be composed of all the parties of all the Dominions, and they might come to some colourless decisions, which it would then be left to the party in power either to accept or to reject. If that were to be the case, there would be an end to all Treaty making and to national faith.
The decisions of an Economic Conference of this sort ought to be treated like Treaties, and be binding on successive Governments. Surely the Ministers of the Dominions know what they are about, and when they say that even these not too generous proposals for Imperial Preference are likely to be of use in developing the Empire, we ought not to tell them they do not know their business or that we have a Government which is more intelligent than theirs. Surely they know their own business. We should do what we can to develop these vast unpeopled lands in view of our crowded populations. For those lands do produce raw material for our manufactures, and provide markets for our finished goods. I should like to appeal to the Government to think twice before they vote against these Resolutions. If they vote against them all, they may be taking an action which may be more full of harm, and more pregnant with disaster, than any action taken by any Government in the last 150 years. They may be putting a very great strain on that mutual confidence and affection on which, we are so often told, rests the glory and the safety of our Empire.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
I am sure most of us will appreciate that for the most part in this Debate we have all given each other credit for wanting to do the best we can in the interest of the country and of the Empire. The problem before us is the way to secure that objective. I want to strike a note that has not been struck hitherto in regard to what we have done for the Empire. I do protest against the imputation in practically the whole of this Debate that we have neglected the daughters of the Empire. Nothing is farther from the truth. It is wrong to create the impression either in this country, or in the Dominions, that we have failed in our duty. Take the case of Australia, where there is some driving force behind this demand for Preference; more, probably, than in any other Dominion. We have lent Australia at a lower rate of interest than she could obtain in any other money market in the world, £1,000,000,000 of capital. That has been invested in Australia. It represents between £700 and £800 per household. Is not that a great thing to have done for a daughter State? What other nation has done as much for one of its offspring? We have to be careful in the handling of figures in our effort to measure the value of Preference. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) only a few weeks ago said in this House in regard to Preference:Australia with five and a half million took more than Germany with 75 million, and France with 40 million.Yes, but he made no reference to the fact I have brought out, that we had invested this huge sum of money in these Dominions and that this accounts to a very large extent for the enormous purchases they have made as compared with the purchases of foreign countries. Later in the same speech he said:What does a loan mean? It only means the granting of a credit to the borrowing country to buy goods in the lending country.We have lent Australia something like four times the amount of capital that we have lent to the whole of Europe. Obviously, that would affect enormously the volume of purchases made in Australia, as compared with the countries that are picked out for comparison in Europe.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
They are accessible to any student of this question. I would like to protest against the conclusions that are drawn from the increase in purchases by particular Dominions at particular times. Some of our Friends have brought them out in this Debate, namely, that as compared with 1913, 1923 shows a certain increase in certain Dominions. They attribute that improvement very largely to Preference. These figures must be handled with great care before you draw such conclusions. I find, for example, that as compared with 1913 the increase of our trade in terms of money with Canada has been 20 per cent. In Australia 60 per cent. They select the favourable Dominions in order to prove their preference. Yes, but last year we lent £25,000,000 to Australia in capital. That must not be attributed to Preference. In order, therefore, to arrive at the value of Preference, you must deduct all the other contributing factors. It may interest hon. Members opposite to know that as compared with 1913, our trade with the United States has gone up 100 per cent., and there is no Preference there. What do they attribute that to? It is because we had become debtors to the United States instead of the United States being debtors to us. All these factors affect the volume of trade. Your interest is paid in goods and you send out your capital in goods, and I suggest that in order to arrive at the net value of Preference, you must deduct these other important factors. The proper thing, I suggest, is to take the necessary steps to maintain our capacity to carry through these investments. We have a huge population with a limited area. Our responsibilities are much greater than those of any Dominion. We have huge duties and huge responsibilities all over the world, and to carry them through we want a commercial Empire far wider than the British Empire. I suggest that the Free Trade policy will better enable us to earn the necessary surplus to help the Dominions in their development Let us look at the contrast between the two positions. The Dominions have a vast territory with virgin soil, enormous natural resources and a relatively small population, and they are given security by the British Fleet. We in this country have a vast population with a very small 2241 territory, dwindling natural resources, and huge responsibilities.
The suggestion is that we should aim at giving them a relative monopoly, or Preference, in our home markets, and that they, in return, should do something of the same sort for us. I suggest that such a course is going to add to our difficulties, because it will decrease our efficiency and increase our cost. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Surely hon. Members do not want to ask that question; I need only refer them to the cost of living under Protection. I heard the ex-Prime Minister this afternoon lauding the virtues of high prices. I want to suggest that the expectation that the Colonies are going to return the compliment by enabling us to get greater access to their markets is not borne out by experience. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, of whom I speak with great respect, said in 1903:I believe the Colonies will reserve to us the trade which we already enjoy. They will not arrange tariffs in future in order to start industries in competition to those which are in existence in the Mother Country.But the experience we have had since 1903 shows that the right hon. Gentleman's belief was in no way justified.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
I can only say that our experience of Canada and Australia suggests that that is not the intention of the Dominions and, certainly, they have not been carrying it out I will for the benefit especially of the hon. Member who interrupted me quote some remarks by "The Australian Manufacturer," a Sydney weekly, which told us:It should be borne in mind that the Preference we give to Great Britain was quite a different thing from the Preference we ask Great Britain to give us. All we lose when we give Great Britain a Preference is a small amount of revenue, but if Great Britain gave us the Preference Mr. Bruce is asking, many of her industries already sorely tried would be crushed out of existence. It should also be remembered that the Preference we give to Great Britain is largely nominal. We first of all put on a duty high enough to protect local industry from British competition or from any other. We then make that duty a percentage higher for foreign countries. We therefore do not give Great Britain a real Preference. That is given, and rightly so, to our own manufacturers.I want to emphasise in regard to these Resolutions that they are only a beginning. We are asked to vote for 2242 them because it is a little thing. I suggest we should not mislead our Dominions into the belief that we desire to enter on the path of Preference at all. It is better to be quite frank with them. It is kinder—and I know enough about our Dominions to be able to say that they like straight speaking, they prefer to be told the truth even if it is unpleasant—it is better now to make it perfectly plain to the Dominions that we do not intend to start along the path of Preference. