§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Burton Chadwick)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
It may be well for me to call the attention of the House for a few moments to one or two points that appear to me to have been rather obscured during the Debates in this House and in Committee. The marking of merchandise has been a subject of consideration for a number of years. Very careful examination has been given to the subject by specially appointed Committees, notably the Merchandise Marks Committee. That Committee reported in 1920, and its recommendations form the basis of this Bill. We were reinforced again by the opinion of the Imperial Economic Committee. All through these Reports the view which exists is expressed in a statement by the Imperial Economic Committee—that as between goods of the same quality and price the consumer would undoubtedly select Empire produce.In another sentence the Committee say:Here we are concerned with the consumer, and with the method by which he may be given a chance of exercising discrimination in favour of Empire products. In this matter the initiative must, from the nature of the case, lie with the consumer and not with the producer.Those two conditions, namely, what we conceive to be the wish of the people and the opportunity to exercise discrimination, the initiative for which must come from the consumer, are the foundations on which this Bill has been drafted. I think it is well to draw attention to those two points in order to clear away what I may describe as the fog of economics. That fog has been allowed, in a measure, to obscure the main issue during the progress of the Bill until today. The main line of attack of the Opposition has been, first, that the administration of the Act will cause obstruction or diversion of trade, that it will cause inconvenience resulting in a rise of prices, and, generally, that it is a full-blooded Protectionist Measure. It 434 is nothing of the kind. As I understand Protection there is no Protection in the Bill. It is what I would call an enlightening Bill. It may be that if enlightenment of this kind is needed it is the highest form of Protection because it gives an opportunity for self-protection.
I have been twitted during these Debates with making short speeches. I make short speeches because I am not a good speaker, but I try to put into my speeches what is germane to the subject and to confine myself to that, and not to repeat myself. I am going to maintain my reputation, and, therefore, I shall not make a long speech to-day. In conelusion—[Interruption]. I have listened for weeks to the arguments of the Opposition, particularly those arguments which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), who has so courageously led this attack. I have listened to his closely reasoned analytical treatment of all this subject with that pleasure which one always experiences when listening to a dialectical master, but I have been conscious of a sadness that has run through all that he has said. He has deliberately and persistently attacked the Bill as he would have attacked a Protectionist Measure. Throughout the Debate he has used the arguments which have become to him a habit. But he has been conscious—and this is what has made him so sad—that for the first time in his distinguished career we are doing something which, so far as the provisions of the Bill are applied at any rate, removes entirely from his hands the decision which has to be made and puts the choice into the hands of the people of the country to exercise as they think fit in the ordinary activity of their trading and shopping as they buy their goods across the counter of the shops. That is a solemnising thought viewed as he views it. I can imagine that from his standpoint it is a very solemnising thought that he and those who think like he does will no longer in this respect be able to lead, or, if I may respectfully say so, mislead, the people of the country, because public opinion will unconsciously take its own initiative. He has put his objections to the Bill on the ground that the administration will be cumbersome and difficult. I do not believe for a moment that in 435 his heart he has any anxiety about the administration. The Bill will be applied cautiously with all the opportunities for caution that are provided in its Clauses, and I am perfectly sure that it will be administered effectively.
§ Mr. WEBB
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day three months."
I am sorry that I am not able to respond in kind to the hon. Member's genial observations. He has really suggested that he has had quite enough of me. I regret, in view of the fact that the Measure to which we are asked to give a Third Reading is not by any means the Measure to which the House gave a Second Reading some months ago, that it will be necessary to invite the House to deal with it at greater length than would have been reasonable had the whole Bill been submitted on Second Reading. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we may be relieved to know that the decision is to be remitted to the people of this country. I am glad to have his prophetic utterance that the people, when it is remitted to them, will decide as to the continuance of this legislation. I did not expect the hon. Gentleman to invite us to a General Election in these terms, but we shall be glad to take up the challenge and ask the people of the country to decide these questions, on which, with too much generosity, he seemed to think I had been previously deciding. I am sorry to say that no jurisdiction was ever committed to me regarding merchandise marks, or Protection, and I cannot take any responsibility for previous legislation or administration.
I said that we should necessarily have to give some longer attention to the Bill on this occasion than might otherwise have been necessary because of the changes in the Measure. I cannot say exactly how much has been added to the Bill, but, so far as I can make out, the Bill, as submitted on Second Reading, included only about 300 lines, whereas the Bill, as it now stands with the additions made yesterday, seems to me to reach nearly 600 lines. The Bill, therefore, has been almost, if not quite, doubled in size since it was introduced by the Government. What is more, it 436 has been doubled in size very largely because of the enormous number of Amendments which the two right hon. Gentlemen in charge of it have felt it necessary to add to the draft which represented the considered opinion of the Government when it was introduced. The Amendments, great and small, moved on behalf of the Government must have numbered pretty well 200, but quite as conspicuous as the additions by the Government have been the omissions made at the instance of the Government. Some of the most important Clauses which were laid before the House as being in the opinion of the Government necessary and desirable in the interests of the trade of the country and in the interests of the consumers have now been omitted at the request of the Government itself. I think we are entitled to comment on the wavering policy of the Government, under the criticism to which the Bill has been subjected. The Parliamentary Secretary said that this was an enlightening Bill. I do not know whether the amount of enlightenment has been doubled now that the size of the Bill has been doubled, but I am afraid I do not myself find it any more easy to understand now that it is twice its original length than I did before. It may be that I am incapable of enlightenment on the subject, but I do suggest that the people outside will scarcely be any more enlightened than I have been.
Let me turn to a happier note. I can warmly congratulate, I will not say the Government, but the officials at the Board of Trade on this Bill. As an old civil servant, I am filled with admiration at the toil and assuidity which the Board of Trade, as apart from the President and the Parliamentary Secretary, have devoted to this subject for seven years, and at the skill with which, apart from the policy—with which naturally they have nothing to do—they have surmounted the innumerable difficulties attendant on the proposals of the Government, and have at last got a Measure which a Government with such a strong majority have been able to get through the House of Commons. I really believe, apart from the subject matter of the Bill, that that is no mean achievement, not only on the part of the Department, but of the officials who have had so much to do with it. I can congratulate the Board of Trade in that respect on the 437 skill with which they have carried out the policy imposed upon them.
The House ought not, in my judgment, to congratulate the Government upon the policy which they have imposed upon the Board of Trade. It may be an enlightening Bill, but I am justified at this moment in expressing my opinion of the policy, and I am bound to say that I consider this—and I choose my words—a vicious Bill, a vicious Bill not as regards its ostensible object, because I am prepared to agree that the ostensible objects of the Bill are in many respects quite laudable. In so far as it represents a Measure to prevent and punish fraud I have no objection to it, and I do not think anyone on these benches would object to it, and, along with fraud, very properly goes what has been called latent fraud, which is very much the same thing, and misrepresentation, which falls somewhat short of fraud. If the Bill merely did that, there would be nothing to object to. We might even have a beneVolent feeling towards the Bill in so far as I understand it is intended to convey enlightenment to the harmless but necessary consumer by letting him know the countries from which the goods which he buys come. But, as a matter of fact, that is hardly the whole of the Bill. We on these benches have no quarrel with the Bill, so far as these ostensible objects are concerned. Personally, I look back with regret to the time when John Bright in this House, referring to a Measure of Merchandise Marks, promoted, I suppose, by the Board of Trade to prevent and penalise adulteration, was betrayed in his haste into the observation that, after all, adulteration was only one form of competition. We have nothing to do with that state of mind to-day, I think, perhaps, in any quarter of the House. Certainly, I have no sympathy with Free Trade in so far as Free Trade means the adoption of such methods of competition.
Unfortunately, the ostensible objects of the Bill, as it seems to us, are not the only objects, and perhaps not even the main or chief objects of the Bill. On the one hand part of the Bill deals with what is euphemistically called agricultural or horticultural produce, and if we look back at the history of these proposals during the last few years, we see that the desire of the agriculturist has been for 438 the exclusion of foreign products which come into competition with his own products, at least so far as that exclusion was practicable. I have not heard anybody propose to exclude foreign wheat, though as a matter of fact many people would like to exclude foreign flour. I have not heard that anybody wants to exclude foreign apples, though there are a great many people who would like to limit the importation of foreign apples. I cannot help feeling that the desire of the agricultural producer—I hope he will not be offended—is for scarcity, because that is the time when he receives what he considers a remunerative price for his produce. He has tried within my recollection a tax on imported foodstuffs. That did not commend itself to the people of the country. It does not at the present time commend itself to the Government, though it commends itself to many people who support the Government.
When the desire for taxes on food could not be gratified, another useful weapon was found, and that was the Regulations dealing with diseases in animals and vegetables. Of course, it is perfectly right to try and preserve the flocks and plants of the country from disease, though it does not follow that every method taken to achieve that end was justified. If we go back a little further, we see that we put our faith for a long time in quarantine for preserving human beings from disease. This country has become sufficiently enlightened not to believe in quarantine as regards human beings. We have found more excellent ways. So I suggest that it is possible to carry the idea of quarantine as a protection against disease too far. But when that has been exhausted, when there can no longer be put up the fence of a tariff or a Regulation to preserve our herds and flocks from disease, there is the third fence of merchandise marks. That is the fence which is being offered to the agriculturists of this country by the Government as something which will be to their financial good.
The Bill does not originate with the agriculturist alone. There is the manufacturer who wants to get rid of his rivals abroad and to prevent the importation of substitutes or alternatives for his goods, which may be offered at a price lower than that at which he is pro- 439 ducing. We have seen in this particular attempt, which therein differs from most of the previous attempts, the union—I think I may say the inconvenient union—of the agricultural interest with the manufacturing interest, both seeking to get what they severally want in one Measure. It is to that union that one may attribute a large part of the complications and intricacies of the Bill and the difficulties in connection with the drafting. We have a further element in this Bill, namely, the desire of our friends in the Dominions for a larger share in what is called the home market. They failed to get very far in the direction of Preference because, as Mr. Joseph Chamberlain told the nation some years ago, it involved taxation of food. The attempt in that direction having failed, it is now sought to exploit—the Parliamentary Secretary referred to this himself, though not in these terms—the sentimental preference for British goods or British Empire goods as against foreign goods. I have nothing against that sentiment, but I do not think it will prove a statistically important factor in the position. Still, all these things together unite to produce a Measure which will, in fact, have a tendency, greater or smaller, to hamper and discourage foreign imports.
It is in this attempt to discourage foreign imports that we find the union of all these three sentiments out of which the Bill has proceeded. I am not saying that these sentiments are criminal. I am not saying that these feelings are wrong or, at any rate, unexpected. We must expect these things and, as I say, the ostensible objects of the Bill are in themselves laudable. But I want to come to the consideration of a very good Conservative doctrine as to the necessity of looking at these matters "with a single eye." It is quite possible, we are told, to do things with very good intentions, but unless they are done "with a single eye," even good intentions may be turned to evil. I suggest that the defect of this Bill, the crime or rather the vice of this Bill and of the policy of the Government, is that they have pursued their ostensible objects not "with a single eye." That is to say, underlying all this Measure there is the desire for the exclusion of foreign imports as foreign imports because for reasons which seem good to hon. Members opposite they do not like 440 foreign imports. That is not pursuing the ostensible object of the Bill "with a single eye," and I think to some extent it vitiates the whole procedure.
Enough about the origins of the Bill. I ask myself now what will be the effect upon the trade and industry of this country of this Measure if it is passed into law? I think it is fair to assume that it will be honestly and reasonably administered with all the skill, patience and caution to which we are accustomed from our Civil Service, and also that it will be, in general, effectively administered. What will be the result? I think it quite clear that there will be under this Bill a certain increase in the expenses of the traders of this country in almost every department. I am putting this point very cautiously and moderately. I am not saying it will be an enormous expense, but I think it cannot be doubted that the effect of the Bill must be to increase the expense of carrying on business in this country. Thus there is a burden in that respect on the commercial classes. Then there will be increased delay in the Customs. I think we do not realise what a difficult thing it is to maintain our Customs service even under present arrangements. The difficulty is that one meets, from moment to moment, a constantly fluctuating Volume of goods which have to be passed through the Customs, and unless the Customs maintain an enormous staff capable of dealing expeditiously with gluts, there are bound to be serious delays at the period of such gluts. That difficulty will be intensified and increased by this Measure, and it will be particularly bad in regard to perishable goods, or the large class of perishable goods which deteriorate with every moment of delay, and perish absolutely even where there is only reasonable Customs delay. Of course the delay, in itself, will be an additional source of expense even in regard to goods which are not perishable.
The third effect of this Bill will be to interfere with and occasioNally prevent our commercial firms from taking advantage of opportunities for advantageous purchases. I do not suppose the House realises—I do not think I realise it adequately or in detail—to what an extent that amount of competition which keeps 441 prices down as low as they ought to be, depends on the power of those who serve us by importing to take up advantageous bargains here, there and everywhere all over the world, as circumstances permit. The level of prices in different parts of the world is always changing, and if you are shut up to one part of the world, if you are confined as to importation, if you are not able to take advantage of the fluctuating level of prices in the different markets, it means that the average level of the price at which you buy will be increased. That is quite evidently going to be one of the results of this Measure if it is effectively put into operation.
The next effect is that it must necessarily, to some extent—I will not say how much—hamper and interfere with British entrepot trade, that is, the British trade in goods which are imported here merely in order to be exported again to other countries. To hon. Members opposite this may seem an unworthy occupation, but it runs into something very nearly £200,000,000 a year. The amount definitely notified is £165,000,000, but there is more than that because much is sent abroad in this way which is not included in that calculation. We may take the Volume of this trade as being anything between £165,000,000 and £200,000,000 a year, which means a considerable profit to this country and the employment of a considerable amount of labour. It will mean something serious to the shipping industry if that trade is interfered with and if goods, instead of coming to London or Liverpool on their way to somewhere else, are sent direct from the country of production to the country of destination. It is common knowledge that in spite of all the Department has done to mitigate the evil effects of the Bill in this respect it must necessarily interfere to some extent with that entrepot trade. I think, as a matter of fact, that if the Bill were effectively put into force in this respect it would interfere considerably with this trade. This is one point on which, as it seems to me, the Bill is destined to prove ineffective but, in so far as it is put into force, it will have the effect I have indicated.
Then there is the further point on which I have failed to convince the Parliamentary Secretary, although I have tried to do so. The Bill cannot fail to interfere with our purchases in the 442 foreign entrepot market. It will interfere with the purchase of goods for this country, which may have come into foreign entrepot markets, not origiNally intended for this country. The goods may have been intended for some other country or they may come to the market without any intended destination at all. Thus, again, the average level of prices will go up. I give as an instance the case of Basle, one of these foreign entrepot markets to which goods are sent from all that part of Europe. Goods come from various countries to Basle there to be sold and re-sorted and sent to various destinations. Under the requirements of the Bill goods which arrive in Basle unmarked cannot be bought for this country except at the additional expense of having them unpacked, marked and re-packed. Whole trainloads of particular commodities are bought at Basle for the British market when favourable opportunities arise. These goods were perhaps never intended origiNally for this country and might otherwise have gone to Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam or other centres of population. They are picked up for England, but it will not he possible any longer to pick up such goods for England on advantageous terms if the British importer has to meet the requirement of "marking upon importation," as it called, which can only be satisfied in the way I have described. That is only one instance. There are other foreign entrepot markets, none of which is described in any book I have ever read, but they are very real things in the organisation of the trade of the world.
