§ "That, with a view to giving effect to certain of the Agreements made at the Imperial Economic Conference held at Ottawa, the duty of customs on wine, not being an Empire product and not exceeding twenty-five degrees of proof spirit, shall be increased to four shillings per gallon."
§ 4. GENERAL PROVISIONS TO BE INCLUDED IN ACT FOR GIVING EFFECT TO AGREEMENTS MADE AT THE IMPERIAL ECONOMIC CONFERENCE.
§ "That any Act of the present Session for giving effect to the Resolution of this House providing for the fulfilment of the Agreements made at the Imperial Economic Conference held at Ottawa (hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act')—
- (a) shall provide that any order Made under the said Act by the Treasury increasing or reimposing any duty of customs (not including an order fixing the date on which any provision of the said Act is to come into operation) shall cease to have effect on the expiration of twenty-eight days from he date on which the order is made unless at some time before the expiration of that period it is approved by a resolution of this House, and that in reckoning any such period as aforesaid no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved 'yr prorogued or during which this House is adjourned for more than four days; and
- (b) shall provide that any order made under the said Act—
- (i) with respect to prohibition of the importation of goods of any class or description grown, produced, or manufactured in a foreign country; or
- (ii) with respect to regulation of the importation of frozen and chilled meat; or
- (iii) declaring that any of the Agreements aforesaid is to be deemed to have ceased to be in force or revoking such a declaration,
- shall cease to have effect on the expiration of a period of twenty-eight days (to be reckoned as aforesaid) from the date on which it is made unless at some time before the expiration of that period it has been approved by a resolution passed by each House of Parliament; and
- (c) may contain all such other incidental and consequential provisions as may be necessary or expedient in connection with the matters for which provision is made by any of the Resolutions aforesaid, and, in particular, may include provisions—
- (i) with respect to the making of declarations by the Treasury that any of the Agreements aforesaid has ceased, or is to be deemed to have ceased, to be in force;
- (ii) for applying, for the purpose of any of the duties charged by the said Resolutions, any of the provisions of the Import Duties Act, 1932, and of any enactment amending that Act, whether with or without modifications;
- (iii) as to drawbacks;
- (iv) for amending the Import Duties Act, 1932, and any other Act relating to customs;
- (v) For applying the said Act to the Agreements aforesaid when varied;
- (vi) for providing that the said Act shall come into operation on days to be fixed by the Treasury, and shall (except as otherwise expressly provided therein) continue in force so long as any of the Agreements aforesaid is in force."
§ First Resolution read a Second time.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, in line 1, after the word "That," to insert the words:subject to the right of termination after six months' notice.This Amendment raises the whole question of how long this Agreements are to remain in force, and how long this country is to be bound by them without the people of the country having any opportunity of getting out of them other than by a repudiation of treaty obligations. The matter was discussed at considerable length yesterday on the constitutional point, and the Foreign Secretary made an extremely able legal argument on an extremely small point. We 492 on this side are not interested particularly in this constitutional aspect. We are more interested in the practical aspect of the question. We had precedents adduced to us⁁not many. The chief seemed to be a treaty with Greece, and I was rather surprised that the Foreign Secretary, with his wealth of learning and with all the resources of the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade could supply only one precedent.
But, after all, whether this is a precedent or not, these Agreements are something very different from an ordinary commercial treaty. When a commercial treaty is made and presented to the House of Commons, it is usual to have a considerable amount of information on the exact effect of the treaty. It is usual to have some kind of estimate given. It is quite unusual for a responsible Minister to say: "We have found an agreement, but we cannot tell you what the effect of it is going to be. We are going to tie you up for 10 years, but we cannot tell you for at least two years whether there is going to be any good in the treaty at all." That is what has been done
. I have never known such peculiar speeches made in support of a treaty as those which were made by the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council. They come down to this House and say: "We are getting these Treaties. We present them to you. We are afraid that they are not going to do much good in the present circumstances. We admit that, whatever good may come from them, is going to be some years hence." The Chancellor of the Exchequer alone admits that there are hopeful tendencies. But in contrast to that we are to be bound for five years, that is to say, the life of Parliament. It has been suggested by some Members that this Parliament will run its full time, and that if any other Government comes in it will have quite a short period in which it can denounce these Treaties. That hopeful note, struck by some back bench Members, offers a singular contrast to that of the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council. An almost similar note was struck by Mr. Montagu Norman. We have presented to us this week statements by three eminent authorities practically declaring that conditions are as hopeless as they could possibly be. Not one of them suggested that they see any way out of our present difficulties, except, of 493 course, the Prime Minister, who suggested that, after all, it was a problem of the constitution of society. He then went on to say that there was really no question of party government to-day. That indicated the whole difference between those on these benches and those on the other side, in the fact that we believe in the change of the constitution of society, and they do not.