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Well, I am expressing my own opinion. I have as much interest in the British Empire as hon. Members who interrupt me have. May I mention one fact in connection with the danger of misleading. There was a discussion in the South African Parliament a few weeks ago on this question, and one speaker pointed out that these Resolutions were trifling in their character and only meant for South Africa a few hundred pounds. "Yes," came the retort, "but it is only a beginning, and when it is developed it means millions." Yes, it is millions that we should pay. I suggest we should not mislead them in that regard. Then I want to protest against the assumption that Dominion opinion is solidly behind these proposals. It is not so, for both in Australia and in Canada there is a strong tendency in the other direction. With regard to the question of Great Britain causing the Colonies to drift away from her if Preference is refused, the "Melbourne Argus" said:Because Great Britain framed its own fiscal policy it is suggested that the bonds of Empire are being weakened. The suggestion is, of course, that Australia is in the Empire for what we can make out of it and that we remain in it only on our own terms. The truth is otherwise, fortunately. Nothing would more surely disrupt the Empire than to place it on a foundation of greedy self-interest and shoddy make-belief.I suggest that these Resolutions are a shoddy make-believe. I would like to say just a word with regard to Canada. The revolt there is also growing. In the Canadian Parliament we have had a development which has altered the whole position with regard to this issue. The hon. and gallant Member for Brent-ford (Colonel Morden) will know that in Canada some years ago the prairie provinces protested because they could get no Free Trade concessions from 2243 either party. The Laurier administration, which was returned on a free trade policy, was so tied up with Protectionist interests that they were unable to break through. The consequence was that the prairie provinces began to make their protests, but they were ineffective, with the result that they said, "A plague on both your parties," and they formed their own party. The result is, that for the first time in the history of the Canadian Parliament, you have now a third party 50 strong which controls the Canadian Parliament.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
The Farmers' party have been at work and what is the result? They have extracted concessions from the Canadian Government and secured substantial reductions in the taxes on the necessaries of farm life. The implements used by farmers have been put on the free list and they are now demanding further concessions in the direction of Free Trade. It would be a mistake for this House to disassociate itself from the party which is developing Free Trade in Canada. I want to put in a word from the Dominion side. I suggest that we should talk perfectly frankly to the Dominions on this question. I do not want to say anything to excite hon. Members opposite. In the case of the Dominions the revolt is growing in the primary industries in Canada and Australia. What has happened there is that they are sacrificing their primary industries to urban development. Mr. Bruce realises that that is so and he is therefore demanding that we should bear a burden to help the primary industries because of the result of the burden he has put upon them by his system of Protection. I think we should say to Mr. Bruce: "Your obstacles to development are self imposed; and Great Britain, in addition to giving you unlimited supplies of capital at the lowest world price, has also given you a vast and rich Continent and you are engaged in a system of self strangulation without parallel in human society." The overcrowded cities in Australia are surrounded by a potentially fertile but unpeopled wilderness as a result of their own folly. These cities have captured the political machine and it has resulted in the increased cost of 2244 living. The system penalises the settler on the land and makes it more difficult for any emigrant to settle there. It gives an unhealthy stimulus to town life as against country, and aggravates social unrest.
Let me give one or two facts. In Australia one city contains one-sixth of the total population. In that enormous Continent which has an agricultural territory which could feed the world what is the position? Only one person in every four is earning a living in agricultural pursuits, and three-fourths are herded together in the great cities. There you have your unemployed problem. May I point out that there has been formed in Australia a Single Purpose League of business men and what do they tell us? They tell us that—The volume of Australian industry has diminished by upwards of 30 per cent. in the last five years. Unemployment has become an evil of terrifying dimensions and our economic edifice is threatened with collapse.These are some of the blessings of Protection. One would imagine from some of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite that it is only in London your collectors are at work for the unemployed. As a matter of fact in Melbourne, men stand with boxes collecting for the starving unemployed, and on every railway station there are collecting baskets for clothes for the wives and children of the unemployed. That is one of the fruits of Protection there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] If I make any quotation and hon. Members desire to see my authority afterwards I will show it to them.
I want to give one example in the way in which this kind of thing works. Take, for example, cement. British firms were asked not long ago to tender for the supply of a large quantity of cement, and the price quoted was 22s. a barrel. What has the British firm to face? The raw material for the cement works is carried from Stanthorpe to the works near Brisbane by a State railway at a specially low rate, and the finished cement is carried at a special rate on coastal railways at less than one-half the rate of the imported cement, which also has to pay a duty and freightage equal to 10s. per cask. It was found that this was not enough to enable the Australian manufacturers to compete with the 22s. tender. 2245 The Dumping Committee was appealed to, and it was agreed to put on an additional duty to help the local production. It was thought now that surely the British manufacturer would get a chance, but not a bit of it, for the Queensland Cement Company quoted 23s. against the British 22s.; in order to secure the order for Queensland they passed a resolution that outside tenders must be 10 per cent. lower than the Queensland price, or else they would lose the order.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
In the particular district of Rockampton there is a huge works being carried out involving an expenditure of £200,000 for new water works involving large supplies of cement. Are we to encourage Queensland and Australians to go on with their economic folly by inflating the prices of everything they require? Hon. Members opposite have been talking about cementing the Empire. but, at any rate, Australians do not intend to cement it with British cement, and it is going to be Australian cement. I firmly believe that these Resolutions, if carried to their logical conclusion, will be a danger to the Empire. Emphasis has already been laid by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) this afternoon, upon the danger of creating interests which, sooner or later, must be disappointed as a result of the free movement and free determination of these different self-governing parts of the Empire. I would say, therefore, with regard to industry—and think hon. Members opposite will agree with me in this—that the important thing is security. Security in regard to industry is vital. Politics are notoriously insecure, and I would protest against building the industries of the Empire on the insecure basis of politics.