Now I come to the manufacturer. The manufacturer will find the effect of this Measure in the requirements which it makes regarding his raw material. There is a naive idea that you can distinguish between those things which are raw material needed for our manufacture and those things which are themselves the products of manufacture. The enmity of hon. Members on the other side appears to be reserved for those articles of foreign production which they fondly imagine to be manufactured articles. But, as a matter of fact, the British manufacturer uses all sorts of foreign imports as raw material for his own industry. I take the instance of leather—a characteristic item—which is in itself 443 a manufactured article and for which Protection has been sought and will be sought. Leather now comes in unmarked, but there will be great animosity in regard to leather under this Measure, and leather is a raw material serving an enormous number of English industries. There is also the case of component parts which come in here and are made up in this country into articles of British manufacture. These are all hit, or may be hit, by the Bill if it is put into operation effectively.
Much more serious than all this is the very grave peril into which the Measure throws the whole Lancashire and Yorkshire textile industry. The habit in these industries—there are good and sufficient reasons for it—is when the yarn is spun in England and the cloth is in England, the cloth is sent to Germany or France to undergo the processes of bleaching, dying or finishing. It then comes back to this country to be re-exported as British to all parts of the world. This is a big industry, with which even the Parliamentary Secretary will be very loth to interfere. It is an industry on which the shipping industry very largely depends. It appears that under the Measure when this cloth comes back, having been dyed or bleached or finished abroad, an Order may be made requiring it to be marked—marked, I suppose, either "Foreign manufacture," or "Foreign," or "Foreign dyed," or "Foreign bleached," and so on. It may not stop there, and it may say, Dyed in the best possible manner, in the first-rate factories of Germany," or something like that. Then Lancashire will be asked to export that to India, China, and all over the world, with what will amount to a clear invitation to the trade that that business should be done direct, and that they should not come to England at all. If the apprehension of that peril does not provoke a certain anxiety in the minds of Lancashire and West Riding Members, I can only say they are not quite in sympathy with the spirit of the people whom they represent, and I think we shall hear a lot more about that.
Again, there is the very grave peril, as I venture to think it, of provoking measures of retaliation from other countries, which also entertain the desire to be self-sufficient and which also prefer 444 to exclude what they call foreign imports, namely, our imports. We have had a very remarkable manifestation of that during the last few weeks in the case of Italy, where measures are actually being taken very seriously to discourage what they call foreign imports, with special reference to imports from this country and, it is alleged, with special reference to legislation of the nature of this Merchandise Marks Bill. Hon. Members opposite, I think, cherish that idea of a self-sufficing country with regard to the British Empire. At any rate, some of them have expressed their desire that we should make ourselves as far as possible self-sufficing, and they cannot complain, therefore, if other nations cherish the same aspiration and desire to make themselves self-sufficing as far as possible. And what is the end of that? The end of that is that each country is fencing itself round with barriers, whether tariff or legislative, whether by Merchandise Marks Acts or Safeguarding of Industries Acts, and you have the whole world divided up into self-sufficing countries, with, as it seems to me, an inevitable diminution of productive capacity and an inevitable diminution in the standard of life of the whole world.
We, on this side, have another and a brighter vision. We see rather the desirability of getting rid of all these barriers between nations, instead of attempting to multiply them. I wonder what the great shipping industry thinks of this Bill, and I wonder, after all, what the great capitalists and financiers think of it, for it cannot be said that this Measure is a step in the direction of getting rid of barriers to trade. On the contrary, its glory is that it is a step in the direction of making this country and the British Empire self-sufficing. I summit that that is a retrograde step, which ought not to be taken unless for the very gravest reasons and, at any rate, only to the extent to which proved evils demand it.
It may be said that all this is mere alarmist agitation on my part, mere foolish fancy on the part of one who knows nothing about business, and so on. I own to having a very modest knowledge on this subject, but the people concerned seem to be pretty well alarmed. During the passage of this Bill through 445 this House we have been bombarded with representations in one form or another, verbal and printed, from bodies like the London Chamber of Commerce. [An HON. Member: "A section of it."] My hon. Friend makes a mistake; not by a section of it, but by the whole of the London Chamber of Commerce. It is true that at the beginning, when the Bill was half its present length, and was entirely different in form, the chamber was in two minds about it, but as the Bill rofled on in Committee, and as one piece after another was added to it, and one safeguard after another was taken away, until the Measure became practically twice as big, then the whole of the London Chamber of Commerce, unanimously, communicated with every Member, and gave reasons for their fear. They may be wrong, but it is not my fear—it is not I who am particularly alarmed.
Again, are the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in favour of this Bill? As a matter of fact, one hon. Member who represents Liverpool, who is unfortunately laid up with sickness, mentioned to me that he was going to vote with us against the Government on this particular Measure—I do not say on all crucial points. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce, who probably know more about it than the London Chamber, are alarmed about this Bill, and there are other associations of one kind and another who have been bombarding us in reference to the Bill. They may be wrong and foolish, but, at any rate, it is not my foolishness or my wrongness, and hon. Members know very well that they will have the greatest possible difficulty in explaining to those interests concerned that their fears are groundless. What they fear is that there will be an extra expense to business in this country. They fear that it will mean a check on the export trade of this country, and that it will be accompanied by a rise in price to the consumers of commodities. So much about the general vice of this Bill.
Now let us come to the procedure, to the grand invention of the Committees which are to stand between the Minister and the House and the public. First of all, we complain of those Committees because of the expense, but that is a very small matter. I have no objection to the use of officials or committees to inquire into facts and inform a Minister, but what I object to is the putting up of 446 those committees to come to conclusions of policy, as if their conclusions could be used as a screen for the Minister. That is the essential difference between a committee to inquire and sort out the facts and a Committee which is charged in a judicial capacity with determining policy. But, if we are to have Committees, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that, in the rush and hurry of this Bill, I think we have forgotten between us that there was some consideration given in Standing Committee to the question of the formulation and, therefore, publication of rules of procedure. So long as you have one Committee, it is natural to leave a good deal to the discretion of the Committee as to its procedure, but there are to be a number of Committees dealing with different articles, and many of us, with some sympathy from the President, thought that if there were to be several Committees functioning on different things, it would be desirable that they should have a uniform procedure prescribed by rules, leaving to them freedom on details.
One particular point was that the President agreed with us that it was thought the interests of the parties to be heard might be put by counsel or Solicitors, but that is not provided in the Bill, and I want to ask him whether there is still time in another place to put in the necessary words to that effect. I am not complaining of any breach of faith on the part of the President. There were far too many things talked about in that Committee for him or for any of us to be able to remember all the points, but I ask him, as I do remember it now—it is in Col. 666 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee—whether he will consider whether the rules ought not to be published and whether they ought not to prescribed that the parties may be heard by counsel. Otherwise you might have one Committee, the Committee on agricultural produce, taking one view, and a Committee on another product taking another view.
Then I come to the comedy of "the appropriate Department." I have said that this Bill was an illegitimate union between agriculturists and manufacturers, one side wanting one thing and the other the other; they have come together, and we get the position of "the 447 appropriate Department." Instead of this Measure being left, to be carried out by the Board of Trade, as, I suppose, every other Measure relating to merchandise marks has been, it is to be carried out partly by the Board of Trade and alternatively by the Ministry of Agriculture. If the article concerned is anything in the nature of an agricultural or horticultural produce, or fishery, it is for the Ministry of Agriculture to appoint the Committee, and if it is any other article, it is to be the Board of Trade. We naturally inquired why the Ministry of Agriculture should have to deal with tea, and we put a number of questions of that sort, and then it became clear that the Ministry of Agriculture, rather than the President of the Board of Trade, had to appoint these Committees, because that was the only way to give confidence to the agricultural interests of this country that they were really going to get the protection which they have been expecting. We arrived at a certain practical solution with regard to tea, because we have got a gem in the way of definitions, with which I must trouble the House for a moment, because it is really a masterpiece of the English language:Agricultural and horticultural produce …. includes all foodstuffs other than such foodstuffs as the Board of Trade, with the concurrence of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, may declare not to be foodstuffs.That is a gem. It is all right for practical purposes between the two Ministries, but what made me talk about the comedy of having one set of Committees appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture to give confidence to the farmers, and the other to be appointed by the Board of Trade to give confidence to the manufacturers, was that it appears, from the confidences extracted from both right hon. Gentlemen in Committee, that it did not make a pin of difference, that the Committees would be made up of the same sort of people in both cases, and that they would both be selected by the two Ministers in consultation with each other. I do not know that that was verbally stated, but that was the effect. So we came to the conclusion that, after ail, this was one more sham part of the provisions of this Measure. The confidence which the agriculturists are to receive because the Committees on their products are to be appointed by the Minister of 448 Agriculture, and not by the wicked, unscrupulous, and hard-hearted President of the Board of Trade, is watered down because it was explained to us that, in the theory of the British Constitution, all Cabinet Ministers consult together.
One final word with regard to the machinery of this Bill. Roughly speaking, the Bill provides no machinery for its enforcement. There is no provision in it for proceeding against any offenders under the Bill, and I take it that anyone can prosecute at Common Law, or bring an indictment against any offender under this Bill, and that it will be left to anyone to do it, except in one case, for, in regard to foodstuffs, it is the duty of the local authority, without, it will be noticed, any provision for paying any part of the expenses of the local authority. Consequently, unless it is assumed that the local authorities, unlike His Majesty's-Government, can do their work without expense—and, of course, it is impossible to go on adding to the duties of local authorities without leading to an increase of staff. I noticed the naive surprise which was expressed by an hon. Member opposite at the increase in the staff of Government clerks, but you cannot have legislation each Session putting new duties on Departments without an increase of staff. Similarly, you cannot have legislation each Session putting new duties on local authorities, without some increase of staff. Therefore, it means that this Bill is going to lead to some increase of local rates. This is merely one of a series of Measures which have been introduced by this Government during the last two years, causing an increase in local rates, until at last the burden of local rates has become so great that the Minister of Health is in despair about it, and he is only yearning that his colleagues in the Cabinet will allow him sufficient time next Session to carry out a drastic reform of local government in this respect.
I will sum up by saying what I think the Bill will do. It will check fraud and misrepresentation, but this is only a very small matter—the Board of Trade knows how small—and it might have been done at a much less cost. It will cause expense and trouble to British manufacturers and traders—how much I cannot say, but, in some cases, it will he considerable. It will inevitably, to some extent, check our export trade. [An 449 Hon. Member: "Import trade!"] It will also check our import trade considerably. But hon. Members opposite do not care much about the import trade. It will, necessarily, introduce a check to the export trade. If you ask me what articles I cannot say, because the result will be general, on all forms of export trade. It will involve an increased cost to the taxpayer and also to the ratepayer, and it will raise prices to the consumer. All those effects may he small in themselves, but there is the cumulative effect. It is a sham edifice of facade, such as that drawn by architects in their moments of fancy, which they know will never be reduced to stone, and which they know will never become substantial. The chief and biggest effect of this Measure will not be in the realm of finance, or in the realm of manufacture or in the realm of agriculture. It will not be in the realm of economics. It will be in the realm of politics. Its chief use will be to afford added arguments to hon. Members who are wooing rural constituencies. They will be able to assure their unsuspecting audiences that the Government have passed a Measure which they can pretend is for the protection of agriculture.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has rendered a real service by his elaborate and very accurate exposure of the weaknesses of this Measure. I do not propose to follow his example by going into all the details of the machinery which is to be set up. I propose, rather, to follow the example of the Mover from the Government Bench, in a speech of unexampled brevity with which he at least charmed the House of Commons. Not having been present to hear the discussions, I was expecting to hear something from the Government in defence of this Measure, but I found the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade rather entertaining than enlightening. Every President of the Board of Trade has had deputations from manufacturers suggesting expedients of this kind in order to protect them against the foreign competitor. These deputations generally come, not from prominent men who have got thoroughly efficient and highly equipped works, but rather from those who have been driven to the wall for reasons which they themselves 450 could overcome, if they applied their minds to the task.
This Bill is a Measure for advertising foreign goods at the expense of the British ratepayer. Measures of this kind have been tried before. I remember when I came to the House there was Sir Howard Vincent, who always used to bring in a Bill for the marking of foreign goods, and he assured us that once you had a mark on everything brought from Germany, "Made in Germany," nobody would buy those goods, because they bought them on the assumption that they were British manufactured goods. Ultimately, by sheer persistence, he managed to get it through—to get a Government weak enough to listen to the Bill. What was the result? It has generally been admitted that that has been a great advertisement to German goods. It stands to reason. Why do people buy these goods? They are not buying them because they are foreign, and they are not buying them because they are British. They are buying them because they are more attractive in quality, appearance or price than some other commodity which is on the counter. You say that, henceforth, they will know that the commodities which are superior in quality, appearance or price are either French, German or Belgian.
It is a great advertisement for these goods, and it is not merely an advertisement in our own market. It is an advertisement for foreigners who pass through this country. Take the scores or hundreds of thousands of Americans who pass through here, who may buy goods of this kind, perhaps under the impression that they are British goods. Henceforth they will know that these particular commodities, which we ourselves think superior, otherwise our people would not buy them, are foreign, and we have the Government advertising the fact that these goods have been manufactured in other countries, and foreign visitors coming here will be made cognisant of that fact at the expense of the British taxpayer. We are employing a number of officials purely to advertise foreign goods. There are only two ways of stopping the purchase of foreign goods. One is by putting on such a prohibitive tariff that nobody could buy them. That, the Government dare not face, because every time that has been put to 451 the electorate of this country, they have realised, after a few minutes' examination, that in the long run that would ruin the trade of a country like Great Britain. The only other alternative is the Fascist method, by which you can use some sort of coercion to make it impossible to buy any goods except those manufactured in our own country. But the method in this Bill is a thoroughly unintelligent method. This does not prohibit; it advertises.
Take this Bill as applied to different commodities. There is one class of goods where the British producer is in an inferior position in the home market, and that is agricultural produce. In textiles, cotton, woof, leather goods, machinery, all the products of engineering firms, ships, in these we are supreme in our own markets; but there is one class of goods where we are at a disadvantage in our own markets, and that is agricultural produce. What do the Government propose to do? They propose to say, "We are going to mark the country of origin of the goods that are coming here to compete with us." As a matter of fact, the Danes, who are our most formidable competitors, mark their goods themselves. They regard it as part of their method of advertisement. They appoint Government inspectors to examine the bacon, the cheese, the butter, and they pass it with the Government stamp upon it as a guarantee of its quality. I remember passing through a grocery store at the last election, on the way to a meeting I was to address in a square somewhere in Lancashire, and I inquired about the different commodities there. There were Danish bacon and Danish butter, and also Irish and British. They were all marked, but the Danish was marked because the price was higher, and it was considered that the quality was better. There was a guarantee with it, and the Danes themselves are as anxious to mark their goods as the Minister of Agriculture is. In fact, they agree that this, from their point of view, is a method of advertising.