One gathered from those three speeches that things were in a very bad way, and that in the opinion of these three eminent supporters of capitalism—because whatever the Prime Minister may have said in regard to his opinion, in his actions, he came forward as the saviour of capitalist society—there is nothing to be done. They see no hope, and therefore, it seems probable that the capitalist system, failing to recover itself, will come crashing down before the five years are out. Therefore, if one contemplates it from that angle, it cannot be a very important matter how long these duties endure. But why should the Government propose to tie the hands of any other Government which is called in to clear up the mess with which they have failed to deal? It is suggested, "But you could not possibly make a bargain unless you made it for a long term." We had that remarkable passage in the speech of the Prime Minister in which he said we could not do something about oranges and lemons unless we had a long-term agreement. It is clear from the speech of the Foreign Secretary that all commercial treaties, commercial treaties which, I am sure, the Foreign Secretary has at an earlier time claimed as great successes, particularly the one associated with the name of Mr. Cobden, the whole series of commercial treaties, except perhaps the Greek Treaty which stands by itself, have had this provision. The successful operations of those treaties has been based upon that provision and traders have acted upon them.
In the present year, with a constant succession of small budgets and small tariff changes, how can any business man know where he stands? It is very strange for a Government, which every other week produces a White Paper, with taxation of one kind or another altering conditions under which business men are to carry on, to come down and say: "We 494 dare not disturb business men by providing for termination after six months' notice; they must have a long run and security." It is obvious, as trader after trader has found, that it is the ordinary normal life of trade to have to take account of possible changes which may be made by the Parliament of this country, or by the Government of any other country. We are asked to tie ourselves down for a period of years. We are to tie ourselves down, not to take off tariff duties and taxes on goods coining from the Dominions, but to tax goods from any other country outside the Empire. There is a degree of novelty in that. We are further to tie our hands, because we are to be subject to the consent of other Dominions, and we are to do this for an Agreement which we have had an extremely short time to examine, and in regard to which we have had no exposition whatever of the advantages which are supposed to come to this country. We have not had a single speech from the other side giving any details at all with regard to the advantages. All we know is that when we come to examine the alleged advantages which this country is to get we find some very peculiar things.
We are to be tied up—it is a small matter, but one which has received a considerable amount of attention in the Press—on the subject of cod liver oil. We are told that we are to support the Empire by getting Empire cod liver oil, and the farming community who use it and the children who consume a good deal of it, will have to pay more for it, and that is to be in the interests of Newfoundland. We find, when we examine the matter more closely, that cod liver oil is not really a Newfoundland owned industry, because 80 per cent. of it is in the hands of the United States of America. The consumption of cod liver oil in the United States is very great, and is, in fact, greater than the entire consumption of Newfoundland or anything which they hope to produce. That is one of the things contained in this proposal.
If we examine the set-offs, the advantages which we are to receive, we find that letters are being received showing the illusory nature of the set-offs. We find that there is great satisfaction in the fact that the Canadians are to allow us to enter with certain accumulator plates, 495 not less than 11 by 14, and ¾ inch thick, but I am informed that no such plates are ever made. One of the great advantages is that Canada is to allow to come in something Which we do not produce. We have a proposal of this kind suggested and put before us without any examination whatever by the House and we are asked to tie ourselves up for a period of years, unless we break, what I am sure the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs would say was our solemn word of honour, and yet we must continue to be bound in this way. It is a monstrous suggestion to produce these things in this House at a time when no one knows what the future is likely to be, and when the great twin leaders of the National party and their chief financial experts at the Bank of England declare that it is an hopeless outlook, and that they do not know what to do.