I want to protest that these Resolutions are intended to carry forward the whole theory of Protection itself. It is a pretence on the part of many hon. Members opposite to say that they do not propose, if they get in this thin end of the wedge, to move further in the direction of complete Protection. That being so, I believe that, with our vast population, we shall not be able to maintain our population at a high standard of comfort unless we 2246 open our ports to the whole world—not merely to our Dominions—and draw our supplies from the whole world. I believe we shall be helping the Empire best in that way. I believe the Empire will gain by Britain itself being able to lead industrially, and to maintain a great population with a surplus of capital for investment. World-wide connections are, therefore, best for us. I would only say, in conclusion, that, with regard to our Dominions, it should be borne in mind, when they are in effect asking, in so far as they do ask—and, as I have indicated, they are not asking it unitedly—for this concession, that it is verging on meanness to expect the badly-paid workpeople, more particularly in our agricultural districts in this country, to pay more for their food and other commodities, as I believe they would, in order to give the effect of that higher price to workpeople in various Dominions who are paid three, four and five times the wages that they are paid. I say that it is the badly housed, the badly fed and the badly clothed who would suffer as a result of this policy.
Then I would say, with regard to the Empire itself, that it has been founded on liberty. Reference has been made, and rightly so, to the taunt levelled by hon. Members opposite that some of us were Little Englanders. I would go so far as to say, and I am sure that my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches will not take offence at it, that if the Liberal party, if Liberal principles, Liberal philosophy, the Liberal outlook, had not been from time to time represented in this House in no inconsiderable power, hon. Members opposite would have had no Empire left to preserve. It has been well said that it was a Tory Government and a Tory Prime Minister that lost us the United States. It was a little band of Liberals then—Burke and others—who held up the Liberal flag, and appealed for consideration of those 13 Colonies along Liberal lines. It was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government of 1906, against the protests of Members opposite like Mr. Alfred Lyttelton and Lord Balfour himself, that carried through the Measure which gave self-government to South Africa, and retained South Africa within the Empire. Does anyone think for a moment that, three months after the outbreak of war, if South Africa had 2247 not been treated on Liberal lines, it would have remained in the Empire? Therefore, I am justified in saying that hon. Members opposite would have had no Empire to preserve but for the action of the Liberal party from time to time.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Snowden)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has achieved a remarkable success. The Leader of the Opposition, at the beginning of the Debate this afternoon, expressed doubt as to whether he would be able to contribute to the Debate anything which had not already been said; but, at the end of two days' Debate, my hon. Friend has contributed a speech which from beginning to end was original in its matter; and, if he would permit me to do so, I should like to congratulate him on having made, not merely a destructive case against the proposals which are now before the House, but a constructive case for a sound alternative policy.
The Treasury, as such, is not concerned with the wide political implications of Imperial Preference, but it is vitally interested in these proposals in relation to their possible effect upon the established fiscal system and upon the prosperity of trade and industry upon which the yield of the revenue of the country depends. I propose, therefore, to devote the brief observations that I shall make mainly to the consideration of these proposals from the point of view of their effect upon the financial condition of this country. The Leader of the Opposition, in opening the Debate this afternoon, first of all made some reference to the question of the increasing difficulty of maintaining our export trade in foreign countries, and particularly on the Continent of Europe, and I hardly think that I misrepresent the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's observations under this head when I say that he conveyed the impression that the foreign markets were in such a parlous condition, without hope of recovery, that they were hardly worth considering in connection with our export trade. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, even in the present economic condition of the Continent of Europe, and with the Russian market practically closed, last year we exported from this country to the Continent of Europe goods 2248 to the value of £318,000,000, or practically the same amount as our export trade to the whole of the British Empire. The population of the British Empire is nearly twice the population of the countries of the Continent of Europe which took those exports from us last year.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Surely hon. Members do not exclude India from the British Empire? The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is so generous with his interruptions, did not exclude India a week or two ago when he was giving the House the figures of the proportion of Empire trade to the total trade of the country. Certainly I include India. The total of our foreign trade last year, in spite of the parlous conditions of the European markets, amounted to £564,000,000. Therefore, the first point which I submit to the House is this: that while we are all anxious, and, I would say, equally anxious, to develop trade wherever it can be developed, and particularly with our own kith and kin across the seas, still, in the present state of the development of the Dominions and taking the most optimistic view of their progress in the immediate future, we cannot possibly ignore the fact that the existence of a very large part of our working-class population and of the industries of the country is dependent upon the maintenance of our extensive export trade with foreign countries.
I would make a further observation on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He referred to the probability of the increased severity of foreign competition from the countries of Europe. The reason given was that they would be compelled to work longer hours and for lower wages. I thought that amongst all economic students, and especially amongst intelligent business men, the old idea that low wages and long hours were economically remunerative had long ago been abolished. The reason why Germany had become an increasingly formidable competitor before the War was that a quarter of a century before that time her industrial conditions had been improved, wages had been rising and the hours of labour had been reduced. The most formidable industrial competitor in the world to-day is that country where the wages are highest and where the hours 2249 of labour are lowest—the United States of America—[HON MEMBERS: "A protected country!"] The Continental countries, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred as being in such a parlous condition as to be almost beyond the possibility of recovery, are also protected.
I pass to a point which is of considerable importance and interest to a Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Resolutions before us, if adopted—I think he was referring particularly to the first four Resolutions on the Paper—would not tie the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I contest that statement altogether. These proposals, if adopted, one of them, some of them, all of them, would undoubtedly tie the hands of future Chancellors of the Exchequer in regard to the remission of taxation. Take one, the proposal for the stabilisation of certain duties for the period of 10 years. I am well aware that in the phraseology of that Resolution there is a statement to the effect that the stabilised duty has to be maintained so long as the duty on the foreign commodity is not lower than that amount. That means nothing at all from the point of view of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, except this: If the House were to adopt a Resolution of that character it is committed, in effect and by honour, to maintain those duties for a period of 10 years. Therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be prevented from abolishing, say, the Sugar Duties. The adoption of that proposal means—and I specially commend the statement to my hon. Friends behind me—that if that proposal were adopted, no Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, unless he broke the word of the British House of Commons, could abolish the Sugar Duty for the next 10 years.
The right hon. Gentleman tried to draw a comparison between commercial treaties, bargains made or undertakings entered into by commercial treaties, with what is proposed by these Preference Resolutions. There, again, the analogy of the right hon. Gentleman is not sound at all. No commercial treaty ever does more than this in regard to tariffs, namely, to undertake to reduce duties or not to put them on. These proposals are to put on duties, or to undertake to keep them on. There is the vital and essential difference. 2250 The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the commercial treaty with Japan. The non-tariff clauses of that treaty were operative for 10 years, but special care was taken that the tariff proposals could be denounced at the end of 12 months. Why was that done? For this very important reason. Our taxes are levied for 12 months. Taxation has to be dealt with every 12 months, and the House of Commons has always very jealously guarded the right and the freedom to reconsider taxes at the end of 12 months. But if these Preference proposals are adopted that is stopped, and the traditional right of the House of Commons to an annual review of taxation has been taken away.