This Bill just takes away the mind of the country from the right method of dealing with our difficulties. The way to deal with our difficulties is not to mark the foreign goods, but to market our own. The Danes, especially, and the Dutch, are taking no end of trouble, with the aid 452 of their Governments, to assist in the marketing of their products. We are not. The other day a case came to my notice where Danish bacon was carried all the way from the centre of Denmark right to Manchester more cheaply than bacon was carried from Suffolk to Manchester, and another case given to me was that of potatoes carried from the Black Forest in Germany to London more cheaply than potatoes were carried from Lincoln to London. All the other Governments, instead of entering into trumpery and semi-childish methods, are tackling the real problem. They know that marking their own goods is advertising their own goods, and they go about the method of assuring that the transport is favourable to agriculture. Marketing is done by means of organisation.
Those are the methods by which we ought to fight our competitors—by seeing that the quality of our goods is equal to begin with, and afterwards is superior; seeing that the Government, in so far as they mark, will mark something with quality in it; and then, instead of seeing that the railways are organised for the purpose of helping foreign goods on to our markets, they will be organised for the purpose of helping our own produce on to our markets. Go through the whole list of things produced in this country. Take the difficulty of getting British wheat on to the market. It is not merely the price of carrying it, but the whole organisation of the railways is against it. They do not give facilities; they do not give encouragement. Instead of this folly of marking foreign goods, which deludes the agriculturist and puts off real action, what the Government ought to do is to grip the problem, take it in hand and see that the agriculturist gets his market, and give him every assistance in the way of credit. Instead of that, they issue a White Paper to say that they are considering the question. That has gone on for months and months, and nothing has been done, and they are bringing in a Bill like this which is a sham and a, snare. Let us take the other goods, in which we are superior in our own markets. To what extent will this Bill help us to find markets abroad? I cannot conceive it doing so. I think, as a matter of fact, it will help to advertise foreign goods; 453 it will not help us in the least to get British commodities on to foreign markets on more favourable terms. We are a great exporting nation. I am all for exporting to the British Empire and promoting trade in the Empire, but I am all for exporting to every country and for every country buying our goods, either inside or outside the Empire. Our trade with foreign countries is such a gigantic part of our business in the provision of employment for our people, that it is folly to talk as if you could depend entirely upon trade within the Empire and look with contempt on the gigantic trade you have with European and other foreign countries.
There is no doubt that we are at a crisis in the history of British industry and trade, and a very serious crisis. I am sincerely hoping that this terrible struggle in a basic industry is coming to an end. I wish it had been a more satisfactory end, very much so. It would have been better for all concerned, and certainly for the nation. It is a fracture which is badly healed and which will leave, I am afraid, many bones obtruding. But the stoppage is coming to an end, and I have no doubt it will be followed by a boom which will come from the accumulation of orders which could not be executed. Whether that boom is to be temporary or permanent, will depend upon British industry. What they are to do during the next few months will depend on whether we are to have re-equipment, re-organisation, new methods of quickening-up trade, casting off effete methods, casting off methods which are wasteful, which are uneconomic, of management or mechanism. If British trade during the next few months seizes the opportunity that will be given to us by the fact that there is a temporary revival due to the accumulation of unexecuted orders, then I think your temporary boom may be converted into a permanent revival, but if it is not, you will have a worse reaction than you-ever have had before, unless this is taken in hand. My fear with regard to a Bill of this kind is that it diverts the attention of the British manufacturing community from what is really needed to what is not of the slightest use, even if it is not mischievous. When you are feeling depressed, that is the time when you are tempted to take pernicious drugs. This is a little bit of dope, in order to 454 get the British agriculturist to imagine that he is all right, and the British manufacturer to think that he is all right. Let the Government tell the country what is wrong and deal with it by sensible, thorough, courageous methods.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
The speech to which we have just listened began, quite naturally, with a slogan, and it was a typical speech by the right hon. Gentleman. He followed by a reference to the country which is his spiritual home, namely, Denmark, and that also was to be expected; but the whole of the rest of the speech was directed to one thing, an argument about the marketing of British goods. What he said on this subject, however, was no argument against this Bill. This Bill is a Bill to enable the British consumer to know whether he is buying British goods in Great Britain or buying foreign goods. The right hon. Gentleman spoke so much about the importation of goods into foreign countries that I had to look at the Bill to find out whether it dealt with goods which are imported into the United Kingdom. This Bill deals only with imports into the United Kingdom, and I cannot see how his argument was relevant. What he has possibly done is to make out a case for another Bill for the marking of British goods. If, as he says, foreigners who are already marking their goods are achieving success by it, most of our manufacturers will do the same. But the whole criticism to which we have listened from the right hon. Gentleman is really an advocacy of a Bill of his own and not a criticism directed to the Bill which is now before the House. I should like to say how much some of us appreciate the efforts that are being made for the consumer in this country so that he or she may really know what is being bought. In this country we see foreign agricultural produce being sold; we see, for example, unmarked eggs being sold which we know are foreign eggs, but which are bought by the trusting British housewife as British eggs. That is only one instance of what is going on. The Labour party are one of the main opponents of this Bill, but I should like to remind them of a question which was put by the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. H. Guest) who asked the 455 Parliamentary Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department whether his attention had been called to the dirty and unsanitary conditions which existed in the transport and handling of dried fruit in Smyrna, Anatofia and other places. That illustrates how important it is that the housewife should know whether the produce which she buys is British produce, or Empire produce, or foreign produce.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I must congratulate the Liberal party upon one thing; it is that the Labour party have now become their spoilt darlings. The Labour party have grown up in the past under Liberal tuition upon such slogans as "Your food will cost you more," and so on. I know there have been one or two Members of the Labour party who have got rather tired of the word "Protection" and have changed it into "Prohibition."
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
No doubt those Members will strike out a line of their own. The Liberal party, who wish to see their children of the Labour party carrying on their good work, have a great deal to congratulate themselves upon in their adoption of the old slogans. Some Members of the Labour party, I think the Member for South-East Ham (Mr. Barnes), discovered that the Bill is not only likely to help the consumer, but might help the manufacturer. That, of course, is anathema to the Labour party, and thus this Bill became one of the Bills which they have to attack night and day, constantly and to order. There is another discovery they have made. We have been accustomed to hear from the Labour party the words "middleman" and "profiteer," but since this Bill has been introduced these names have been quietly changed to "retailers" and "wholesalers." That is a remarkable change in the attitude of the Labour party. I will say this, that if, by taking up the cudgels for these people, they can prevent foreign goods being sold with 456 labels "Made in Britain" they will be doing a very fine thing. As far as agriculture is concerned, we welcome this Bill as a step which will not hinder us but may possibly help us. We have the greatest hope that the British housewife will buy British agricultural produce instead of foreign, and for that reason we will give the Bill every assistance in our power.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
I am sure it is very encouraging to those on this side of the House that at least one Member of the Opposition has conceived some enthusiasm for this Bill. The case for this Bill is based on the fallacy that people buy goods from sentiment. Sentiment may play some part in the matter, but the overwhelming majority of people, particularly the housewives in this country, cannot afford to let sentiment enter; their only consideration is getting value for their money. We on this side of the House are disappointed with this Bill because we thought that when the Government decided to introduce a Merchandise Marks Bill it would be a Bill to prevent fraud and misrepresentation. We thought it would be really a good Bill, and that this Government would be just the Government to deal with fraud and misrepresentation, because they were elected on fraud and misrepresentation. But we find that this Bill is a much bigger fraud than the fraud which it is supposed to deal with. Who asked for this Bill? The consumers have not asked for it. No one during the Debates has pointed to any body of organised consumers who have asked for the Bill. I have the privilege of speaking on behalf of the largest body of organised consumers in this country, the Co-operative movement, and, so far from asking for this Bill, they are opposing it. The Bill has been asked for by the agriculturist, but I gather from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that he is not altogether confident that this Bill is going to deliver the goods. He referred to it as being a step, and he suggested there would have to be other steps that would have to be taken to make it a success. One cannot conceive what these may be, unless it is that every article under the sun will have to be marked.
Certainly Tory agriculturists have asked for the Bill, and I suggest that when they get it they will be very much disappointed. The President of the Board of Trade 457 admitted the other day that the Federation of British Industries had asked for the Bill. When the Federation of British Industries asks for a Bill to benefit consumers in this country, some of us may be pardoned, perhaps, for looking upon the Measure with suspicion. There is a difference between this Bill and other Bills passed by the Government during the last two years. Whereas other Bills have roused the antagonism of working people, the majority of whom would have been politically on the Labour side in any case, this Bill is going to rouse the opposition of shopkeepers and traders, many of whom supported this Government, and deserve all they get. In the next week or two, when all the details of this Bill become fully known, hon. Members will learn through their post-bags that shopkeepers and traders are realising that this Government are not only a class Government but, what is more important from their point of view, an incompetent Government.
What do we expect to achieve by this Measure? Will it assist employment and reduce the pauperism which has increased so enormously during the last 12 months? Will it increase wages, or will it increase the cost of living? These are questions which millions of people in this country are asking at the present time, and many of us are wondering when the Government will tackle the problem of pauperism and the cost of living instead of tinkering about with questions like this. Almost every day as I come from my home to the House of Commons I pass a brick wall on which a billposter pasted a placard at the time of the last General Election two years ago. I take off my hat with respect to the billposter who stuck that placard on so securely. For two long years the rains have descended upon it and the winds have blown, but it still remains affixed to the wall. The placard says, "Stanley Baldwin stands for stability." In the last 12 months there has been an increase of half a million in the number of unemployed. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are anxious to interrupt and to say what the cause is. One hon. Member says it is the coal stoppage. It is perfectly well known that if a Labour Government had been in office we should not have had a coal stoppage. [Interruption,] Is this a specimen of the 458 stability we were promised, that the Government, not content with knocking away the basic trades of the country, are now interfering with the stability of the trading, manufacturing and shopkeeping classes?
I hope the President of the Board of Trade will not be disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm for and appreciation of the noble efforts of himself and his amazing Secretary during the passage of this Bill. They have this satisfaction, that since they have been in that wonderful partnership at the Board of Trade the trade of the country has grown steadily worse; and this Bill will not help to improve it. During the past two days some of us who take an interest in this Bill have been trying patiently to ascertain what the effect of it will be, and how it will work. The Parliamentary Secretary, in his brilliant speech this afternoon, said this was a Bill for enlightenment. The trouble with us is that through all the stages of the Bill we have been trying to get some enlightenment and have found great difficulty in doing so.
During the Report stage I put certain questions, to which I did not get very satisfactory answers, as to how the Bill was going to work. May I have one more effort at trying to get information? We understand from speeches made by hon. Members in the country that this is part of a great campaign to persuade people to buy British goods. Last summer I was spending a holiday in Scotland, and the hon. Member who fills the office of Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade came up to that part of Scotland and made a speech. In that speech he said the Government were just about to embark upon a great campaign to tell the people to buy British goods, and he also wanted to tell them, as a sort of annex to that campaign, "Spend your holidays in this country, instead of spending them abroad." This is part of the campaign, we presume, in favour of buying British goods which was initiated by the Post Office, as a result of which we get our letters stamped "Buy British Goods" by American machines.
During the campaign, and perhaps to encourage it, the Secretary of State for War decided to give a big Government contract to an American razor company to supply safety razors to the British Army. How will this affect that contract?
459 [interruption.] I am obliged to all the hon. Members who are Volunteering information, but I am going to deal with their points. I feel sure the hon. Member who has just spoken will heartily join with me in saying we must protect not only the British public from fraud but, above and beyond all, must protect "Tommy Atkins" from fraud. The holders for these razors are to be made in England and the blades in Canada, by an American firm. Holders and blades will then be put in boxes and handed to "Tommy Atkins." Where the boxes are to be made I do not know. Will the blades have to be stamped "Made in Canada"? I take it they will, under this Bill; and an hon. Member who is an authority on this Bill confirms me. All these millions of safety razor blades will have to be stamped "Made in Canada," and I take it the holders will have to be stamped "Made in England," because if the holder has not got "Made in England" stamped on it, the inference to "Tommy Atkins," who is not always very bright— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh !"] Well, he was not in my time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Things have changed since then! "] If the holder has not anything stamped on it, the inference will be that the whole thing is made in Canada, and that would he a fraud and a misrepresentation. Consequently, I suggest that it will be necessary for the firm which makes the goods to have the holders stamped "Made in England" and the blades stamped "Made in Canada." Then the box will have to have stamped on it where that is made. The only way out, if "Tommy Atkins" is to be prevented from becoming a victim of misrepresentation, will be to have the lot stamped "Holder made in England, blade made in Canada, the whole produced by an American company, to the order of the British Government."
To-night we on this side will say to the Bill, "Goodbye and good luck." Soon it will go forth to the world as another example of Tory incompetence, to stir up worry and discontent, and to convert sup- porters of the Government into opponents. The poor, harassed shopkeeper, trying his best to keep his business going, when he reads his newspaper to-morrow will learn that this Bill has passed its Third Reading, and will very soon become the law of the land, creating many new crimes 460 which he may in his innocence commit and for which he may be heavily punished. Those who expect to get well-paid jobs under this Bill will smile over their teacups to-morrow morning—the horde of officials who are going to be appointed. If it were a Labour Government who were doing this, cannot we imagine what the leading article of the "Daily Mail" would say to-morrow morning?—" Another horde of officials about to be appointed." "State incompetence," and all the rest of it. The lawyers and the gentlemen who always benefit from legislation of this kind will go to their offices to-morrow morning in joyful mood with a "Morning Post" tucked neatly under their arms. This Bill means more grist to their mill. The poor British public, wondering when the Government are going to tackle problems that really matter, will sigh patiently and look forward with hope to the next General Election to give them an opportunity of getting rid of a Government of fraud and misrepresentation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
Over a period of years there have been a good many Merchandise Marks Bills of various sorts, and I am very glad to think that, at last, we shall have this one placed on the Statute Book before Christmas. Perhaps we do not like everything in the Bill, for instance, we may not like the provision whereby we are handing certain responsibilities over to different committees; but I think in cases of this kind the only way of doing the business is through these committees. It is obvious that I would be quite impossible for this House to take evidence and to give consideration to all the cases that would have to he brought before it. A good deal has been made of the increased powers bestowed on these committees during the passage of the Measure through Committee, but the increase does not amount to very much. On Second Reading, and before the Committee stage, we decided that toe Committee would have to say what articles are to be marked, and if we allow them to decide that, surely we can trust them to say where they are to be marked? From the way a large number of people talk, one ' would think the committees are to be composed of people completely lacking in common-sense and knowledge. Surely we can trust the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade, who have to appoint these committees, 461 to put upon them men who will see that no damage is done to the trade of the country, and that only articles are marked which it will be an advantage to have marked?