We are asked to accept this proposal which it is not even suggested will secure our interests, and to accept it permanently and put ourselves into fetters for years for an entirely problematical advantage. This House will be acting in accordance with its traditions, and the traditions of any ordinary concern which is asked to do business, if it refuses to bind itself for absolutely uncertain advantages in face of certain specific disadvantages over a long period.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
Several of my hon. Friends have an Amendment on the Order Paper which is on parallel lines to that which has been moved, but it will not be in order for us to move our Amendment after the one which we are now discussing. Therefore, my hon. Friends will submit arguments in support of the point of view which has just been presented to the House. I rise for a few minutes, not in order to cover the general ground but in order specifically to answer the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which he made yesterday, in which he dwelt on the Constitutional point. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having, at some inconvenience to himself, attended the House to-day in order to listen to such remarks as I may endeavour to submit. In his brilliant speech yesterday he undoubtedly scored a good debating point. I went too far, I admit, in saying that these Agreements are exactly analogous to our commercial treaties, So far, 496 I concede the point of my right hon. Friend, but when he goes further and says that this has disposed of the Constitutional issue, I do not for one moment agree with him.
I submitted a number of arguments, five or six arguments, but the right hon. Gentleman, with his accustomed dialectical skill, adopts one of the methods of the debater and calmly ignores the points to which, he can find no answer, concentrating entirely upon some comparatively minor point to which he is able to give an effective reply. I will make good that assertion and give the specific points which were raised in my speech to which the right hon. Gentleman gave no answer or, at any rate, an answer which was obviously inadequate and insufficient. Let me deal with the words in which I opened the statement of my argument to the House:There is another very grave objection to which public expression has been given and to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made no reply. It is the Constitutional objection to these five-year Agreements; to agreements imposing new taxes, which, by mutual arrangement with each Dominion, are not to be lowered for a period of five years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1932; col. 65, Vol. 269.]My right hon. Friend quoted the first half of that sentence, but he did not give the House the second half. Why not? Because it did not suit his debating purpose. It is of the very essence of my case that these Agreements prevent the House, for the first time, from removing burdens upon the people if it thinks fit to do so. Of course, I knew all about the Cobden Treaty, I had read it within the past few days and the whole of the Debate in connection with it. In fact, I had on my notes for my speech some reference to the Cobden Treaty, pointing out in what respects it was similar and in what respects dissimilar from this case, but, not wishing to weary the House further with a speech which was already growing overlong, I, perhaps misguidedly and unfortunately, omitted that passage from my speech and so did not anticipate, as I should otherwise have done, the remarks of my right hon. Friend. There are two points in the Cobden Treaty. In the first place, it was a Treaty which, it is true, did for a period of 10 years prevent the House from increasing certain duties that had been imposed. In my speech I drew a very clear distinction between the right of adding taxes and 497 the right of removing taxes, and I mentioned that that Constitutional difference is embodied in the whole practice of this House, in that no hon. Member is allowed to move an increase of duties upon the people but any hon. Member is allowed to move to reduce them. That Constitutional device which exists in this Parliament has saved this country from many popular extravagances which have brought the finances of other countries into positions of difficulty and even of danger. What had my right hon. Friend to say on that point? He said:He (that is, myself) is now seeking to draw a distinction between cases in which the Executive for a period of years agree to fix a limit above which a duty may not rise and cases in which they agree to fix a limit below which it cannot fall. There is, obviously, no conceivable Constitutional distinction, for in both cases and in an equal degree it is an interference technically, with the active, free action of the House of Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th October, 1932; col. 344, Vol. 269.]11.30 p.m.