The right hon. Gentleman said also that all these proposals come within our present fiscal system. There, again, he was quite wrong. Why are these duties upon certain articles of food in our existing fiscal system? They are there not for the purpose of Protection. They are there for the purpose of raising revenue. Before the adoption of Preference five years ago, none of these duties on food, objectionable as they are for other reasons from our point of view, had any protective character. But as soon as Preference was introduced they were given a protective character—not the protection of British industries, but Protection for the Dominions against the foreigner, and this was a particularly vicious form of Protection from the point of view of the British taxpayer. There might be something in the argument of the Protectionists—although I do not for a moment admit it—that some benefit might accrue to this country if it imposed a tariff for the protection of its own industry. But here we are imposing Protection, not for our benefit and advantage. We are taxing the people of this country, who derive no advantage from the protection, for the benefit of countries overseas. That is a vital difference and that is where the right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong in saying that these proposals could be adopted within our present fiscal system. Our present fiscal system of duties upon articles of food was for purposes of revenue, with no element of Protection whatever. The right hon. Gentleman said, when upon that point, that any Free Trader in the House could vote for these Resolutions without violat- 2251 ing his Free Trade principles. He can do no such thing, for two reasons. In the first place the immediate effect of the adoption of what the right hon. Gentleman called the very limited application of his principle would institute Protection, a thing for which no Free Trader will vote. The right hon. Gentleman appeared himself to have some doubt about that matter because his very next sentence was to the effect that these new Preference duties proposed would give an advantage to the Dominions. Quite right. An advantage would be given to them at the expense of an increase of taxation upon articles of food paid by the people of this country.
The right hon. Gentleman said—this point, I believe, has been dealt with by other speakers, but perhaps I may be able to throw a little new light upon it—that this question was not an issue at the last General Election. I am amazed that anybody who went through that General Election could make such a statement. The right hon. Gentleman himself, in his election address, said that for the purpose of his proposal, his general tariff scheme wasTo give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle of mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of our trade.[HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] Are hon. Members opposite cheering the statement that these Preferences "have already done so much for the expansion of our trade," or are they cheering my refutation of the ex-Prime Minister's statement that the question of Imperial Preference was not an issue at the last General Election? The right hon. Gentleman never made a speech during the Election in which he did not raise this question of Imperial Preference. On the eve of the Election he said:Our policy therefore is three-fold; at home to protect our own producers, masters and men, and to help our farmers and labourers to keep the land under the plough; abroad to negotiate for the conclusion of more favourable terms of exchange of commodities, and within the Empire to seek to quicken its development by means of Preference.With the exception of the Election immediately after the War, the party opposite for the last 20 years have always 2252 made this question of Imperial Preference one of the issues upon which they have fought, and I would remind them that since the time that the question of Imperial Preference was raised, in the whole of the 18 years which have elapsed since that banner was raised, they have only been in office 12 months. Every time that this issue has been clearly before the electors of this country it has been overwhelmingly rejected. More-over, when the party opposite took office, 18 months ago, they did so, it is true, with a majority of Members in this House, but they were elected by a comparatively small minority vote in the country.
May I congratulate hon. Members opposite, if they will permit me to do so, because I do it quite honestly, upon having on this occasion displayed a dexterity and cleverness which are usually absent from their political tactics? Their design has been to some extent, I understand, successful, and it may, perhaps, influence a few votes in the Division Lobby.
I do not know whether the regrettable absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not by the cynic to be explained by the fact that he too has been lured, I will not say into inconsistency, but I am afraid, from information which has been conveyed to me, though I do not vouch for its accuracy, even into passive inactivity in this Debate, for I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is paired in support of some of the Resolutions. The right hon. Gentleman has apparently changed his views as expressed from that quarter a little more than six months ago, and has now come to the opinion that, after all, the Empire may be saved by a tax on tinned crabs. I am surprised that there should be one Member sitting on this side of the House who has been beguiled by the apparent innocence of the first four Resolutions, and I do not believe that there is one of my hon. Friends sitting behind me who is so innocent as to rise to a book, a poisonous hook, which has been so attractively baited. This Resolution proposes a reduction in the duties upon certain food commodities from the Dominions. Yes, but upon what conditions? The ex-President of the 2253 Board of Trade said yesterday that all these Resolutions hang together. Yes, they will hang together.
Any Member of the House who is opposed to the principle of Protection, and who votes for these first four Resolutions, attractive though they may be, is irrevocably committing this country, not merely to the present proposals of Imperial Preference, but to what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put before the country at the last election. That is a general protective tariff. Those who may be attracted by the proposed reduction of these duties should remember that they involve the retention of those duties. They involve the retention of all duties levied upon foodstuffs coming from outside the Empire. Some hon. Members very candidly, but rather injudiciously, interrupted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley this afternoon with the observation that the Empire could be made self-supporting in 15 years' time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not by you!"] I will say a word about that point later, but I wish now to repeat that I have in this year's Budget made—as I claimed at the time when I made the announcement—the biggest reduction of duties upon food ever made at one single stroke, and I have done that in the hope of ultimately being able to abolish these food taxes altogether. If these Resolutions are carried—and do not forget that the Government have stated that any Resolutions which are carried by the House of Commons will be incorporated in the Finance Bill of the year—if these Resolutions are carried and incorporated in the Finance Bill of the year, then my hon. Friends behind me and hon. Members below the Gangway must bid farewell during their Parliamentary career to any hope of seeing those taxes removed.