The chief fear I have about this Bill is that it will work too slowly and produce a good deal of delay. It is quite right that we should go cautiously in these matters, but I fear we shall not get very much done for a considerable time. A point which opponents of the Bill have made very frequently is that it is Protection. There is only one way in which it is a protective measure, and that is in affording protection against fraud, and I think those hon. Members who accuse us of trying to bring in Protection by a back door might give us some credit for honesty, as we give them. We do not suggest that when they oppose this Bill they do so because they wish to defraud the public. We know they do not do so, and I think they might give us credit for supporting the Bill in the belief that it is good for the consumer and the producer, and that we are not supporting it in order to secure Protection. A large number of people who have an objection to any Measure which is brought before the House stand up and say that it is Protection, and the result usually is that a large number of free importers—Free Traders they call themselves—follow blindly in their wake, without giving the matter any consideration. This Bill is not Protection, except protection against fraud. The reason why the opponents of this Measure have put forward the argument that it is Protection is simply because they have a very weak case. This is shown not only by the speeches this afternoon, but by the weakness of the attacks which have been made upon this Measure during the Report stage. This Bill will not restrict supplies, but it will place it within the power of these committees to order certain goods to be marked, and there is no reason whatever why it should have the effect of restricting supplies or raising prices.
There is only one way in which it can raise prices, and that is if the goods produced here are so good that our people are willing to pay a higher price for them than they would pay for foreign goods. There are many people in this country who, for sentimental and 462 patriotic reasons, are prepared to pay more for English than for foreign goods, but they want to be sure that they are getting British goods. Under this Bill, we make sure by marking foreign goods that the consumer will be able to get British goods. I believe this Measure is going to be a considerable help to agriculture and to the country generally, but in order to make sure that it will be a great help we must make certain that the goods produced in this country are of a better quality than the foreign goods.
Of course, if they are not of a better quality, the consumer will soon find that out, and he will not buy them. On the other hand, if we continue to produce better goods, the consumer will soon find out that they are better, and he will insist upon getting them. It is well known that we produce the best stuff in this country of any place in the world, but we must do so consistently, and if we do that we shall get, the full benefit from this Bill. This Measure is not Protection, and it will not raise prices. It will not do damage to our trade, but it will be of great help to the consumer, the producer, and the country generally. For these reasons, I intend to support the Third Reading.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
It is a satisfaction to the House that on the Third Reading of this Bill we should have some speeches from the great majority which supports the Government, and which during the earlier stages of this Measure has been no doubt obedient but almost entirely silent. I am not quite clear from the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) whether he is a supporter of the existing system of Free Trade, or whether in his heart of hearts he prefers some other system. There is one thing about his speech which is quite clear and intelligent, and it is that his constituents will not suspect him of being a Protectionist.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman tells us quite frankly that he is a Protectionist, and that he is in favour of this Bill. He is also very anxious to show us that that fact has no connection with him being in favour 463 of the Bill. I accept the hon. and gallant Gentleman's statement and I believe in his sincerity, but, unfortunately, we have to examine what is the real effect of the legislation we are asked to carry into law, and we cannot content ourselves merely with our private convictions, or a statement that the Bill has nothing to do with our Protectionist principles.
There are two or three considerations which I should like to mention to the House. I do not think anyone will deny that they are considerations of importance. When these considerations come to be fairly analysed, I think they make a very strong case against the passing of this Measure. Let me mention something which does not raise Protection or Free Trade directly at all. This Bill is open to very grave objection on the ground, amongst other things, that it is an extension of the system of inquiry by Committees which are not appointed by the House of Commons, and which are only very indirectly responsible to the House of Commons, upon matters in regard to which the House of Commons ought itself to decide. That is a tendency which is developing, which we can all observe, which cannot be denied, which is something which no one will dispute, and it is very important to determine whether it is a wise course of procedure. In the old days, whatever hon. Members' political allegiance happened to be, we were sent here primarily in order to secure by our own judgment and by debate that burdens should not be put upon the people of this country, and to see that public money was spent in ways that would be approved by the people.
The more you develop this system of substituting the judgment of a Committee ad hoe for the deliberate determination of the House of Commons itself the further you depart from that simple principle. We had an instance of this in the case of the Safeguarding of Industries legislation. Here we have an immense extension of it, and I submit to all who care for the House of Commons —and we all care for it greatly—that this is a most undesirable tendency. See what it does. It really makes it impossible to secure the supremacy of the public interest over private, interest when these matters come to be debated before 464 a Committee. I know perfectly well that the ladies and gentlemen who will be asked to serve on these Committees will do their work with the most complete good faith and with a desire to do what is right, and I have no doubt the Department which appoints them will try to choose the most suitable people. Nevertheless, the fact remains that instead of having these things decided in the usual way on the Floor of the House of Commons, if you relegate them to a Committee, you really put a premium upon the influences of private and selected groups as distinguished from putting in the forefront the broad public interest. It must be so.
When the President of the Board of Trade appoints one of these committees, however independent it may be, you will find prominently argued before that committee the special interest of some special sort of manufacturing enterprise, and it is very difficult side by side with these claims for special interest to secure that the consumers' interest, which should be the larger interest, is kept prominently before the committee. That is a most undesirable practice. When we are sitting here in the House of Commons, whatever our own constituency may be—it is often interested in some particular product; hon. Members representing Sheffield feel that steel is a most important thing, and others representing mining districts claim that coal is the most important product—we all feel, apart from having a very special interest and devotion to the trades of various localities, that we are representing the consumers as a whole and the whole body of the public.
If you move this kind of inquiry into the atmosphere of a Committee appointed ad hoc, then you have to listen to the arguments of people who are approved and paid for by the federation of those manufacturers of this and that, and it is really quite impossible that you will get what is so important for the conduct of public affairs in matters which involve burdens being placed on the masses of the people, namely, a direct judgment in the light of day from the public point of view of the House of Commons who, at any rate, are trying to represent the people. In some way the revision and control of these committees in practice is quite ineffective. I give the President of the Board of Trade every credit for 465 believing, when he first took part in devising this sort of legislation, that, after a committee had sat and beard all the evidence and arguments, the turn of the House of Commons would come, and that we should be really having an effective say in regard to what is going to be done. We all know now that that is a delusion because once you get to that point the thing is presented to us cut and dried with all the authority of the Minister of the Crown, and the Government majority—which is not always in this Chamber to listen to the arguments because the whole thing is prearranged—rofls in to carry it into law. Under these circumstances effective discussion and analysis in the House of Commons is practically impossible. For these reasons, it is the most undesirable thing that we should allow this very serious extension of the method of the system of inquiry by committees apointed ad hoc, with nothing more to connect the House of Commons with the thing that is done than this, that there will be the possibility of moving Amendments to reject what has been proposed. You cannot get public attention and public interest concentrated and focused on these things when they have been debated before a committee appointed by the Board of Trade, and everybody knows that that is so.
I suggest to the House of Commons in no partisan sense that it is a very serious thing, in matters of this sort, that we should be asked to pass legislation which is going to throw the whole of this business into the hands of committees who are not responsible to us, whom we pay for but do not appoint, with the result that the Minister of the day—he may one day belong to one party, and another day he may represent another party—is allowed to exercise his undivided judgment as to whether the recommendations of these committees should come forward, and the only thing the House of Commons has to do is to adopt them. That appears to me to be a very serious objection to legislation of this sort.
I know why this is being done. It is being done because it gives great comfort to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Louth (Lieut. - Colonel Heneage) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Tiverton 466 (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte), and I am sure it is very comforting to them to be able to say to their agricultural constituents, "Do not imagine that the Conservative Government has deserted you, because it never deserts agriculture. Trust it and trust us!" It may be that these hon. and gallant Gentlemen in their heart of hearts have some suspicion that the Bill will not do this. They may tell the agriculturists that the Government have appointed committees who will see that early potatoes are marked as coming from Jersey, and that this is going to protect the Lincolnshire producer. It may be that the Bill will come to nothing, but none the less, it is a delusion and a snare, and this is more and more unfortunate, because the real things we should try to do are actually obscured and forgotten, while we are trying to pass this piece of trumpery and pinchbeck Protection.
How is this Bill, really, going to affect the entrepot trade—a trade, in round figures, of something like £160,000,000 or £165,000,000 a year? It is no good shutting out eyes to it; we have to consider quite fairly how that trade is going to be affected. I know that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and others, have drawn up and introduced Amendments with the desire to minimise that interference. It is only fair to say that, but at the same time it becomes a very serious question whether the Bill as it stands, or any such Bill, can fail to interfere seriously with the entrepot trade. I would particularly commend this to hon. Gentlemen in the House who feel, as many do—some, perhaps, have not thought very closely on the subject—that there cannot be any harm in a Bill which, after all, it is said, will secure that the public know where their supplies come from. There is great plausibility in that. I have every possible sympathy with people who say that, other things being equal, it is a good thing that the housewife, the purchaser, and everyone else should know where their supplies come from; but whether in every case the housewife who is buying butter will think the butter is any the worse because she knows it is Danish, is quite another question, though it is questionable whether we do not really, by these proposals, rather advertise other people's goods than help our own.
467 I quite agree that it is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate object that people should know, so far as is possible, where their supplies come from, but, really, we must set that, which is a perfectly fair object, in the scales and balance it against some possibly equally important objects which lead to a contrary conclusion. For example, it is equally important that people should be sure that they have abundant and cheap supplies, and if it be the fact that this tends to interfere with the free flow of supplies, then it is a 'very poor consolation to tell people, "It is true I am doing something which will make things dearer and may make them scarcer, but think of the satisfaction of knowing where they come from!" In exactly the same way, with regard to the entrepot trade, it is no use, if I may respectfully say so, for Members for agricultural constituencies to say that that does not matter. In matters enormously to a very large portion of the country, and I do not myself see how you can safeguard those interests by carrying a Bill of this sort, nor do I see how this Bill does it
The Bill, for example, contains a Clause designed to secure that it shall not adversely affect goods which are imported into this country expressly for the purpose of being re-exported; but the entrepot trade of this country is by no means limited to that. In the City of London, in the commercial quarters of London, along the docks, and so on, you will see every day immense quantities of goods being handled which have come in, usually by British shipping, from overseas, which are, for the time being, going to the houses of traders here, and which may or may not hereafter be sold in the home market, but which, on the other hand, may be sold in a foreign market. What are you going to do there? Unless I misunderstand the Bill, it will require that all those goods should -be marked if the Committee so recommends and the House of Commons so decides. Therefore, it is really fallacious to say that you are protecting the interests of the entrepot trade in a Bill of this kind; you cannot do it as long as the fact remains, as it does remain, in British trade, that a very large part of what comes into our ports from abroad, and is ultimately disposed of by sale abroad; comes to an ambiguous 468 destination in the first instance, so that the people who have it here may be said to be equally willing to sell it to the first customer who comes. The thing becomes, as was said just now by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison) —who very well illustrated the point by the instance of a razor—it becomes, not only difficult, but grotesque.
When you consider how important a branch of the trade carried on in this country is that which consists of the blending of things which have been built up from various sources, such as the case which contains five or six separate articles, a brush, a comb, and all the rest of it—that is one of the London trades which is of very considerable importance, and it constantly happens that the materials that go to make up the unit come from different places—the thing becomes like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera if you begin to consider what is really going to be the consequence if everyone of these items is going to be solemnly labelled with the name of the place from which it comes. Therefore, while I have every sympathy with those who say how advantageous, other things being equal, it would be for the British housewife to know exactly where everything she buys comes from, I would at the same time make bold to say that this consideration of knowing where a thing comes from is only one consideration out of many. As for the question of fraud, I must say it astonishes me to be told that, where a public Department can find a perfectly clear case of a trade misdescription, there is not power under the law as it stands to deal with it.
That is the second of the three points that I wish to make on the general consideration of what kind of Bill this is. My third and last point is this: I must. say I should have thought that, if political principles did not help the Government in this matter, at any rate party prudence would have helped them to avoid carrying a Bill which, as a matter of fact, threatened to interfere with the consumer of food. As I have said, I do not believe that, when the Bill comes to be worked, it is in the least likely that you will find that eggs from Russia are red, that eggs from Ireland are green, and all the rest of it. I do not think it will be possible, when it comes to the business of working it, to 469 take perishable goods, fresh vegetables or fresh fruit, and hold them up at the ports, and, perhaps, in an extreme case, leave them there to rot, merely because of some fantastic notion that everything ought to be labelled with the name of its country of origin. It is sufficiently astonishing that the Government would not accept Amendments to the Bill which, at any rate, would have limited its operation to the sort of food that is produced in this country. They are so determined to put obstacles in the way of things coming through our ports to our consuming population that they will not even limit the Bill to the sort of things that this country can produce, but actually want to retain power to label with the name of the country of origin things which in this climate we cannot produce at all. I could not help, when I read this part of the Bill, and the Debate which took place on it, wondering whether the President of the Board of Trade was desirous of going down to history as a repetition of a very famous dramatic character. He really, in this matter, is a sort of political aesthete: his sentiments are so delicate, his taste is so refined. He really is Mr. Bun theme, of "Patience," over again. Whatever he can stomach,it must always beA not too French French bean.Now we are going to have the ridiculous Clause which provides for the possibility —I cannot believe it is anything more—of solemnly labelling or stamping cabbages, tomatoes, and all sorts of other things, in order that the housewife may know exactly where they come from. [An HON. MEMBER: "And bananas"!] Yes, and bananas. I should have thought that, if anything else would have induced the right hon. Gentleman to hold his hand here, both political prudence and a sense of humour would have made him see that he has gone to a quite ridiculous length in his proposed legislation.
It seems to me that these considerations cannot fairly be said to be considerations which proceed from nothing but a narrow, dogmatic, Free Trade view. I avow myself, as frankly as the right hon. Gentleman does, of a particular fiscal faith, but I have always thought that the fiscal doctrines that matter in this connection are not to be arrived at by some process of abstract reasoning, but 470 by reference to their practical effect, and, if I apply that test to this Bill, it appears to me to be a Bill which, if it has any practical effect at all, is bound to do a very great deal more harm than it can possibly do good. It is a Bill with a most curious history. Its Second Reading passed through this House on the day when the Prime Minister announced the end of the General Strike, and when everyone in the House, except, of course, the President of the Board of Trade, who had his duty to do, was bound to have first in his mind that extremely important event. The Debate was concluded in an hour or two, and the Bill went to a Committee upstairs, whose proceedings, no doubt, were reported to some extent, but did not, of course, receive the same publicity as Debates on the Floor of the House; and there we had, as I understand, the curious spectacle of the Government defending hour by hour Clauses which they have jettisoned without a moment's hesitation on the Floor of the House, so that the Bill to-day is really quite a different Bill from the Bill that went upstairs. We have had a Report stage of a couple of days in the doldrums of the Autumn Session, marked by the circumstance that no supporter of the Government either felt inclined or was permitted to make a speech to explain why he was voting for the Bill; and now we have the Third Reading stage, in which so far as regards the large body of loyal support which the Government undoubtedly command, the argument so far developed is this: "I represent an agricultural constituency. My personal opinion is that this Bill is not Protection, and I feel that it is a Bill which would be a great consolation to my constituents, because, even if nothing particular is done under it, I shall always be able to say that the Conservative Government has done all it could to promote the interests of British agriculture."