That is all that he said on that point. Can he say that there is obviously no constitutional distinction when every day in the practice of this House a clear constitutional distinction is drawn and it is of the very essence of our financial legislation? I say, further, that no precedent has been quoted by my right hon. Friend, by the Prime Minister or by the Lord President of the Council for any obligation upon this House, incurred through an international agreement, which would prevent Parliament from removing any taxation that has been imposed. If there is such a precedent, let it now be quoted. It has not been quoted hitherto. If there is one we shall certainly hear it with gi eat interest. I interrupted my right hon. Friend when he was speaking yesterday and, in as compact a form as I could, I put three points to him. The third point was this:May I ask whether there is a single case in any of our Commercial Treaties under which Parliament is not free to lower its own taxes, as it is proposed now to make it unfree under the Ottawa Agreement.My right hon. Friend, in his usual engaging manner, said:Let me deal with all three points. First of all"—Then he answered the first point, and went on to say:As regards my right hon. Friend's second question, I will give an equally plain answer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th October, 1932; cols. 343–344, Vol. 269.]498 He then gave what he regarded as an answer, but he gave no other answer. He said that he would deal with the three points, but the third point, unhappily, slipped his memory. Therefore I draw his attention to it to-day and ask him to deal with it. Secondly, and this is really the essence of the matter, we are not dealing with the question of Greek currants or Japanese silk but with a great economic, political and social issue which profoundly divides the opinions of the nation, the opinion of parties and opinions in this House. In regard to the Cobden Treaty, although some objection was made to it, it was not an energetic or serious or vehement objection. There was a more or less formal division in the House of Commons, but there was no strong, violent popular agitation against it on the ground that it was a wrong treaty and ought to be repealed.
This is an entirely different matter. Here you have a great political issue, and by these Agreements you purport to say to the electors of this country at the next election that whatever they may decide Parliament for five years has been bound; they can do nothing without the breach of a solemn agreement made with the Dominions and authorised by Act of Parliament. That is the important matter, and on that my right hon. Friend gave no reply and attempted no reply. I gave the converse. I said, suppose that Mr. William Graham had succeeded in his Free Trade activities and had made agreements with foreign countries that no additional duties should be laid upon them for five or 10 years, thus barring out the possibility of carrying out a Protectionist policy in this country or the policy of Imperial preference, would the Conservative party have agreed that it was a proper constitutional course? Of course not. I put that point specifically in my speech, but my right hon. Friend did not attempt a single word in reply.
I quoted the declaration of the late Government, with the present Prime Minister and Dominions Secretary, at the Imperial Conference in 1930, that, while they were willing to stabilise preferences, they maintained that no interference should be made with the right of Parliament to determine taxation from year to year. My right hon. Friend made no reply; he never mentioned the point. I 499 stated that so far as I was aware never in all the long history of this Parliament has legislation been proposed that before Parliament can lower its own taxes the assent of some outside authority should be obtained. That is proposed now to be done under these Agreements. If this House wants to repeal the duty on potatoes it has to get the assent of the Government of Southern Rhodesia. If Southern Rhodesia says, "No, we insist on maintaining our preference on potatoes and you must tax the potatoes coming from the Continent of Europe," this House without breach of the Agreements for five years will be unable to repeal it. That is only one example of the way in which our hands are tied. That is the essence of the constitutional argument.
I have asked whether this Parliament in all its long history has ever been asked to pass legislation of the character that it is not to be free to reduce its own taxes without the consent of an outside authority. My right hon. Friend ignored the whole of that argument. He put on one side every argument which he was unable to answer, and at the end declared that he hoped the constitutional point had been disposed of. It is the ordinary device of a Parliamentary debater to take out of five or six points in his opponent's speech one on which he has an effective reply, to find by some research that there is a flaw in the argument, to elaborate it, to repeat it, to emphasise it by all the arts of oratory and rhetoric, and ignore the rest. My right hon. Friend never mentioned them and declared amid the cheers of partisans that he had disposed of the whole question. It is easy to obtain the cheers of partisans but a speech of that character may forfeit the confidence of impartial minds. The right hon. Gentleman will not be allowed to evade these issues. He will not be able to ride off.
Let me put these four specific questions to him in order that there may be no misunderstanding on the matter. First, is there any case in which by international obligations this House is not free to remove taxes which have been imposed on the people? Secondly, is there any case in which in a great political controversy after a General Election Parliament found itself not free, on account of international obligations, to enter into the question of the removal of 500 taxes, in order to carry out the mandate of the people because it would mean the breach of an agreement? Thirdly, was the late Government right or wrong in declaring that any arrangements made over a series of years with regard to Imperial preference should be subject to the proviso that they must not interfere with the right of Parliament to determine these matters year by year. Was that right or wrong? If it was right, why is there this change, which is absolutely opposed to that declaration? Fourthly, is there any instance in which this Parliament has enacted that it will impose taxes which can be repealed only by the assent of some other authority in some other part of His Majesty's Dominions?