Just a word or two on the point as to a self-supporting Empire. Only one-quarter of the sugar produced in the world is produced within the British Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Well we have, had Preference for nearly five years, and there has been no increase in the production of sugar within the Empire. Do hon. Members want the figures? I will give them. For this purpose I am sure hon. Members opposite would agree that India should be excluded because India has no available surplus for 2254 export. Take the Empire, and I do not wish to refer to years in which the production was affected one way or the other owing to War conditions. Take the year 1913–1914. Then the production of Empire sugar was 954,000 tons; last year it was 1,008,000 tons and the official estimate this year is 894,000 tons. Yet hon. Members talk about the British Empire being made self-supporting in 15 years' time. The production of tobacco in the Empire is only 7 per cent. of the total, and the value of the corn, wheat, maize and the like that we import from within the Empire only amounts to £37,000,000 a year.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Take the question of cotton, to which the ex-President of the Board of Trade referred yesterday. During the last 20 years stupendous efforts have been made to develop the growing of cotton within the British. Empire, yet in spite of all that has been done the greatest of our manufacturing industries has to rely, I will not say wholly but almost wholly—practically speaking—upon supplies from sources outside the British Empire. The right hon. Gentleman the ex-President of the Board of Trade gave us a dissertation yesterday upon the relative advantages of Preference and subsidies, and he put forward some very sound arguments against subsidies, arguments which I hope he will repeat when the question of giving subsidies to agricultural interests in this country comes to be discussed. If subsidies are not the way in which to get development of production in the cotton trade, then I suppose Preference is. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he proposes to stimulate the production of cotton within the Empire by means of a Preference, because a Preference can only be given by putting a tax upon a commodity which comes from without the British Empire?
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
The whole of my argument was that where you could proceed conveniently by Preference, it was cheaper and more effective than by subsidy, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman or anybody on those benches is going to reject the policy which the last Government carried out of developing cotton growing within the Empire.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am sure we shall not, and I may say that there are Members on this bench who have done a hundred times, a thousand times, more than the right hon. Gentleman or any other hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite to develop the Colonial cotton industry.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must ask the House for better order. The final speeches on both sides ought to be listened to.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument now. Preference is a principle not applicable to such an important commodity as cotton, but it is applicable to tinned crabs and things of that sort. Following upon that point, I would repeat our desire to do everything we can do to develop the resources of the Empire, but we oppose these Preference proposals because we believe that they will not have that effect. If I had the time I could put before the House irrefutable and convincing facts which would prove conclusively that five years' experience of these duties has not had that effect. I regret that the House was not quite so full as it is now when my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Vivian) dealt with the question of the assistance which has been given by the Mother Country to the Colonies and Dominions by means of loans for their development. That is a most important matter. Last year the Colonies or Dominions raised in this country, by Government loans alone, apart from money raised for ordinary commercial development, just under £70,000,000.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I do not think that is included; and the total amount of State loans held by the Dominions at the present time is just under £800,000,000. I submit that the fact that the London market is always ready to lend to our Colonies and Dominions for their development is giving to them an assistance and a help infinitely greater and more valuable than could be given by any system of Preference. Then we come to Migration. The Prime Minister referred to this matter this 2256 afternoon, and all I will say in addition to what he said is, that since this Government came into office, in addition to doing all that it had previously been proposed to do under the Empire Settlement Act, we have submitted to Australia a proposal by which, on loans up to the sum of £20,000,000, we will guarantee one-half of the interest for five years, and one-third of the interest for another five years for the purpose of assisting family emigration to Australia.
My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary referred yesterday to the discussion at the Imperial Conference on the question of a definite Economic Council of the Empire. We are submitting to all the Dominion Governments a proposal of a definite character under this head. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon made a suggestion, which was received with the most enthusiastic cheers from my hon. Friends sitting behind me. I believe it was last week that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs described the right hon. Gentleman as a Socialist. Well, his proposal is certainly one of the biggest Socialistic proposals I have ever heard, because, if I understand it aright, it is that the Government of Australia and the Government of this country shall conic into an arrangement by which the whole of the food products of the great Australian Commonwealth shall be sent to this country under the control of a Government organisation, and shall be distributed to the people of this country at a price only just sufficient to cover the working costs. In Government language, I may say that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal shall have our earnest consideration, and we have already gone some distance in that direction, because this is what we have proposed to the Dominions in regard to a permanent Economic Committee that it should be set up for the purpose of considering the possibility of improving the methods of preparing for market and of marketing within the United Kingdom the food products of the overseas parts of the Empire, with a view to increasing the consumption of such products in the United Kingdom, and promoting the interests of both producers and consumers. I do not hear any cheers from the benches opposite. Is their hostility against the taint of Socialism stronger 2257 than their desire to cement the parts of the Empire together? I must stop. I regret my time has been so limited. The Government, as I said in my Budget speech, are going to leave these Resolutions to the free vote of the House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The Government are honouring the pledge which was given at the Imperial Conference that these proposals should be submitted to the House, though every Member of the Government is going into the Lobby against them, and we shall do so feeling certain that, by the rejection of these proposals, we are not imperilling the existence of the Empire. On the contrary, let hon. Members opposite never forget—reference has been made more than once to the fact—that we lost one Empire by taxing the Colonies for the benefit of the Mother Country, and that, if this policy be adopted, we run a grave risk of losing another by taxing the Mother Country for the benefit of the Colonies. Let me bring my observations to a conclusion by quoting the words of one who is deservedly held in the highest respect by Members of all parties in this House. He said:The link which unites us, almost invisible as it is, and sentimental in its character, is one which we would gladly strengthen; at the same time it has proved itself to be so strong that certainly we would not wish to substitute for it a chain which might be galling in its incidence.It is because I believe those words, spoken by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, that I oppose these Resolutions.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I shall have to make a little demand, I am afraid, upon the patience of the House, for even if I am successful in being as brief as I should wish, I cannot hope to conclude at 11 o'clock. I hope the House will permit me to open my speech with a sentence or two of definition of my own position. I think it is true that in this matter frankness is, above all, required. I am a Protectionist and Preferentialist. From first to last I have regarded the preferential side of our policy as of infinitely greater consequence, and as making an infinitely greater appeal to our patriotism and our civic feeling than the merely protective side. But I stand here to-day as one who frankly recognises that, having more than once appealed to the country, with my 2258 party, on the Protectionist platform in favour of a general tariff, and having been defeated, it is impossible that a general tariff should be adopted so long as it is the policy of one party only in the State, and that it can only become a practical issue in our politics when, not the members of one party only, but the members of more than one party, have been driven by the force of events to a change of purpose and of view. I therefore speak to-night on the Resolutions which are before us without any arrière pensee and without any desire or belief that under cover of these Resolutions I can take the first step to a general Protectionist tariff.