I do not believe that these are really effective ways of helping our country through its difficulties to-day, and it really surprises me that there should be a Department in the Government at this time which can think that this kind of thing is worth doing. We have just had a most remarkable and impressive State Paper, and the Government are entitled to all the credit that attaches to it. It shows how the real connections of the 471 British Empire can be promoted by taking what I may call, in no party sense the broad and progressive liberal point of view. It is all to the credit of the Conservative Government that they should have been able to secure this most remarkable declaration, which will give the greatest satisfaction, I should think, to everyone. That is the sort of way in which you can really promote good understanding between the different parts of the Empire, and not by this peddling business of trying to label goods coming from one portion of the Empire to another. For these reasons I most respectfully submit that even now, though the result, I suppose, is beyond hope" the Government really ought to consider whether a Bill of this kind should be proceeded with.
Let me make this point as my final observation. Here we have, as we hoped, the coal controversy coming to an end. What is one of the most immediate anxieties to everybody in any party in connection with the resumption of work in the coalfield? It is that we are all most anxious to know how far the export of British coal can be recovered and promoted. Three-fourths of the export of British coal goes, not to places within our own Empire, but to foreign countries. How do hon. Members suppose that that kind of export will be either paid for or promoted? The simple and elementary proposition is still true that the export of all that coal to foreign countries can only be paid for by an importation of the things which those foreign countries produce. That is not merely a picturesque way of putting it; it is perfect truth to say that the miner who is engaged in hewing coal in order that it may be sent abroad is really being paid for it when he is eating an egg at breakfast, even though it is a foreign egg. It is literally the truth, and yet here we have the country, at a time when it is so important to do everything we possibly can to resume and recover our foreign export trade, being invited to adopt this ridiculous Bill, which, so far as it has any effect at all, puts obstacles in the way of that recovery.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAINE
During the Report stage several references were made to the representations that have been made by Chambers of Commerce with regard to this Measure. I should like briefly to 472 state what has been the attitude of Chambers of Commerce, both before the presentation of this Bill and during its passage through this House. It is quite true that, as the President of the Board of Trade stated on Monday night, the Associated Chambers of Commerce, at their annual meeting a few months ago, sent in a Resolution in favour of the Bill in principle, but suggested that it should be divided into two parts. I should like to inform the House that in 1923, and again in 1925, a Resolution was sent in urging the then Government to pass such a Measure as we have before us today. The usual procedure in connection with Chambers of Commerce on Bills of this kind which affect trade is that the executive ask each Chamber of Commerce for their comments and views on the Bill. These views are collated, and the executive see how far they can suggest Amendments for the improvement of the Measure so as not to do any harm to trade. It is quite true, as has been stated more than once in these Debates, that sections of certain chambers of commerce, particularly London and Manchester, were against the Bill. Their opposition is really largely due to their fear of the possible position of the entrepot trade. The chambers of commerce throughout the country, numerically, were overwhelmingly in favour of the principle of the Measure, and at the annual meeting, at which London and Manchester were strongly represented, there was a very large majority by a card vote in favour of the Resolution to which the President of the Board of Trade referred on Monday night. I have made this statement, because I think it ought to be recognised that the chambers of Commerce represent a very important section of the trading community. I have found, in my rather long experience of chambers of commerce, that the Government of the day, whatever has been its political colour, have always welcomed the criticisms of the chambers of commerce because they recognise that they get a weighty opinion from a set of people who know what they are talking about.
§ Mr. HARRIS
Did the Associated Cumbers pass that Resolution before or after the alteration of Clause 2 (4)?
§ Mr. RAINE
I could not tell you that, but it was the annual meeting towards the end of April. I have taken the trouble to-day to ascertain that even now the feeling in the London and Manchester Chambers against the Bill is by no means unanimous. I would not doubt for a moment what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham said, because the document was sent out to each member, but I have taken particular trouble to ascertain that even now entire sections of the Chambers of Commerce of London and Manchester are not against the Bill. I admit that at the outset it bristled with difficulties, and I can quite understand —and I voiced the feeling at the time in the chambers—the fears of the great entrepot centres, such as London and Manchester, but their fears, in my opinion, have been largely, if not entirely, done away with by the step that was taken during the Committee stage, so that goods now only require to be marked when they are exposed for sale, excepting under certain exceptional circumstances, and then only after a careful inquiry. I am at a loss now to understand the continued opposition of London and other Chambers of Commerce to the Bill.
The Bill does not aim at preventing people from buying goods. It aims at preventing them getting foreign goods when they expect and have asked for British goods. We all know that many of these foreign articles have been sent to this country to the detriment of our workers. People have a perfect right to buy what articles they like, whether British or foreign, and to buy them as cheaply as they possibly can. If they find the British article is too dear, they have a perfect right—and I do not blame them—to buy the cheaper foreign article, but it is sometimes overlooked that in the manufacture of some of these foreign goods, the conditions of labour are such as we will not allow in this country. If we had a greater demand for British manufactures, our overhead charges would come down, with the natural coroflary that the price to the consumer would be less. If it was not, I for one would want to know the reason why. I believe if there were a greater encouragement given to British goods, we should not have that great discrepancy which appears between the price of certain British articles and those of foreign manu- 474 facture. I sometimes think, however, the British public, or some of them, in their great desire for buying the cheapest goods forget that the dearer British article is often better, because it is more serviceable.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham in my opinion took a very gloomy view of this Measure. He referred to the possibility of recrimination and of tariff walls being put up against us. My answer is that, in spite of anything we try to do, these foreign countries are putting up their tariff walls, and if the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble, as many of us did, to look at that model in the cloakroom and see the state of the tariff walls of European countries, it would give him, as it gave us, food for reflection. Other countries are just going to please themselves, as they have always done. You had the latest illustration in the case of Spain. While these countries look after themselves, it is about time we looked after ourselves. I support the Bill.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
In so far as the motive behind this Bill is to protect the consumer from fraud, there is hearty agreement with it. Certainly I, for one, would consider very carefully any proposal which would protect the British housewife from being supplied with foreign eggs when she was paying for English eggs. But there is very little in this Bill beyond that which is capable of protecting the consumer at all. We know, for example, the methods taken by some unscrupulous persons who are engaged in the egg trade. We know that eggs can be bought in boxes, treated with buttermilk and chamois-leather cloth, rubbed in a particular way, put into fresh baskets and sold as British eggs, and every Member on these benches would take any possible steps to prevent a continuance of that fraud. An hon. Member made a similar kind of reference to the attitude of the Labour party towards Smyrna fruit. Certainly, many of us would not eat Levantine fruit packed under filthy conditions by people who are paid low wages, if we could get purer fruit from Australia, on which decent wages have been paid. We would, certainly, give a Voluntary preference to an article produced under non-sweated conitions. But where do the producers come in here? I have not spoken before 475 on the Bill, but I. have listened for many hours to the arguments, and I have never heard where the producer came in.
For example, take my own constituency. The staple industry is the manufacture of jute. The only part of the world we are in competition with is a British Dominion—India. What satisfaction is one of my constituents going to have in the knowledge that next week, or next month, the jute bag which the farmer is filling with potatoes or the coal merchant with coal, is to be stamped "British Dominion origin"? He knows that now. It is going to do him no good. He is still up against the same kind of competition, with low wages and long hours, and there is nothing whatever in the Bill which will in the slightest degree tend to raise the living conditions or the purchasing power of customers abroad, and that is the only possible way in which we can be prosperous at all. Certainly a citizen of Dundee may be glad to know that the hags that come in from abroad, which give him three days a week work and an average income of about 30s. a week all the year round, are stamped "British Dominion origin," as against Czechoslovakian origin. It may be a matter of some intellectual satisfaction to him to know that, but it will be no economic satisfaction. He will be no better off, and I defy any hon. Member opposite to tell me what purpose is served by it. There is nothing whatever to assist the producer in this country. It merely adds to the cost of certain products to the consumer.
Then what are we to do about tea? We are told that a certain tea is foreign grown and another is Dominion grown, but there is a vast difference between the conditions under which Darjeeling tea is grown and the conditions under which Assam tea is grown. Why should we not be told that the one packet of tea is produced by forced labour at 3d. a day by gangs signed on and brought into the estates from a thousand miles away under terrible labour conditions, as in Assam, and another produced at Darjeeling under semi-free conditions? There is no differentiation whatever so far as the labour conditions are concerned. It is the same in Africa. We are to be told that certain products will come stamped from British Dominions in Africa, but 476 there is a world of difference between labour conditions in West Africa and labour conditions in Kenya. I am glad to support products that come from Vest Africa, where labour is free, where native producers are encouraged, where there is cooperation and where prosperity is increasing; but I do not want to buy one pennyworth of goods that come from Kenya, so long as the natives are compelled to give so much forced labour every year to the white settlers, as a condition of being allowed to till the land at all.
We have to look at these problems from the working-class point of view, from the trade point of view. I would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade should take note of the figures which I am about to lay before him, before he winds up the Debate to-night, and that he should go to the Library and check them. In regard to Kenya he will find that in these semi-slave plantations, under Lard Delamere's guidance, the imports from Japan, a cheap labour country, have risen from 5 per cent, of the total to 24 per cent. in three years, while our British exports to Kenya have decreased from 34 per cent. of the total to 27 per cent. in the same three years. Why is that? It is simply because the natives in Kenya have no purchasing power. You keep them as slaves. You decline to give them purchasing power, with the result that they cannot buy your goods. An entirely opposite policy operates in West Africa, under Sir Hugh Clifford and other Governors who know what they are doing. They encourage native production with a view to giving ever larger purchasing power, with the result that last year the natives in West Africa actually bought more British goods per head, man, woman and child, than did the citizens of the United States of America. They bought per head mere British bicycles, motor cars, and more products of one kind and another from this country than did the citizens of the United States of America.
We have to look at this problem, not from a fiddling point, of view, as this Bill does. This Bill is a farce. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) that it will never be operated. I could instance half-a-dozen Clauses which will never operate. 477 You cannot operate the Clause which compels the ironmonger to sell out inside a period of six or 12 months the stock which he has acquired. He cannot sell out his stock in that time. He has accumulated his stock over a long series of years. I defy the Government to prosecute any ironmonger for not having got rid of his little stock in time for the Government to begin the operation of this Bill. I defy the Government to operate the Clause with respect to compulsory attachments. You cannot seize somebody's tyres or motor-cars because they have not attached to them an indication that they are made in such and such country. The points of the Bill that are valuable have been overloaded. They have been overloaded with half-boiled Protectionist nostrums, which get nowhere at all, which will not protect the producers in this country, but which will probably make things worse by adding to the cost of the goods which the people have to buy.
One hon. Member spoke about bananas. What are the Government going to do about bananas? Bananas are grown in Jamaica now. They are described as a British Dominion product. Are they! They are grown under the British flag, but every grower in Jamaica is compelled to sell his bananas to an American trust. Every banana that comes into this country from Jamaica is brought by an American trust, Messrs. Elders and Fyffes, Limited, who pay no British Income Tax. We see advertisements on the hoardings. We are to be encouraged to stimulate the production of profits for Messrs. Elders and Fyffes, Limited, because they happen to have acquired a monopoly in a, British Dominion. It is the same with half-a-dozen other things which I could mention. Let me give one instance. Some time ago in this House a Preference on lace was passed. Imperially produced lace, that is, lace produced in the British Dominions, in the British Empire, paid no tax on coming in. When we moved from these benches that before the Preference was granted we should be assured that the lace was produced under fair conditions of labour and not under sweated conditions of labour, hon. Members opposite walked solemnly into the Lobby against it. We have that to record against them if ever they begin to talk about what this Bill 478 will do to protect the producer. Maltese lace! Who produces that lace! What are the wages paid? Because it is made under the British flag, it may he by Greeks or Italians, it, comes in here free, to the great detriment of our home producers. The same thing will go on under this Bill. You are making no attempt whatever to increase the purchasing power of your customers, and yet the only way to keep your export trade is to do that.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
I do not think the hon. Member was correct in describing Elders and Fyffes, Limited, as an American company. I think he had in mind the United Fruit Company. Messrs. Elders and Fyffes are a British company.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I think I am right, but I speak subject to correction. I have certainly made some inquiries upon the subject, and I think I am right in saying that it is Elders and Fyffes, Limited, who import these bananas, and who have an absolute monopoly of them in Jamaica. If I am wrong, and the hon. Member says that he knows more about the facts than I do, and that they are called another name, then I withdraw. I have certainly looked at the Stock Exchange Year Book, and I have looked up other authorities on the subject. I think there was a report of a Committee of Members of this House on the subject, and I remember asking a question of the hon. Member who represents the Overseas Trade Department. If the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Herbert) has later information, I will withdraw the name of Elders and Fyffes and substitute that of the United Fruit Company. I would take even money, if I were a betting man, that Elders and Fyffes, Limited, are the United Fruit Company under another name.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Smith) has been there, and he says they are the trust. There is only one way in which the Government can deal with this problem, and that is by using their power at the League of Nations and at the International Labour Office to raise the conditions of labour throughout the world, and to bring the civilised nations together to agree to prohibit the importation of goods produced under sweated, unfair and filthy 479 conditions. That is the only way to lift up the conditions all over the world. So long as the Government refuse to do that, so long as they lead the reactionaries in a backward direction with an eight-hour day, etc., and so long as they refuse to honour this country's signature at Washington, this sort of legislation is sheer futility. It will do no good whatever. It will add to the price of commodities. It will make the conditions of work worse for the working classes and will create an illusion in the country that the Government are protecting the standards of life, when, as a matter of fact, the whole principle and policy of the Government is that of competitive capital, and the whole principle and policy for which they stand is the exploitation of the worker.
The Government have deliberately set out to grind down the purchasing power, not only of the home producer; their policy is having the same effect upon our customers abroad. So long as they do nothing to raise the purchasing power of the people of India, they can expect no improvement in our trade with that country. They might employ engineering firms for months supplying the Indian people with ploughs and automatic pumps, &c., in order to increase the products of the fields and to increase their products generally, if their policy would increase the purchasing power of the Indian people. If the purchasing power of the people of India could be increased by only ¾d. per head per week, we could increase British trade by £30,000,000 a year. We cannot be prosperous if our customers are poor. If our customers are unable to buy our goods, we cannot sell them. It is an elementary fact that the only way to become prosperous either in the home or the foreign market is to increase the purchasing power of the working classes. This Bill does nothing whatever to facilitate that end. Therefore, I hope it will die in laughter.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I am glad to be able to say a few words in support of the Third Reading of this Bill, and I should like to make a brief reply to the right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb). He said that farmers seemed to want a shortage. Except in so far as I suppose we all want higher profits and higher 480 wages, I do not think it is quite fair to say that farmers in this country want a shortage of food. What they do want is to get rid of violent fluctuations. When the farmer has to compete, not only with the climate, but with violent fluctuations, he feels tempted to throw his hand in. When he finds that prices are varying from £4 to £12, he is liable to throw his hand in. I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without saying a few words in defence of the farmer against the suggestion that he wants a shortage.