There are other points in my right hon. Friend's speech which it would not be relevant to discuss on this occasion, but they will be answered in due course and at the proper time. I invite my right hon. Friend to give a reply to those matters which unhappily he forgot or omitted in his speech of yesterday.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
Mediaeval theologians sometimes use the expression "invincible error." If you merely made a mistake that was common to human nature and it could be acknowledged and corrected, but if the error was known as "invincible error," then according to the views of the mediaeval church severe consequences might follow. We live in more friendly times, and I am very glad that in this little controversy my right hon. Friend and I have preserved the most friendly feelings towards one another. But I would ask him please not to speak of this as a comparatively minor point. I did not raise the point. I did not ask to spend five minutes upon it, but I found that up and down the country in the public press and in this House my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) saying that there was a tremendous constitutional precedent involved, upon which he pronounced most dogmatically, and after inquiry I found that there was nothing of the sort. I do not propose to canvass the whole matter again this morning. I take a single page in the OFFICIAL REPORT to which reference has been made, columns 65 and 66, of 18th October, and I notice that my right hon. Friend said in most emphatic terms on Tuesday last that he accepted wholly the view that 501 the Agreements of which we were speaking were analogous to commercial treaties—I notice and I very gratefully acknowledge that my right hon. Friend now makes a correction—which were all terminable at short notice.
Let us be quite clear about this matter. Has he entirely given that up? Is it now admitted that to say that the whole of our present commercial treaties are as a matter of course terminable at short notice is an error? If so I am not greatly impressed by my right hon. Friend's argument. Finding that the deduction sought to be drawn by saying that the Ottawa Agreements are analogous to a commercial treaty would not serve his argument, my right hon. Friend now says, on reflection, that they are not commercial agreements at all. But that was the essence of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. He said it was the long practice of this House, there were a series of recorded precedents, "I can give you endless examples; it as the common form." And he said, "If you only knew more about the subject and were as well informed as those who have been instructing me, you would know that a commercial agreement always has a six months' terminating clause."
As I listened to my right hon. Friend I reflected on the advice given long ago by the famous Dr. Routh, the President of Magdalen College, Oxford, to a young man who wanted a motto for his success in the world. Dr. Routh said to him: "Remember, young man, always to wind up your watch and to verify your quotations." I performed, I trust, a humble but useful service in at any rate pointing out the mistake of my right hon. Friend, which strikes at the root of the whole of this matter of the precedent; not only strikes at the root, but my right hon. Friend's new position is the exact contrary of his previous position. His first position was that this case was covered by precedent—"there are endless cases of precedents; you will find, if you examine the past practice, that it has always been dealt with in this way." Two days pass, and he comes down and says "Oh, no, my case is that this thing has never happened before, and it is an entirely new case, that the rule which I say is a good constitutional rule, whether a good rule or a had rule, is being propounded now for the first time by me."
502 I dare say hon. Members recall the fact that in "Alice in Wonderland," when Alice was found to be growing inconveniently large for the court, and the King got up and read Rule No. 49, "All persons more than a mile high must leave the court," and Alice said, "You have just invented that rule for your own purposes," the King replied, "No, I have not; it is the oldest rule in the book," and Alice said, "Well, it ought to be No.1." Now I hope it is entirely established, if this controversy arises again, that there is no question of precedent, that all citation of commercial agreements is quite beside the point, and that if my right hon. Friend were to pursue it he would be destroyed by his own argument. Therefore he has to find a new one, and it is that this thing has never happened before. I agree that it has never happened before. The sort of negotiation which we reached at Ottawa has never been carried to a successful conclusion before.
I admit it, and I have always said that if hon. friends of mine object to the whole idea of an agreement at Ottawa, very well, then they must have been praying in private that Ottawa would fail. I am concerned only with the people who want it to succeed, and if you want it to succeed it is manifest that the nature of the arrangement you make must be one which in some respects preserves a preference. A preference is the difference between two figures, two standards, two limits; and with great respect, I say that it may be good constitutional theory hut it does not seem to be very good common sense to say that you should go to Ottawa and establish a series of preferential agreements, and when you come back you should say that the law and the Constitution forbid anybody to maintain an upper level.