I speak, and I think most hon. Members have spoken, with a grave sense of responsibility, for whatever view we take of the Resolutions, the issues which are at stake are of vital consequence.
Two of the right hon. Gentlemen who spoke, the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) said they could not lash themselves into any heat. That is unnecessary. Nor was it necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce a note of bitterness. It is interesting to observe the difference in the attitude of right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench. The Prime Minister was uneasy. He felt that the action that he was going to take had, at any rate, a sufficiently ungracious look to be easily capable of misrepresentation or of what he feels to be misrepresentation, to be easily capable of misunderstanding in the Dominions. He stood midway between the Colonial Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Colonial Secretary was not only uneasy, he was visibly, painfully, anxious. He was about as comfortable as a lobster in the pot with his claws tied up. The Colonial Secretary thought he was doing a very disagreeable thing, and he obviously did not like the task. The Prime Minister felt he was doing a necessary thing, but an ungracious thing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had got a disagreeable thing to do, and he loved doing it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is indeed a curious study. He is a Socialist grafted on to the narrowest type of mid-Victorian economic pedant. He belongs to that school which endangered our Empire in the middle of the last century by 2259 its indifference to all Colonial aspirations and its blindness to the possibilities of what is now the present but was then the future, and which is imperilling the Empire to-day by its pedantry. The right hon. Member for Paisley and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though they sit on different benches, belong to the same school, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley recognises it. What exactly are the conclusions to which their reasoning leads them? I take the illustration which the right hon. Member for Paisley was good enough to give us this afternoon. He was talking about currants. He told us that we made a treaty with Greece undertaking to reduce the duty on Greek currants, in return for which Greece was to give us a preference over our competitors. That, he said, is a perfectly proper thing to do, for whenever you make a treaty with a foreign nation you get a quid pro quo. That is what some of us have been saying. But observe! It is right and proper and it is in accordance with the pure milk of the truth which is held in the innermost tabernacle that you should make a treaty with a foreign country, promising a reduction of duty on condition of Preference; but it is wrong to make a similar agreement with your own countrymen across the seas. "Why," said the right hon. Gentleman, "Greece took £1,750,000 of our cottons and woollens in the year 1922, and that is worth all the currant trade in existence." But how much of our woollen and cotton goods did Australia take in the same year? I do not know, and in the short time I have had, I have not been able to get the figures. But I know this, that in that year Greece took, coal and shipping included, less than £4,000,000 of our goods, while Australia took over £60,000,000. But we may not do for Australia what we rightly do for Greece!
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley had spoken the last word in this Debate, I should indeed despair, but I think there is much to give those who share my views hope for the future. This controversy is emerging from the party stage. It is not only we on these benches who are for Preference. We had first the speech of 2260 my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely). Then we had the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher), and we had also the very remarkable speech of the hon. Member for North Southwark (Dr. H. Guest). It is quite true that they do not go all the way with us, but all of them—yes, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), to whose consistency on this question since he adopted the Resolutions of 1917, and to whose courage in acting as he has done in the present circumstances, I wish to pay my tribute—they and others, it is true, have not gone the whole way with us, but at any rate they wish to show a sympathy with the aspirations and an understanding of the feeling of reciprocity and goodwill of our fellow subjects in the Dominions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who sits next to him (Sir J. Simon) and others say, and say truly, that it is wrong to suggest that we do nothing for the Dominions. I would add quite frankly, and I hope without offence, that for my part I think they might do more than they have done yet for the common good of the whole Empire. But when these right hon. Gentlemen and others say, "What can they want more of us than they have at present? Do we not give them access to the freest market in the world?" I ask myself, Have these right hon. Gentlemen ever applied their minds to understand the point of view of our Dominion citizens? My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, like myself, is a married man, but would he offer as a proof of his affection the observation, "My dear, my heart is as open to you as to all the world"? That really is the constructive contribution of those right hon. Gentlemen to Imperial unity.
Thank goodness, the Government have gone further. May I say that as regards the proposals explained by the Prime Minister, we on this side most heartily welcome them, and we will do everything we can for them, and we shall not be grudging in our congratulations if the right hon. Gentleman brings them to a successful issue. But why because you 2261 are willing to advance on that ground should you not be willing to advance on other lines? Why should one good deed exclude another? What is the objection which is used to justify a refusal of any dealing with Preference. Let me at this point pause to say that the Prime Minister, for reasons which are obvious, and with a handling which was more skilful than the blunter appeal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to persuade his followers that all these Resolutions inevitably hung together, and that they could not vote for one without in fact being committed to another. When did that become his view? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall) read a very brief quotation earlier in the evening, with which I must trouble hon. Members opposite, now that they are assembled in greater numbers. It occurs in the "Labour Year-Book" of 1924. It sets forth these Resolutions, and it goes on to observe:It will be seen that these proposals fall into two parts. Those relating to dried figs"—that is the short title, so to speak, which they give to the first Resolution—raisins, plums and tobacco, propose to reduce existing duties on imports from the Dominions. They are, therefore, unobjectionable, inasmuch as their effect is to lighten the burden of food taxation.The House will naturally ask under what authority this is issued. It is issued by the General Council of the Trade Union Congress and the National Executive of the Labour party, and they were fortunate enough to secure a foreword from the Prime Minister, which exactly defines the scope of the work, the ambitions of its promoters, and the purposes for which it should be employed.It has been produced"—says the Prime Minister—It has been produced with an eye to immediate use in the day-to-day work of the trade union office, the committee room, and the debating chamber. Its chief value lies"—this is delightful—Its chief value lies in the use that is made of it.Really, the party opposite owe me something for the value that I am giving to the work.Its chief value lies in the use that is made of it, and the best test of its value is whether it contains the information our 2262 people want as propagandists, negotiators and spokesmen of the Labour movement.Why has the right hon. Gentleman repudiated what he wrote so short a time ago? What prevents him from holding now, as he did when he wrote that foreword, that these four Resolutions, at any rate, were innocuous—were, rather, beneficial? Why did he not advise his propagandists, his spokesmen, and his committeemen, to say so on every platform and on every occasion? What is the argument which they offer for refusing any consideration to any one of these Resolutions, whether they reduce taxation or whether they impose it? I can deal with it only in the broadest outline; I cannot go into details. The argument is that the preference which the Dominions give is of no use to us. That is the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. How many manufacturers will he find in this country who will thank him if he secures the removal of the Preferences already established? More, if the Dominions to-morrow presented this Government with an ultimatum that every preference would be taken off if no response were made, would that Government dare to take the consequences of a refusal?