Another point was raised by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) on the subject. of markets. Not very long ago, the right hon. Gentleman told us that the root of the problem in connection with agriculture was lack of security of tenure. That was absolutely wrong. To-night, when the right hon. Gentleman touched upon markets he hit the right nail on the head. In so far as this Bill will, I believe, direct the farmer's attention to his markets, I believe it will help agriculture. I have in my own constituency told farmers quite plainly that at first this Bill may have a bad effect upon them. Where they do not concentrate their attention upon delivering goods to the consumer of better quality than those which come from abroad, they may at first be bit by this Bill. I believe that the best quality produce produced on our farms in this country is ahead of the produce from any other part of the world. To that extent, I believe our farmers can compete with the world. The Danes cannot teach us much about farming, but they can teach us something about markets, and in that respect we must follow them. We must find out what the public want. When was in a bacon factory in Denmark, I was told that they Hall representatives over here studying the taste of the consumers in Manchester, Bristol or where-ever they happened to be sent. If the taste varied and they found that one district wanted a little more fat, another a little more lean bacon, they altered their feeding and supplied what was wanted. The farmer in this country does not do that. This Bill will force the farmer to pay more attention this marketing, and if at first he is adversely affected where his products are not so good as the imported products, and he is hit, he will concentrate his attention upon producing 481 what the public want and, in the long run, I believe that this Bill will help the agriculturists and the farmers.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken upon a very sensible and sound speech, and also on the wide view he took as to the needs of farmers. Perhaps he will forgive my saying that in his peroration, although he did put in a good word for the Bill, I do not think he suggested that this Bill will be of much benefit to the country as a whole. We have had a good many debates on this Bill in various forms, in Committee and on Report, and the Parliamentary Secretary, who moved the Third Reading this afternoon, has always showed unfailing good humour and a readiness to listen to arguments. I hope he has received a sound education from these debates; and perhaps some enlightenment. The President of the Board of Trade has showed remarkable industry and determination in getting this Bill through Parliament. His industry was worthy of a better cause.
This Bill is the great constructive work of the Board of Trade. It is our trade which is suffering at the present time. Our trade depression is the explanation of our unemployment; yet the only Bill the Board of Trade eau produce is this Merchandise Marks Bill. It is not even their own invention; it is the relic of three previous Bills, in 1923, 1924 and 1925. It is true that these Bills did not have the advantage of the Government's blessing, and they never saw the light of day, but in order to please their own back-bench Members, the Government have produced this Bill. This accounts for its peculiar form, and the empty benches opposite prove that there is no enthusiasm for this Measure in its present form. The right way to introduce proposals of this character is in a Schedule, but the reason this is not done is obvious—a Schedule is open to endless amendment and alteration. Instead, we have all the elaborate machinery of the committees which are to be set up under this Measure. These committees are not limited. There may be two or three committees. The members are to be paid; but we have had no estimates. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary can give us any idea of the cost of these committees. We have had no statement 482 as to the salary of the members. We have had some indication of the kind of person who will be appointed; they are to be ex-officials of Government Departments. Government Departments are to be combed out in order to please the Press advocates of public economy, but those who are combed out will be combed into these new committees which are to sit on every trade and industry in the country. I think we ought to have some idea of the number of these committees, the number of officials, and the cost of administration.
There has been no reference during the discussion to-day to the first Clause of the Bill. Frankly, when I first came into contact with this Bill, I thought the first Clause was comparatively harmless. On the Second Reading Debate the impression was given that this was a Clause to prevent fraud, but on closer examination it became apparent that. it was something very much wider, much more dangerous and mischievous than the rest of the Bill. It would appear that every article the Committee decide as suitable for branding will be so branded, but if a number are left over then they may come under this Clause, and may have to be branded if they have an English name or trade mark. We have had representations from the retail trade, who have pointed out that for the convenience of their customers and advertising it is very necessary to brand their names on the goods they sell. If they brand their name, then, under this first Clause, even if a committee of inquiry decides that they are not suitable for branding, they may still have to be branded. You are not doing the country of origin very much harm by this. As a matter of fact, one of the complaints of manufacturers is that the public in many cases, especially in ladies' goods, like to see goods branded as made in Paris. It may be a blessing in disguise from the foreigner's point of view, but it is going to put the retailers of this country to much expense and great trouble.
The most interesting thing which came out of the Debate last night was on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Wiggins) on the question of branding piece-goods sent abroad in order to undergo various finishing processes. It was too much even for the loyalty of some of the followers of the 483 Government. They made out an unanswerable case. They pointed out that it would inflict untold injury on one or two of the staple trades in this country—on the cotton trade of Lancashire, and the wooflen trade of Yorkshire. It was pointed out that a considerable business was done in sending some of these goods abroad to be finished, and if these articles are to be branded, it will not only do harm to our own manufacturers, but will be a free advertisement to foreign firms, who are our competitors.
It is very essential to remember that the whole of this interference with trade must strike a blow at our mercantile business. It is the fashion, I know, to speak with contempt of merchants, but England owes its mercantile supremacy to the enterprise and imagination of British merchants. London is the centre of British and Continental trade, and when the Government comes along with all their new regulations, whether in the form of safeguarding or branding, you are bound to interfere with trade and divert it from London to other trade centres on the continent of Europe. This may seem a slight matter to some people, but it is exciting the anger of traders in the City of London. Some doubt was east on the genuineness of the protest made by the London Chamber of Commerce, and the President of the Board of Trade went out of his way to say that a section of that Chamber of Commerce, the electrical trades section, was supporting this Bill. He did not give us any other example: I wonder if he could.
The Resolution passed by the London Chamber of Commerce was unanimous, there is no question about that. It was sent on to the right hon. Gentleman and it is rather a serious thing for him to suggest that it does not really represent the considered opinion of the chamber. The chamber speaks for over 60,000 traders, probably the most important trade organisation in the world: This is the Resolution:The London Chamber of Commerce is of opinion that the country cannot afford at the present time, Voluntarily and by its own act, to destroy any portion of its existing trade, and, therefore, views with alarm the acceptance by the Government of an Amendment to the Merchandise 484 Marks Bill enabling au Order to be made for the marking of manufactured goods before importation.An hon. Member opposite said that the Associated Chamber;, of Commerce had approved the principle of the Bill, but he forgot to say that they approved the principle of the Bill at the end of April last, before it had been materially altered and extended. Now that the Bill has been altered and includes the branding of goods before importation, I am told that they take a very different view. I do not want to attach too much importance to this chamber or to that chamber, to this trade or to that, to this federation of industries or to that, I take the view that this Bill is economically unsound. There is no getting away from the fact that the purpose of this Bill is to protect and assist the British manufacturer by making it more difficult for the foreigner to compete with the manufacturers of this country. That is the main purpose of this Bill. All other arguments are mere camouflage. The Government, instead of going in for a general tariff, have turned to this expedient of carrying out the principle of Protection; they are seeking to get round their pledge in this way and arc trying to introduce Protection by this Measure. This Bill will be very mischievous. It will do a great deal of harm to the consumer. It will add to the cost of living, make it more difficult to import goods, and injure our entry into foreign markets. Time will show how much harm this Bill will do, and how unpopular it will be. It will certainly confer no real and lasting benefit on the trade of this country. I hope we shall go into the Division Lobby and record our protest against this Measure.
§ Sir FRANK MEYER
Without desiring to east ant reflection on the quality of the speeches during the Report stage of the Bill, think it is not too much to say that the Debate on the whole has been singularly uninspiring. Whether in part that is due to the nature of the subject I do not say. I think it is very largely due to the fact that there is a general feeling in the House that the opposition to this Measure lacks reality. We have had long and interesting and confidential speeches from the right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) in opposition to the Bill, and we have had some virulent 485 attacks on the Bill from the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). This Bill provides for his Party the usual opportunity to whip up the old Free Trade arguments. That is the one subject on which they are able to whip up a certain amount of enthusiasm and to present a more or less united front. I cannot help thinking that the Liberal party does not really believe this to be a Measure attacking the principle of Free Trade, because if they did we should have had the opposition led, not by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green, but by the hon. and gallant Gentleman whom I once characterised as the Horatius of Free Trade. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) would have been on the bridge directing operations had he conceived that this was a real attack on Free Trade, instead of which his Herminius has been there directing operations.
Throughout the Debate there has been unreality because everyone knows that this is not in any way an attack on Free Trade nor a Protective Measure. It is purely a Measure to provide information to the purchaser in this country as to the article that he buys. Some of the arguments advanced have struck me as singularly illogical. The hon. Member who has just spoken has said to-day, as on previous occasions, that the marking of these foreign goods will be an advertisement of foreign goods and will consequently be prejudicial to the manufacturer or producer in this country. If that is so, if to mark the goods "Made in Germany" or "Made in Austria" or "Made in France" is a good advertisement and will help to sell those goods, there is nothing to prevent any foreign manufacturer marking his goods in that way now. This Bill makes no difference as far as that is concerned: the foreigner can do so now, just as he will be compelled to do so under the Bill. Then we have had tile argument that textiles made in this country and dyed or treated abroad have now, under the Bill, to return to this country with a mark indicating that they have been so treated abroad. The argument is that the purchaser will for the first time know in what country that dyeing or treatment has taken place, and will in future go direct to that country for the goods. Is it seriously stated that 486 the trade purchaser who buys these large lines of textiles does not know now where they are made or dyed or treated? Of course he does.
§ Sir F. MEYER
If that be so, I understand that there is to be no compulsory marking, and, therefore, the argument of the hon. Member does not enter into the question at all. I do not want to go into the details of the Bill. We had a very interesting speech just now from the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). I would like to congratulate him on the ingenuity with which he introduced into his speech all his favourite hobbies—the Washington Convention, the difference between conditions of labour in Kenya and West Africa, the different conditions in the growing of tea in Assam and Darjeeling. He mentioned these and other subjects very skilfully, and did not attract the attention of the Chair to the fact that he was wandering rather far from the Bill, when he said that all these things were not in the Bill but that they should be. He opposed the Bill because it did not go far enough. According to him, articles should he marked not only "made abroad" but should be marked "made abroad under a system where they work 10 hours a day and wages are 3d. an hour." I fear that if an attempt were made to extend the Measure in that way it would be quite impracticable.
There is one point of view from which I am principally supporting this Measure. I admit that a certain amount of disorganisation will occur in the trade in these foreign articles at the start. Any change of this sort will produce a certain amount of inconvenience. The inconvenience is always exaggerated before it takes place. It usually passes away in the course of a few months. The benefit of the Measure will be very gradual. It is only gradually that the public will come to know exactly what are British or Empire goods and what are foreign. Roughly speaking, there are now three classes of purchasers amongst the public. There is the class made up of those who are determined at all costs to buy British goods. They are the people who go into a shop and insist on knowing whether the goods are made in Britain. They are not easily satisfied, and they take trouble to buy only British or Empire goods. I fear that 487 that class is rather a small class. There is another class, and, without any offence, I say it is the class represented by the point of view so ably expressed by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green. It is the class of people who say, "We must buy whatever we want in the cheapest way and exactly as we like, unimpeded and without even having our attention directed to the fact that the goods come from a particular country." Under this Bill those people will still be able to buy their foreign goods, if they want to do so. Moreover, they will know that they are foreign goods; they will be able to pat themselves on the back when they buy foreign knives or tumblers, and will be able to say "By buying these foreign goods we have helped the shipping industry and the traders who import the goods."
There is a third, and the largest class, and that is the class of people who prefer, other things being equal, to buy British goods, and, failing British goods, to buy Empire goods. The inertia or business of the ordinary man prevents him making constant inquiries. Moreover, the ordinary person, especially the man, is enormously influenced by the salesman who pushes cleverly a line of goods which he has obtained cheaply from abroad and on which he is perhaps making more profit than on British goods. He is enormously influenced by such a salesman and will not take sufficient trouble to insist on British goods. If in future that middle class of persons, the neutral class, have brought to their attention what are British goods, if every time a man of that class who buys foreign goods sees that they are foreign goods, I believe that gradually that fact will have an immense effect in increasing the purchase of British goods in this country. The effect may be slow, but it will be enormous in the long run. It is for that reason, in spite of any temporary difficulty that a Measure such as this is bound to bring, that I strongly support it, and I believe that in the long run it will prove to be a great help to British industry.
§ Mr. RILEY
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken began by referring to what he called the unreality of the Debate. I oppose the Measure because I believe it is an unreal Measure as a 488 remedy for trade depression. I am convinced that it will not only be mischievous and irritating, but that it will have a direct effect in increasing prices, and therefore raising the cost of living. Something has been said by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Raine) to the effect that we must now have Measures of this kind in this country because other countries are more or less constantly raising their tariff walls. As a matter of fact, the present time is the most inopportune for this country to go into competition in the raising of tariff barriers. Although it is true that tariffs exist in most countries, it is equally true that the commercial leaders of all countries are coming round to the view that it is not by maintaining or increasing tariffs that prosperity will be brought about, but rather by diminishing tariffs and coming to agreements whereby tariffs may be considerably reduced. We have had a startling illustration of the lack of faith in protective measures as exemplified in this Bill. In the United States there have been elections in which those who have stood for high tariffs have failed to retain public confidence, while those who were against 'high tariffs have won. No one who goes abroad in the country can fail to notice that there is more and more a consensus of opinion among industrial leaders that prosperity in Europe will be found in agreement to bring clown tariffs and remove barriers, and not in supporting a policy of this kind. We have to remember the critical state of our own industry. The introduction into British industry of this new obstacle and difficulty will retard rather than revive trade.
I oppose the Bill on the ground that the only way in which a substantial stride can be made towards Unproved trade is by adopting -such methods as will give to the great mass of the British people a larger purchasing power, and, therefore, a larger consuming. power. That is the real way. It is not the unreal way of this Bill which will diminish trade and create a diminished opportunity of consumption. If the Government, instead of taking the step contained in this Bill, were to utilize their powers and resources to stimulate the capacity of British agriculturists to produce better grades of goods, 489 larger supplies of goods, that would be the way to get more British consumption. Why do British people buy foreign goods'? It is not because they prefer foreign goods, but because they are either superior in quality, or meet their taste better, or satisfy them better either as to quality or price. No one imagines that any substantial section of British people would prefer foreign goods if they could have British goods of equal value and equal quality. The real way is, not to raise up barriers which are going to diminish supplies, but to break down barriers and increase supplies.