If my right hon. Friend will recall the argument that he used, he will see that it not only depends on the present point, which is contradictory of the previous one, but as a matter of fact involves a proposition which I ventured to submit last night, that really, constitutionally considered, the two things stand on the same basis; that is to say, the House of Commons every year has before it the business of the Budget, and apart from commercial agreements and the like the House is free either to put up or to put 503 down, to adjust the finances of the year in such a way as seems to the House good. It would have appeared to me, as a point of principle, that the point is exactly the same in the one case as in the other. But the principle may be found very clearly embodied in the very citation which my right hon. Friend read out to the House from the now famous year 1860. He cited to the House this fact, that the Resolution which this House adopted in connection with the controversy about the Paper Duty, was not that the House has in its own hands the power merely to impose taxes, but that it has power equally to remit them. And the proposition undoubtedly is true. The House has in its own hands the power so to impose and remit taxes.
I am perfectly content to leave the matter there. I agree with my right hon. Friend that we are in the presence of a situation which is without precedent, and therefore the whole of his elaborate attempt to cite precedents was an error. I agree with him in what he said two days ago that these are like commercial agreements. I agree with him that the true theory of our annual financial behaviour is this: This House as a House is free to raise or lower whatever taxes it pleases, but common sense says perfectly clearly that if you are to have an Ottawa Agreement at all the House has to decide, and will decide by a very great majority, whether it is not prepared, for the sake of what can thus he secured, to acknowledge in all honour and good faith that it surrenders that degree of its annual powers.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has attempted to establish certain precedents which are not precedents. He has said that we have never made a treaty to prevent us from reducing a duty. The Cobden Treaty, to which reference has been made, was a Treaty which incidentaly abolished a preference which we gave on Cape wines. When we entered into the Cobden Treaty we deprived ourselves of the right of imposing lower duties on Cape wines than on French wines. It is the essential characteristic of every protective or preferential duty that you do not treat the whole supply alike. In principle there is no difference between treating British goods 504 at a lower rate than foreign goods, or treating certain external goods at a different rate from other foreign goods. Therefore our declaration in the Cobden Treaty, that for 10 years we would not impose lower duties on Cape wines than on French wines, is an effective precedent.
Since 1860 the whole of our policy has been on the assumption that we should not have protective duties. But for four years the right hon. Member for Darwen administered with brilliant success a Treaty which restricted the power of this country to impose lower duties in certain cases. The Palestine Mandate which the right hon. Gentleman administered has been interpreted by successive Governments in this country, though the point is open to some doubt, as preventing us from imposing lower duties on Palestine wine than on French wine. I know that, as High Commissioner, the right hon. Gentleman could not have entered into any controversy on that matter, but when he was free from the obligations of his office, why has he never protested in this House against that terrible deprivation of the rights of Parliament to treat Palestinian products more favourably than the products of other countries and as favourably as those of other parts of the British Empire. I notice that there is a further Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). It may interest the hon. Gentleman to know that in the case of the Treaty of Upsala in 1654 Cromwell entered into a Treaty, not for a period of years, but for all time, until the crack of doom, in fact a perpetual Treaty, which opens as follows:That henceforth there be and remain a good, firm, sincere and perpetual peace, amity, alliance and correspondence between the Protector and the Commonwealth of England and the Queen and Kingdom of Sweden.There is something which certainly ought to satisfy the hon. Member for Bodmin because we know that, in his view, whatever Cromwell did was right. These hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the last Parliament, which was deprived of my presence, supported the Treaty made by Mr. William Graham with Rumania. We entered in 1930 into a Commercial Treaty with Rumania for three years. Any treaty which we make deprives Parlia- 505 ment of this power to legislate in certain ways, but certain hon. Members are seeking to make a curious distinction between the power to legislate in the matter of taxation and the power to legislate with regard to anything else. You never enter into any international agreement without limiting your power in some way for the duration of that agreement. Everyone hopes that as a result of the Geneva Conference there will be some limitation of armaments. If that result is achieved, it will deprive this House of the power to spend more than a certain sum on armaments. It is a limitation of our freedom to spend our money as we like. Where is the difference in principle? We have numerous Conventions with regard to such matters as patents and copyright. These Conventions are all from time to time modified. When I was at the Board of Trade it was my privilege to move the Second Reading of two small Bills modifying such Conventions as a result of further Conventions which had been made. In doing so, I was asking Parliament to bind itself for a period of years against altering the law of this country with regard to patents and copyright.