Then, says the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley, this Dominion Preference is really a very hollow sham; they build a high wall, then they knock out a brick or two and call that Preference. Let us try to understand it. We are in agreement in all parts of the House that each self-governing unit of the Empire settles its own fiscal policy, decides its own tariffs, imposes its own taxes, and makes what arrangements it likes for its own trade and commerce. We who hold preferential views are well aware that for any time that we can contemplate as practical men speaking at this moment, the Dominions will be Protectionist and will not allow established industries in their countries to be crushed by competition, even from Great Britain. But what they are prepared to do is to give us a preference wherever they need to buy goods from outside. Observe, in the first place, that there are cases where there is no tariff against us. Something like £10,000,000 of our merchandise goes into Australia free of all tariff, when competitors have to pay tariffs of 15, 20 and even 30 per cent. Even when there is a wall, is the preference no 2263 advantage to us? Is there any business man in the House who will say that it is no advantage to us that where a man cannot supply himself he will buy from us rather than from anybody else? It is that which constitutes the real goodwill of a business and is one of the most valuable of assets. Then the Free Traders complete their case by saying that our Preference is of no use to the Dominions. Really, cannot we allow the Dominion Prime Ministers to know a little about their own business? Is it not possible that the Prime Minister of Australia is better informed about the prospects of the Murray River scheme than even the right hon. Gentleman opposite?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I said that, as against the Australian Prime Minister, Australians who knew the Murray River very intimately differed from him.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
In every country you can find people who disagree with the Government, but I should not have thought that the Prime Minister would have allowed himself to be made their representative in this House in criticism of the strongly declared and closely reasoned opinion of the Prime Minister of Australia.
There is the further argument that the Preference which they give to us is of advantage to them, but that the Preference which we give to them is of no advantage to us. That is, of course, an argument from the Free Trade point of view. As a tariff is bad, any lowering of a tariff is good, except when it occurs in these Resolutions. Therefore, Australia or Canada benefits by Preference given to us, but we do not benefit by any Preference that we give to them. I am not going to argue it on narrow ground. In the first of these Resolutions we actually secure a reduction instead of an increase, of duties on products coming into this country. But surely it is a much bigger question than that. If we give a Preference to Australia, we create, or enlarge, a market for their produce. By so doing we increase their wealth, their capacity for development, their power to absorb a greater population, and as those results accrue in Australia we get the effect of them in an increased demand. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the price goes up!"] It cannot go up when 2264 we reduce the duties. I cannot develop the argument about prices, but it will be sufficient for me to say that when the hon. Member goes to a trade union, threatening to strike for an increase of wages, and tells them that they must not do that because the consequence will be an increase of price to the community, I shall be ready to argue out the whole question with him.
Underlying these purely economic arguments is another and, to my mind, a greater one. It is said on the other side that the Empire must be united, but cannot be united by any material means. It must be united in spirit The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs (Captain W. Benn) is never tired of quoting a not very happy phrase of mine about a spiritual link and saying it is not a spiritual link. I do not justify the phrase. I do not think I usually screech in my public speeches, and if I rose to that high note I must have been very tired at the time. I think there was some justification for it, for, if I recall the circumstances rightly, I was listening to the same speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the 12th time in succession. I would ask him, and I would ask those who have taken the same line, are material links with the Dominions and the outer Empire really of no consequence? As time passes differences must arise now and again between even the best of friends. Divergencies of interest are inevitable from time to time among so complex and so diverse a collection of nations as those which form the British Empire. Ought we not to try to build like the architects of our old cathedrals so that strain is met by counter-strain and thrust by counterthrust, so that when some of these material forces pull divergently others may still hold us together?
But if you neglect the material side altogether, what about the moral side? The British Empire is a very wonderful thing. It comprises many races. It spreads into five Continents. It is separated by thousands of miles of ocean. We are occupied in many different ways, often knowing little about what one another are doing, and yet, when the electric wires flashed the word "war" across the cables the Empire was of one mind. Those communities, big or little, came at once to our aid in that great 2265 struggle. [AN HON. MEMBER: Not by "Preference."] Is the hon. Member, or is any hon. Member certain that the result would not have been different, if the old indifferences of the sixties and seventies had continued to prevail, and if a man had not arisen 30 years ago to remove the stigma which lay on Downing Street, to persuade the nations of the Empire that we value them, that we respect them, and that we feel ourselves one with them? It was that moral spirit; it was that new movement in English public life which made possible that response in the Great War, which called forth that response in the Great War, which the leaders of the party below the Gangway opposite would not have dared to prophesy in the 80's. Indeed, the late Lord Morley, when Mr. Deakin sent troops from New South Wales to the Sudan in 1882, wrote that never again in our time should we see Colonial troops meddling in a quarrel which is no concern of theirs. What has changed that? The new spirit here at home. In the early days of the War the right hon. Member for Paisley said that the War had opened our eyes. Why does he close them again? He announced, with ceremony, that he had appointed a Committee under Lord Balfour of Burleigh. Why does he neglect all its recommendations? When the long months of 1917 were dragging their fateful course, the Imperial Conference, with all parties represented, passed the Resolution for a common Preference which is now to be made a dead letter. What has happened?
§ What is happening? We have removed one Preference by removing the McKenna Duties. We have lessened the Preferences on almost all the Duties touched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget, and now we are to refuse, even when we could do it by reduction of taxation, to adopt any one of these Resolutions.
§ The Prime Minister is wont to talk about a generous gesture. What sort of gesture does he make to the Dominions? If he will not stretch out his hand do not let him turn a cold shoulder. Lord Milner once said to a Canadian audience that when he thought of the British Empire he did not wish to go out into the streets and to shout, but into his closet to pray. I pray that in our dealings with the Empire we may be given not only the admiration and respect and the friendship which is the common possession of us all, but that we may be given that understanding of their minds and that sympathy with their hopes without which the rest is futile.