The consumers are going to be affected by this Bill in regard to two classes of goods which I shall mention. There can be no question as to the danger of increasing price and diminishing supply if one considers the widespread requirements of British consumption. Take the trade in this country in the importation of all kinds of canned goods, which it is necessary should be available for consumption among the people at a reasonable price. According to the Board of Trade returns, there were imported into this country in 1925 approximately 13,000,000 packages of tinned or canned goods, and of those only 1,000,000 packages came from our Dominions, the other 12,000,000 packages coming from countries other than the -Dominions. As a matter of fact, we took in 1925 ail the canned goods that the Dominions had available and, if there had been more, we would probably have taken them. What will be the effect of this Bill upon the supply of canned goods? These goods are canned in a certain way and they are of a certain quality, and at present the merchants are able to make bargains knowing the quality and the conditions of the output. The goods are therefore supplied at the cheapest possible price. They have not to be marked, and they can be imported straight away. Under this Bill the importers of this country, which for twelve-thirteenths of its canned goods supplies is dependent on foreign countries, will be under the obligation of having to place their orders in advance, because the goods will have to be marked. They will have to take what is available at an increased price, and that will raise the price to the consumers in this country. Again, take the case of the importation of food- 490 stuffs, fruit and vegetables at the Port of Hull. In 1925 no less than 1,000,000 packages were imported in the month of July alone at the Port of Hull. Of these, there were 769,000 packages of fruit, 203,000 packages of vegetables, and 869 packages of other foodstuffs. Under this Bill, there will be an obligation on all importers to see that they are all marked. Many are perishable goods. There is the expense of marking, and the difficulty of examination, and all this is going to add to the price to the consumer. The effect of this Bill is not only going to be irritating to business men and injurious to trade, but injurious to the people by making their food dearer. It is an unreal Bill, and, if the Government want to do something substantial, let them instead use their resources to stimulate British agriculture to produce better quality and bigger quantities.
Remarking on the statement of the right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) that this Bill was full-blooded Protection, the Parliamentary Secretary said most decisively it was nothing of the kind. To describe this anæmic Measure as full-blooded anything would be a gratuitous misuse of language. At the same time, although it may not be full-blooded Protection or full-blooded anything else, it certainly expresses all the worst characteristics of a Protectionist Measure, the maximum of interference, the maximum of trouble as against the minimum of advantage to anyone. That is characteristic in every way of what full-blooded Protection really would mean to the industries and commerce of this country. I remember seeing a vaudeville entertainment on one occasion, the title of which was, "Selling a Car." We were able yesterday to drag from the Board of Trade some practical illustrations of what the detailed administration of this Measure would be like and we were told that, in the case of a commodity such as a motor car, the component parts would be marked with their place of origin. I can imagine myself at the end of next year going to the Motor Show, with a 'fat pocket hook, determined upon buying a car, and I can imagine a spruce and well-dressed salesman endeavouring to sell a car of one particular make to me, and another equally spruce and well- 491 dressed salesman trying to compete with him and sell me a car of an entirely different make. Of course, I would require a specification of each car before I decided. I would find in the specifications—as price lists are to be included in the Measure—that component parts in one care from the British Empire or the Dominions would number 50 as against 49 in the other. We are asked to believe that my judgment would be decided, not upon the running power or the quality of the car, but by the balance of the number of component parts which would be of British or Empire origin. Can anything be more farcical than a prospect of that character? People do not buy articles because they are manufactured or produced in this country, in the Colonies or in foreign countries. They buy articles according to the nature of their taste and the extent of their purse.
We had the admission yesterday that the administration of the Act, so far as foodstuffs are concerned, will be vested in the local authorities, and we were told that food and drug inspectors would be there to do the work, and that there would he no extra cost to the municipality and, therefore,, no increase of rates. There, again, is an illustration of the absurdity of this Bill. Does anyone imagine for a moment that food and drug inspectors, with special sanitary training and with special training from the standpoint of possible infection by bad food, are the people qualified to determine whether there is fraud by the retailer of foodstuffs over the counter or upon the stall in the market street? How is he to decide whether an egg or an orange or any other kind of foodstuff is produced in this country, in the Colonies, or in any foreign country? The fact is that the administration of this Measure, besides being costly, is going to mean a tremendous interference with the liberty of the trader, and an interference with the easy process of commerce and trade in this country.
My main reason for intervening is because I do not want to be an entirely silent Member upon this question. The object of the Bill, if it means anything at all, is to encourage the trade in or the demand for British or Empire goods. I would like to point out to the House that that does not mean the same thing. 492 When hon. Members, who represent agricultural constituencies, talk about the advantage to British agriculture which this Measure would give, they must remember that it is just as much a disadvantage to British agriculturists as it is an advantage to Dominion agriculturists. In that respect the Bill is contradictory. We are told we must give the housewife the opportunity of knowing whether she is buying British, Empire or foreign goods, and that we should encourage the spirit expressed in another Gilbertian opera—one has been quoted to-night:She is an EnglishwomanIn spite of all temptationsTo belong to other nationsShe remains an Englishwoman.I do not think the average housewife—certainly not in my constituency—is going to trouble the trader in the shop about the possible origin of his goods. She has to make every penny go as far as it possibly can. The idea that this Measure, if it can he made effectual, is going to do anything to increase trade in British or Imperial articles seems to me very far-fetched indeed. I do not want it to be imagined that I and my party do not believe in encouraging the consumption of British-made goods. Leaving out Empire goods for the moment, I do believe in encouraging the production of British goods and British produce. But I want it to be encouraged in a much more scientific fashion. I have very little sympathy with the views which have been expressed by the high and dry Free Trade party during this Debate. We have been told that our country depends on foreign trade for employment, and that if we interfere with foreign trade—presumably by the encouragement of trade in British goods—therefore, w are necessarily interfering with the employment of our people. I take exception to that position. It is not true that this nation must depend on foreign trade for employment. In so far as we are dependent on foreign trade for employment, I disagree with the Protectionist policy of interference. I would not vote for Protection, but the argument that it is a good thing that we should have more and more foreign trade, even at the expense of manufacture and production in this country, seems to me entirely unsound. As far as it concerns employment, that argument is flagrantly unsound.
493 The historic Free Trade argument is that goods pay for goods. It is true that goods pay for goods in trade between countries and the fallacy of the Protectionist argument is to imagine that we can encourage trade in British and Imperial products and maintain our foreign trade as well. The two things cannot be done. It is only possible to build up trade in British manufactures and products—all other things being equal—at the expense of foreign trade. But I do not mind that a bit, and to illustrate my point I propose to cite some arbitrary figures which I hope may be of interest to the Free Trade Liberals who are present. "Goods pay for goods and all trade is mutual," say the Free Traders. Perfectly true, but let us sup- pose the case of a manufacturer in London who produces goods to the extent of £1,000 and employs 100 workers in doing so. He sells those goods in Ger- many or some other foreign country. Sooner or later we must buy things from foreign countries if we expect to sell to foreign countries. That is where the Tories go wrong. Thus we have £1,000 worth of goods manufactured in Berlin employing 100 workers, and these are sent to London. The total, between the two countries, is £2,000 of wealth produced and 200 people employed.
It is true that trade is mutual, but it is mutual not only between countries but inside countries. Trade is ultimately barter, money and credit being merely means of convenience inside a country as well as between two countries. Now, supposing the £1,000 worth of goods had been manufactured in London, employing 100 people, and had been exchanged for £1,000 worth of good's produced by the employment of 100 persons in Sheffield or Manchester, just the same amount of wealth would be produced and the same amount of employment, but the wealth would all be in this country and the employment would all be in this country. I will make a present of that argument to our Protectionist friends. It is not an argument for Protection but an argument for doing all we can to encourage the development of our own country. Protection does not do that, and this Measure is an example of the way in which such interference with industry is going to encourage the middleman and the profiteer and the people who take 494 advantage of every chance to put up prices and create monopofies. That is the disadvantage of Protection, but in opposing this Bill we do not wish to be put down as opponents of the idea of encouraging British production and British trade.
§ Mr. BARNES
So far, in these Debates opinion appears to have been divided, as to whether this Bill can be operated or not. Many of those who have argued that it is impracticable have my sympathy, but I cannot avoid the knowledge that the Bill will be worked by committees. My general experience is that committees take themselves seriously even if no one else does. In so far as these will be paid committees I am inclined to think they will approach this Measure with the view of trying to justify their existence, and I shall discuss the Bill on the assumption that it represents the serious policy of the Government and that the intention is that many commodities which at present come into this country unmarked are to be brought within its provisions. Ostensibly the Bill as introduced was to protect the consumer, but it becomes more and more apparent that the interests of the traders and manufacturers have overshadowed the interests of the consumers. I do not wonder at that because I hold the view that the Bill cannot possibly affect the consumers advantageously. So much is that the case that, as the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison) pointed out during these discussions, the co-operative body in this country, the only body which can speak for organised consumers, have felt it their duty to oppose the Bill. In the controversy which has raged round the opinion expressed by the London Chamber of Commerce various other bodies have been quoted as being in favour of the Bill. I find that the President of the Board of Trade, as a set-off against the views of the London, Manchester, and Liverpool Chambers of Commerce, quoted the views of the Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers, the iron and steel manufacturers, the pottery trades, the cutlers, and so on.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
The hon. Member has left out the Association of British Chambers of Commerce.
§ Mr. BARNES
I did so deliberately because a right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the other side earlier in the Debate admitted that that Resolution was passed in April of last year. It is generally recognised that the opposition of the chambers of commerce to the Bill only developed after the Second Reading when general merchandise was brought within its operations. However, I do not mind if the right hon. Gentleman includes the Associated Chambers of Commerce in his body of support. The fact remains that the chambers of Commerce of London, Liverpool and Manchester who can speak with the greatest authority for the distributive trades of this country oppose the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must ultimately fall back on the opinion of manufacturers to support the Bill. I do not urge that the opinion of manufacturers is a criminal or undesirable thing. It is legitimate that the opinion of manufacturers should be ascertained on particular phases of commerce, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot argue that these associations of manufacturers can speak as authoritative bodies on behalf of the consumer.
No one will quarrel with the assertion that the determining factors which influence a person about to purchase an article are quality, price and service. In the ordinary way quality should take precedence over price, but as a matter of fact to-day, in the majority of the items to be covered by this Bill, price is the first consideration in the mind of the purchaser. Hon. Members on this side are not responsible for the fact that the majority of purchasers in this country have low wages, but the fact remains and if the housewife has to make ends meet she cannot allow sentiment or quality to determine how she spends her money. Our solution of low wage capitalism is to abolish the system which makes for it, but that question is not involved in this Bill. If, however, hon. Members opposite feel it is legitimate policy to condemn a large body of wage-earners to miserable and uncertain wages, then neither Bills of this description nor advertising campaigns or any other method of stimulating the purchase of British goods will succeed.
I was interested in the statement of an hon. Member opposite that the farmers of this country should study 496 their market. In my view that it a prime necessity if we are to restore British agriculture—connected, of course, with the problem of wages. I will give the House a practical experience of my own. I am interested in the co-operative movement. After the War we had succeeded in building up an entirely English meat trade. We had eliminated imported or chilled meat altogether from our shops. That was in the period up to 1920, when wages were comparatively high. What has happened in the last six years? Since we moved into the financial and industrial slump it has been the policy of organisations like the Federation of British Industries, representing the financiers and industrialists, to bring down wages. What has been the reaction on British agriculture? We have been compelled to depart from the policy of stocking British meat exclusively, merely because we were losing our trade. It was not because our members did not desire to purchase it.
§ Mr. BARNES
No. As a matter of fact, if the chilled meat was not Colning in. they would not have had any meat at all. If the housewife has only a certain amount of money and cannot afford to purchase prime English joints, the working-class family is confronted with the problem of either giving up meat entirely or purchasing the cheaper imported variety. We have not created that problem. The desire of the purchaser in this country, working class, middle class, or any other class, is to purchase homegrown meat if he can afford it, and WE have been forced off Cant policy and compelled to import. chilled and other kinds of meat., merely because of the low wages paid to working-class, people.
§ Mr. BARNES
The hon. Member says, "Rubbish," but in the East End of London, from where I come—and it is obvious from your statistical reports—there are tens of thousands of people working to-day who are only getting £2 or £2 2s. a week in the riverside industries, and many of them are not getting any work at all, but are living on the dofe and on guardians' relief. How can these people afford to buy British pro- 497 duce? If we arc to restore British agriculture, it can only be done in two directions. One is by raising the purchasing power of the town dwellers, and the other is by adopting the policy which the hon. Member for Torquay indicated, and that is studying the British market at home. As a matter of fact, our farmers do not endeavour to grade or trouble to standardise. They simply pitch their goods on the town markets and let them take care of themselves, whereas the foreign importers and the Empire producers for the very purpose of getting in on the British market, have had to grade, and standardise, and give reliable quality. British agriculture to-day is nothing more than the Lazarus of Capitalism, simply waiting, through Bills of this description, to get a crumb here and a crumb there thrown by the financiers and the industrialists as it suits their purposes for political ends.
I have no hesitation in saying that the Co-operative movement in this country is doing more practical good for British agriculture by linking up directly with the farmers and by purchasing supplies direct from the farmers than all the Bills of this description can ever do. There is a right way and there is a wrong way of getting the trade of the consumer. First of all, you must have standard quality. You cannot maintain the sales of any commodity unless the quality is uniform and reliable over a period. You must have steady and reasonable prices, and you must have regular supplies. In other words, the essence of obtaining trade is reliability. This Bill does not produce any of those things, as far as the homemade trade is concerned. It ignores all these factors that go to develop trade. Now I will turn to another phase of sales in this country. If the Government are desirous of improving and encouraging British sales, the better plan, in my view, would be to direct our attention, as the House of Commons, to methods that have been tried already, to ascertain what practical, successful commerce has adopted to develop sales, and there are plenty of illustrations about to-day. British firms and Empire firms are not out of date or inefficient.
As a matter of fact, the whole history of industry in this country and of the way in which Empire producers have gradually secured a hold on our markets is full of illustrations of the right way of 498 tackling this problem. The merchants have done these things themselves. Take the marketing of salmon in this country. It has not depended on Government legislation, but Empire and home merchants have had certain brands to push, have advertised those brands, have standardised and marketed them under proper conditions, and they have been successful. Danish bacon has been mentioned. It does not matter whether you, mark these brands or not, their sales are secure on the home market to-day by their efficiency and quality, and in regard to the arguments that have been used about Danish bacon and the question of price, it is not a question of price or origin. Therefore, this Bill is absolutely futile. Take sun-maid raisins. Here is an Empire product which has been put on the London market in recent years, and a considerable sale has been built up in that particular article. These things are happening year after year, and once the public has been taught that here is a reliable line of goods, marking of this description becomes merely an irritation to trade and does not help at all.
This attitude of the British trader, which this Bill crystallises, that it is too much trouble for the British trader to mark his goods, and that the burden of marking should be thrown on the foreign producer, is totally wrong. It is the attitude of mind that makes for failure. Our attitude in trade and commerce and in legislation ought to be to make up our minds that British goods are best, and then to make a market by efficiency, by advertising, by standardisation, by quality and reliability. That is the only way in which we are going to increase our home and foreign markets. The Parliamentary Secretary said this Debate had existed in a fog. I agree, because the policy of Conservatism to-day is confused. I have been in this House now under two Conservative Parliaments, and it seems to me that the Conservative party in trade is trying to operate two contradictory policies. It cannot make up its mind whether the primary trades of Great Britain are the source of our wealth or whether the secondary trades are the basis of our prosperity, and in legislation in this House and outside it is this contradiction of policy that, I submit, is causing a good deal of our difficulty.