I hope that the criticism from the Opposition Benches in these Debates is going to be more interesting than that which we had from the hon. Member who opened to-day's Debate. Obviously he was hi intellectual difficulties as to what to say. He said that it really did not matter about the tariffs, because capitalism was going to crash before the five years were up, and therefore the Treaties would not matter. Do I understand that to be a declaration of policy and that the Socialist Government of which the hon. and gallant Member hopes to be a member, will repudiate these international obligations? It is as well that we should know where we stand. If you have a statement that a change of Government in this country entitles you to repudiate all obligations, then, frankly, I say that Limehouse is nearer to Moscow than I had previously imagined.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Gentleman asks me a question. The statement I made was that we should not hold ourselves bound to continuity of policy and Mr. Mackenzie King in Canada has made the same declaration.
§ 12 n.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Unfortunately that is not quite what the hon. Member said. He said that capitalism would crash before the five years were up—though he knows it will not—and that, as a consequence, the constitutional point was not of much importance. If he consults the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow he will find that I have interpreted his words better than he has done. But if you are fighting a bad ease you have to say things, the accuracy of which you rather doubt and if your memory fails, you sideslip.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
If the hon. Gentleman reads the OFFICIAL REPORT he will discover the difference between a declaration of policy and a statement of possibilities.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member did not give a declaration of policy. He made a prediction of happenings. He said that capitalism would crash, and that he wanted that to happen—though I expect that to-night he will pray that it will not happen in his lifetime—and as a consequence, that these Agreements would go.
§ Mr. ATTLEE indicated dissent.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
We shall have to look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. The hon. Member wound up by some reference to cod liver oil which I really think the Opposition had better leave alone in these Debates. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) made a bad start with it. The plain truth is that we make a lot of cod liver oil in this country. We make a quantity which is roughly equal to our consumption as far as we can find out. A great deal of it, at the moment, is of the industrial quality which is used for the cattle to which the hon. and gallant Member referred. But the only reason why we make more of the industrial than the medicinal quality is that for the moment, the boiling of the livers is done ashore instead of on the trawlers, but there is not the slightest difficulty in changing our practice and Newfoundland can easily increase her supplies of refined oil. I can never understand why. Free Traders and Socialists should always be found defending those who as, retailers sell things at too high a price.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I apologise. I was led astray. I thought the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) was getting out of order when he dragged in cod liver oil at all. But he left the subject with sufficient alacrity to escape your notice, Mr. Speaker. However, I think I have said all that is necessary on the constitutional point at present.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
In rising for the first time after an absence of eight years from the House, I am already, I regret to say, breaking a good resolution. When I came back 'here I made a good resolution that if I spoke at all it would only be on subjects that I knew something about. [Laughter.] I suggest to hon. Members that it is better not to laugh until they have heard the rest of my sentence. My resolution was that, if I spoke at all, it would only be on subjects that I knew something about, in connection with the daily work which I try to do on questions such as those of forestry, education, dentistry, and some half-a-dozen others. But in this matter no one speaks as an expert. We are debating and arguing this question to-day and saying what we think is likely to happen, and no one professes to know anything more about it than anybody else whereas, as regards some of the other subjects with which we may be dealing later, I have the good fortune to be connected with them rather intimately.
I am breaking my resolution because of two things. In the first place, my friends naturally want to listen to the "new boy" who has come on board again. Secondly, I really do feel upon the whole Imperial question and on the question of how these Agreements are going to affect the Empire and I feel extraordinarily strongly on this point of the six months' notice which goes right to the root of the matter. Naturally, having only returned recently to the House, and not having been present at all the previous controversies on this subject I have been rather detached from some of the arguments which have been going on during the last four days. Being rather an outsider, I simply thought of this question: Are these Ottawa Agreements going to make for freer trade in the world, or for less free trade in the world? I had to make up my mind on that issue, 508 and I have done so. But there is this other tremendously important point. Are these Agreements going to cause strains within the Empire—to which I say "Yes"—and how can we minimise those strains? Here, one comes direct to this question of the six months' notice. I listened to the speeches of Government supporters with enormous interest, and the only argument in them which I a little bit resented was that they care for the Empire in some better way than we on these benches care for the Empire. It happens not to be true.