That this House, having taken into consideration the proposals with respect to tariff Preference for Empire goods which His Majesty's late Government intimated at the Imperial Economic Conference in 1923 that they intended to submit to Parliament, is of opinion that the following dried fruits now subject to duty, that is to say, figs, raisins, plums, and currants, should, if of Empire origin, be free from all import duties on importation into Great Britain.
§ The House divided Ayes, 272; Noes, 278.2269
|Division No. 98.]||AYES.||11 26 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Betterton, Henry B.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R.(Prtsmth.S.),|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col, Sir William James||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Apsley, Lord||Blundell, F. N.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. A.(Birm.,W.)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bourne, Robert Croft||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. (Ladywood)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Chilcott, Sir Warden|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brass, Captain W.||Church, Major A. G.|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Baldwin, Ht. Hon. Stanley||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Clayton, G. C.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Brittain, Sir Harry||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Buckingham, Sir H.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cohen, Major J. Brunel|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Bullock, Captain M.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Burman, J. B.||Cope, Major William|
|Becker, Harry||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Butt, Sir Alfred||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South),|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Caine, Gordon Hall||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Cassels, J. D.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Berry, Sir George||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Rentoul, G.S.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Jephcott, A. R.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kedward, R. M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)|
|Dixey, A. C.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Dixon, Herbert||Lamb, J. Q.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Lane-Fox, George R.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Savery, S. S.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Ednam, Viscount||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Seely, Rt. Hn. Maj.-Gen. J. E. B.(I.of W.)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Locker, Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Sexton, James|
|Elliot, Walter E.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Elveden, Viscount||Lorimer, H. D.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lumley, L. R.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lyle, Sir Leonard||Sinclair, Col. T.(Oueen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Ferguson, H.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||M'Connell, Thomas E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|FitzRoy, Capt. Rt. Hon. Edward A.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Iverness)||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||MacDonald, R.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||McLean, Major A.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Gates, Percy||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Stanley, Lord|
|Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gould, James C. (Cardiff, Central)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Melier, R. J.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M||Moles, Thomas||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Guest, Capt. Hn. F. E.(Gloucstr., Stroud)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A.C. (Honiton)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Nesbitt, Robert C.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Tichfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F.(Dulwich)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Turton,Edmund Russborough|
|Harland, A.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfieid)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Waddington, R.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Norton-Griffiths, Sir John||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Harvey, C.M.B.(Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wells, S. R.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pease, William Edwin||Weston, John Wakefield|
|Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Pennefather, Sir John||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Penny, Frederick George||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Perring, William George||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Philipson, Mabel||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Raine, W.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Rankin, James S.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peer||Wragg, Herbert|
|Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, Northn.)||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hughes, Collingwood||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Remer, J. R.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Remnant, Sir James||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Barclay, R. Noton||Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Barnes, A.||Brunner, Sir J.|
|Alden, Percy||Batey, Joseph||Buckle, J.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Burnie, Major J, (Bootle)|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Birkett, W. N.||Cape, Thomas|
|Alstead, R.||Black, J. W.||Chapple, Dr. William A.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bondfield, Margaret||Charleton, H. C.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Bonwick, A.||Clarke, A.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Climle, R.|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Cluse, W. S.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Briant, Frank||Clynes, Right Hon. John R.|
|Baker, Walter||Broad, F. A.||Collins, Patrick (Walsall)|
|Banton, G.||Bromfield, William||Compton, Joseph|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Keens, T.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cory, Sir Clifford||Kennedy, T.||Royle, C.|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenyon, Barnet||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lansbury, George||Scurr, John|
|Crittall, V. G.||Laverack, F. J.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Darblshire, C. W.||Law, A.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, John James||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Leach, W.||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtort)|
|Dickson, T.||Lee, F.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Dodds, S. R.||Lessing, E.||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Dukes, C.||Lindley, F. W.||Smillie, Robert|
|Duncan, C.||Linfield, F. C.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Livingstone, A. M.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Dunnico, H.||Loverseed, J. F.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lowth, T.||Snell, Harry|
|Egan, W. H.||Lunn, William||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||McCrae, Sir George||Spence, R.|
|Falconer, J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R, (Aberavon)||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Finney, V. H.||McEntee, V. L.||Spoor, B. G.|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Macfadyen, E||Stamford, T. W.|
|Foot, Isaac||Mackinder, W.||Starmer, Sir Charles|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Stewart, Maj. R. S.(Stockton-on-Tees)|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Maden, H.||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Gibbins, Joseph||March, S.||Sullivan, J.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Marley, James||Sunlight, J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Terrington, Lady|
|Gorman, William||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Gosling, Harry||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Middleton, G.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Millar, J. D.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Mills, J. E.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Greenall, T.||Mitchell, R.M.(Perth & Kinross, Perth)||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mond, H.||Thurtle, E.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Montague, Frederick||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morel, E. D.||Toole, J.|
|Groves, T.||Morris, R. H.||Tout, W. J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Morse, W. E.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mosley, Oswald||Varley, Frank B.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Viant, S. P.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Muir, John W.||Vivian, H.|
|Harbison, Thomas James S.||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Hardie, George D.||Murray, Robert||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Harney, E. A.||Murrell, Frank||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Naylor, T. E.||Warne, G. H.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Nixon, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Oliver, George Harold||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Hastings, Sir Patrick||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Owen, Major G.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Paling, W.||Weir, L. M.|
|Hemmerde, E. G.||Palmer, E. T.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Westwood, J.|
|Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Perry, S. F.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Henderson, W. W.(Middlesex, Enfield)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Hindle, F.||Phillipps, Vivian||Wignall, James|
|Hirst, G. H.||Pilkington, R. R.||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Hobhouse, A. L.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Potts, John S.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hodges, Frank||Pringle, W. M. R.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)|
|Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Raffan, P. W.||Williams, Maj. A.S.(Kent,Sevenoaks)|
|Hudson, J. H.||Raffety, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Willison, H.|
|Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Rathbone, Hugh R.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Raynes, W. R.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Jewson, Dorothea||Rea, W. Russell||Windsor, Walter|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Richards, R.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ritson, J.||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Wright, W.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Robertson, T. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)||Mr. Andrew Young and Major|
|Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartiepools)||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)||McKenzie Wood.|
|Kay, Sir R. Newbold||Romeril, H. G.|