499 Let us look at the reaction on wages and prices. Every now and again, industries like the coal industry, the iron and steel industry, the shipping industry, and the cotton industry, have felt their problem in world marketing getting more difficult, and their only solution has been an attack on the wages of the workers, and periodically, for the last five or six years, we have had these concerted attacks, first of one exporting industry and then of another, to try to reduce the working costs by a reduction of labour costs. It appears to me that we get an entirely contradictory thing at, work when we come to legislation that represents Conservative industrial policy. In Parliament we have had the safeguarding legislation, we have had the McKenna Duties, merchandise marks, Imperial Preference, and the maintenance of heavy taxation, all of which really add in some way or another to the cost of British production. I do not care what kind of barrier it is, if you are in favour of barriers, well and good, but I do not think it is of any use, even for British Capitalism, to try to bring down the working or production costs and wages on the one hand and then, in another field of our industrial and financial life, to put on additional burdens.
By that policy you not only destroy your foreign market, but your home market as well, because your home market finally depends on the purchasing power of the community, and no one can gainsay that one of the difficulties of the home market to-day is the fact that millions of workers in this country in all our export trades, who before the War represented the main purchasing power in Great Britain that kept our home markets going, have been reduced to practically a sweated standard. What purchasing power do a million miners to-day represent in the future on the home. Market" The cotton operatives working on practically a half-week basis, year after year —what happens to their purchasing power? The shipbuilding trade, with 30 per cent. unemployed, the engineering trade, and so on, are further cases in point. Here are something like two to three million workers in this country giving way under the burden of this attack on wages, who, before the War 500 represented a solid purchasing power that maintained many of our home industries. They have been gradually undermined by this policy of attacking wages and if we are going to get legislation like merchandise marks, safeguarding, and so on, it appears to me that British industry is being drowned in conflicting policies.
My final point is this: When we are discussing the policy that we pat forward from these benches, that this wasteful method of first producing goods, and then trying to meet the immorality, the fraud, that develop under Capitalism by legislation of this description, which only becomes another form of waste by representing another kind of expense, and when we submit as an alternative that industry to-day should be organised on a communal basis, we are immediately accused of trying to run industry by a bureaucracy, of trying to create a multitude of State officials, and of developing red tape, and regulations, and so on. As a matter of fact, this kind of Bill represents all the absurdities that characterize the arguments of hon. 'Members opposite when they condemn Socialism or co-operative enterprise. We can see now why they raise this kind of complaint against Socialism. It is because that is the way Capitalism is moving to-day. Competition is collapsing, industry can no longer efficiently work on its own lines, and it is being compelled more and more to come to Parliament for the purpose of putting itself right. The Government and their supporters claim to stand for economy, but they are the only party in the State that increases the burden of taxation. They stand for economy in Departmental administration, but. this Bill is worked, Departmental costs arc bound to go up. They claim that local rates must come down because they represent a direct burden on industry, and I agree, but they try to bring local rates down by penalising the unemployed, by cutting the scales of relief to the unemployed, and, in addition, by Bills of this sort, placing further burdens on local authorities and increasing rates in another direction. That would not matter so much if these things were not ultimately interpreted in a human direction, and I have no hesitation in stating that this policy that the 501 Conservative party is adopting, both in its attack on wages and in its legislation, is actually increasing the amount of human unhappiness and misery, and difficulties in trade in this country. It is because that appears to be the automatic result of Conservative policy that the Labour party stand here to-night to oppose this Measure, not because in itself we feel that it will vitally affect the issue one way or another, but because it represents a certain mental attitude to our economic life which we are determined to resist and, by developing public opinion, to replace with something better and more efficient.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The arguments which have been advanced against this Measure to-night are inevitably the same as those advanced against Clauses 1 and 2 on Report, and I hope hon. Members will not think me discourteous if do not deal with every point that has been raised to-night. The Opposition find themselves in a predicament. They can- not make up their minds to say whether this is a little Bill, and that it will never do anything, or to say, as the last speaker said, that this is a Bill of such a deleterious character that it will add greatly to the sum of human misery, and that, therefore, the whole Labour party must attend in its s[...]rried ranks to withstand the Bill. The truth lies in neither of these contentions. It is a practical Measure, we submit, which may prove of consider- able practical use. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), I observe, advanced the same arguments that he advanced yesterday. He said we ought to vote against this Bill, because it was not exactly the same as that to which the House gave a Second Reading. I made it plain to the House on Second Reading that we should go into Committee with a perfectly open mind, and discuss on its merits whether the marking on importation should include manufactured goods or be confined to foodstuffs. I also said I would welcome any Amendments designed to male this Bill a more efficient instrument for its purpose:
This is the position. If we pass a Bill through this House without Amendment, rejecting all Amendments which are put forward, the right hon. Gentleman and his friends say this is a tyrannous Government using its vast majority to steamrofler them, and to reject any Amend- 502 ment, however reasonable. But when we accept Amendments—and over 50 per cent. of those accepted in Committee were moved by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends—and I am very much obliged to him and them [Interruption.] Yes, I have had a statistical calculation made, and I find that if 1 add the Amendments made to improve the drafting of their Amendments, more than 50 per cent. were from him and his friends—but when we accept Amendments and improve the Bill—and that is what debate is for—we are told on Third Reading that the Bill has changed its character, and we ought not to pass it, because it is a somewhat different Measure from that which was introduced. They cannot have it both ways.
The right hon. Gentleman Hall another argument. He said, "I object to this Bill, not so much for what is in it, as for the reason that it contains or conceals a secret vice." I was a little alarmed at that until I discovered that the secret vice which this Bill is supposed to contain or conceal is the iniquity,, that while it is true that it will inform the consumer as to the origin of the goods he is buying, it will also be of assistance to the manufacturer and the agricultural producer. I admit that the Bill does contain that great sin, and it is one of the great merits of the Bill that it will have that effect. Then the right hon. Gentleman complained of the prospects of delay. H people carry out the Bill there will not be delay. If people seek to evade the Bill, if, when there is an order for goods to be marked, they try to bring in goods unmarked, then there will be delay. Then he brought out the old argument that we must never legislate in our own interests for fear of retaliation by others. I am reminded of the lines,Get animal est tres méchant;Quand on Pattaque it se défend.Whatever may be the value of Free Trade or Protection, there is no one who has ever negotiated who will not admit that the absence of power to retaliate is a deprivation and a weakness. There may be other reasons which make it more desirable that we should not have that power—I am not going to discuss that now—but it is a deprivation, there is no doubt, and to suggest that we must not take some measures in our own interest because others will retaliate, really is not an argument which will carry conviction.
Is there any intention on the part of the Government to use this marking as a means of negotiation?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
None at all. The argument is therefore quite irrelevant, but as the point was raised, answered it. The right hon. Gentleman joined with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (sir J. Simon) in an attack upon Committees. What was the alternative but bringing in a Bill to say everything should be marked?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Why did the hon. Member want a Schedule—for clarity or in order that he might obstruct it better'? The right hon. Gentleman resents an inquiry. Why there is not a tribunal which has reported upon this matter which has not been unanimous in reporting that there should be inquiry—and detailed inquiry—into the articles which should be marked, and into the manner of their marking. Then the right hon. Gentleman says, "I do not object really to Committees," and as a Member of the, Labour party he could not object to Committees. "What," he said," I object to is that it should be judicial." Does he want an unjudicial Committee, a prejudiced Committee? I should have thought that if you had a Committee, you wanted it to be as judicial as possible, and as impartial as it could he. The right hon. Member for Spen Valley said he had no objection to the Committee, but he had to the special interests being heard before them. For whom has the hon. Gentleman the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) been speaking all these days? We have had advanced in this House—quite rightly from his point of view—exclusively the interest of the importer. 'Of course, every interest is bound to he considered if you are to come to a just, impartial and accurate decision in these matters.
The final argument was raised that, because we are to have Committees, the House of Commons is supplanted. That is not so. The House of Commons retains full power. The difference is that, if the House of Commons wishes to express its opinion after there has been an inquiry by a Committee, you have an informed House of Commons with a full knowledge of the subject, and, therefore, able to give a much better judgment. than a House of 504 Commons which has nut that information provided by a Committee. You have the whole matter sifted out, while the power of the House of Commons remains entirely unchanged. Eight hon. Gentlemen opposite can move Votes of Censure on the Government., and challenge any single item of administration in the ordinary way in the Debates on the Votes. To what does it all come? I challenge the right hon. Gentleman at once, and I say that. whatever the Report might be, if a duty were to be brought forward in this House, the right hon. Gentleman would vote against it, and if any goods were to be marked, the right lion. Gentleman word vote against it, Committee or no Committee. So where do we stand? The right hon. Member for Seaham asked me whether there would be rules of procedure, and, if so, whether they would he published? I am not sure that there need be rules of procedure for such a Committee, but., if so, they will be published. He also asked whether it was necessary to provide in the Bill that persons who are entitled to be heard should be represented by counsel. I did not put in an Amendment to that effect because I was informed that it was unnecessary—the right is contained in the Clause as it stands.
At this, the eleventh hour of our proceedings on this Bill, the Liberal party has been reinforced 1,y the presence of its leader, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was brought up to toe the line. His first argument was that it is absurd to give these inefficient manufacturers the chance of making on 1. a case for marking. It is only when you get weak Governments like the Tory Government. and keen agitators like Sir Howard Vincent to prevail upon a weak Government, that legislation of this kind is introduced. The right hon. Gentleman's memory is very short. Who was it set up the Merchandise Marks Committee which reported in 190? The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He set up this Committee and allowed these inefficient manufacturers to come and argue before it. Not only that; he went further: He produced a Merchandise Marks Bill, and not only produced it, hut had it introduced in another place by a Noble Lord who is now, I think, a member of the Socialist party—Lord 505 Gorell The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has certainly a very short memory in these matters.
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into his argument about the coal strike or his passionate advocacy of the Land and Nation League, neither of which seem to me to be strictly relevant to the subject in debate. He advanced two other arguments. The first was that this is going to help the foreigner. If the manufacturers think it is going to help the foreigner the manufacturers would not want this Bill. Is it possible that manufacturers who say this is going to help them do not- know more about it than the right hon. Gentleman And if marking of foreign goods is of such tremendous assistance to the foreign manufacturer, then is it not true, as the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) said in a most admirable speech, if I may say so, that there is nothing to stop the foreigner marking his goods at the present time, and why does he not mark them all before sending them here? The right hon. Gentleman ended his speech with an, epigram, when he said that our problem is not one of marking but one of marketing.
That sounds very well, but the problem of marketing has been considered by the Imperial Economic Committee in four reports, and in every one of those reports they state that in order to be able to market goods efficiently, it is essential that there should be an opportunity of those goods being marked. The two questions hang together. We stand by this Bill, for which there is an ever increasing Volume Of support. Every inquiry that has been held into the matter has supported it. The agricultural community has approved of it, and hon. Members opposite have the opportunity of going down into the country and stating in opposition to it all and many things that are found in the "Land and the Nation "Policy for Agriculture. This Bill is keenly sought for by the Empire and Empire pro-
§ ducers. They would be the first to say that we must settle our own policy in this matter, but they are unanimous as to the great benefit which it will confer. It is desired by industry. The hon. Member for South-East Ham (Mr. Barnes) spoke as if every worker was opposed to the Bill but in 1925 a Resolution passed by the Association of Joint Industrial Councils which includes all the Joint industrial Councils—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Well, the great majority. The Association actually passed a Resolution in favour of the Bill. The Association of Joint Industrial Councils passed a Resolution urgingupon H. M. Government the necessity for expediting the passage through Parliament of the Merchandise Marks Bill and the inclusion therein of Regulations to the effect that all goods imported into this country insist bear a plain and indelible indication that such goods arc not of British origin.The Association of British Chambers of Commerce not only supported the Bill in April last but they asked in September of 1925 that all imported goods capable of being marked should bear a marking. Finally, we are told that shopkeepers are keenly opposed to the Bill. The hon. Member for Paddington (Sir W. Perring), who is qualified to speak on the matter with full knowledge, spoke in Committee for the National Chamber of Trade which represents tens of thousands of these shopkeepers and he told the Committee that, so far from opposing this Bill, they welcomed it as a desirable Measure. This is a Measure in which sentiment and business are combined. [Laughter.] Yes, it is better to combine sentiment with business than to combine prejudice with business. I feel confident that we shall have a large majority in this House for this Bill, and that that will represent a large majority in the country.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 223; Noes, 103.509
|Division No. 497.]||AYES.||[8.4 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Atholl, Duchess of||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-|
|Ann-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Atkinson, C,||Berry, Sir George|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Balniel. Lord||Bethel, A.|
|Albery, Irving James||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W,||Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Blundell, F. N.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn, John J. (Kent,Dover)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Boothby, R. J. G.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Philipson, Mabel|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hammersley, S. S,||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Radford, E. A.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Raine, W.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Cilve||Haslam, Henry C.||Ramsden, E.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd,Henley)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. [...].|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Heneage. Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Burman, J. B.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hills, Major John Walter||Rye, F. G.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Holland, Sir Arthur||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Holt, Captain H. P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Campbell, E. T,||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Sandon, Lord|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hutchison, G.A.Clark (Midl'nA P'bl's)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Shaw, Capt. Walter (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Christie, J. A.||Jacob, A. E.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C,||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ.Belfst)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cobb, sir Cyril||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunei||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)|
|Cope, Major William||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)||Loder, J. de V.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm' eland)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lynn, St. Robert J.||Streatfield, Captain S. R.|
|Daizlel, Sir Davison||MacAndraw, Major Charles Glen||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Macdonald, Capt. P. O. (I. of W.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||MacIntyre, Ian||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Dixey, A. C.||McLean, Major A.||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Drewe, C.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Tinne, J. A.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macquisten, F. A.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Ellis, R. G.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Waddington, R.|
|Elveden, viscount||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Malone, Major P. 8.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Margesson, Captain D.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Finburgh, S.||Merriman, F. B.||Wells, S. R.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Williams. Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Moore Sir Newton J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Withers, John James|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grace, John||Murchison, C. K.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Graham, Frederick F. (Cumb'ld., N.)||Neville, R. J.||Wood, E. (Chest' r, stalyb' dge & Hyde)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nuttall, Ellis||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol,N.)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Penny. Frederick George||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Clowes, S.||England. Colonel A.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cluse, W. S.||Fenby, T. D.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Baker, Walter||Compton, Joseph||Gibbins, Joseph|
|Barnes, A.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Gosling, Harry|
|Barr, J.||Dalton, Hugh||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Batey. Joseph||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, T. W.|
|Briant, Frank||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hal), F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Bromfield, William||Day, Colonel Harry||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bromley, J.||Dennison, R,||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Buchanan, G.||Duckworth John||Hardie, George D.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Dunnico, H.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Owen, Major G.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Palin, John Henry||Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hirst. G. H.||Paling, W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Potts, John S.||Townend, A. E.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Riley, Ben||Viant, S. P.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ritson, J.||Watson, w. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W R., Elland)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Kelly, W. T.||Sakiatvala, Shapurji||Westwood, J.|
|Kennedy, T.||Scrymgeour, E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lansbury, George||Scurr, John||Whiteley, W.|
|Lee, F.||Sexton, James||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Lindley, F. W.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Lowth, T.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Lunn, William||Sitch, Charles H.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliftt)|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|March, s.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Maxton, James||Stamford, T. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Montague, Frederick||Stephen, Campbell||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. T.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sullivan, J.||Henderson.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.