It is from that very broad point of view that I raise this question, and I want to give away everything I can to those who disagree with me. I am not primarily bothering with a Constitutional point even. The whole point about the British Constitution is that it should work. It has its elasticity for the purpose of its being made to work, and that is why it is so very much better than any written Constitution, which can only be varied by Amendments passed through Parliament and so on. The absence of the six months' notice may be an innovation or not. We pretty well know what we think about it. If there are precedents, there are very few, but the whole point is that if there be none at all, the question will still present itself to me. If this new idea of not having any notice is going to make the British Constitution work better and more smoothly, as an unrivalled instrument for keeping the Empire together, then I am in favour of the innovation, whatever it is, even if there are no precedents for it. I am putting that point, so to speak, almost against the arguments of my hon. Friends here, but surely that is the central point. Do we think that what we are proposing to do will make this marvellous instrument of cohesion really stronger or really weaker?
There is no doubt, of course—everybody in the House must know—that when we have passed, as we are going to pass, these Agreements, strains will have been set up in the Empire which were not previously there. Whether the strains which might lead to the Empire tending to split will be stronger than may be any new bonds that may be introduced—I have not seen anything which will be new bonds, but it is argued that there are to be new bonds—I do not know, but surely we ought to concentrate our 509 minds on that question of the fact that there will be strains and on how those strains can be minimised. I say, without any hesitation, that these strains, if we look ahead— not at the result of these Ottawa Agreements, which, after all, do not come to a great deal, but at what they will lead to—I say that either on our side or on the side of the Dominions these strains might become so serious as to break up the Empire.
Hon. Members may say that the British Empire never will break up. Of course, I hope it will not. That is the point of view from which I am speaking entirely, but, after all, Empires have broken up. We lost what are now the United States of America on what was really not a very large matter to begin with, but it grew and spread, and finally that great Dominion of ours, as it was, left us and set up for itself. If hon. Members will cast their minds back— they probably have these facts much more clearly in their minds than I have, as I have not been here— they will remember that only a few years ago, both in Canada and Australia, certain provinces threatened, not to leave the Empire, but at any rate to break loose from their own Commonwealth, and that, purely on fiscal questions. I believe it was Manitoba in Canada and either Western or South Australia, but there was definitely a very strong movement among the farmers there to say, "This fiscal system adopted by our Dominion— the Dominion as a whole—is such a terribly serious handicap on us that we must break away and look after ourselves." That shows that when one is thinking about Imperial strains, one is not thinking about something that could never happen. It has happened over fiscal questions, and it is bound to happen more, now that we are bringing fiscal questions more and more down into the centre of our inter-Imperial relations.
§ Sir PERCY HURD
Can the right hon. Member say whether that issue ever came to any vote of any sort in Canada?
§ Sir F. ACLAND
No; I was not suggesting that it did. My point is simply that there was a very considerable agitation. It may be that the Dominion met it by some concession. I do not know. My point is merely that the question of splitting off, not from the Empire, but from the Dominions, was 510 quite definitely and actively raised, and that is all that I said or intended to convey. Hon. Members may say, "Do not bother about this sort of thing; there will be no strains, no possibility of breaking away." But I am afraid there will be. May I give an illustration which occurs to my mind of what I mean as to the way in which these strains have begun to happen already in this country? I happened to be talking to some farmers in Exeter market the other day, and, of course, as they had been led to expect tremendous results and improvements in their position from the Ottawa Agreements, they were terribly bitter about them and as to how little they had done to help them.
One of them began talking, not on the side of the help they may get from the Agreements, but on the side of the things which, as they think, may hinder them, and this farmer hit on this question of cod liver oil. I believe I can speak of it without being the least out of order, because what he said was related to this question of Imperial strains. He said, rightly or wrongly, "This will mean that I shall have to pay an extra £2 or £3 a barrel for the cod liver oil which I feed to my calves." I will not go into that now. That is what he said, and I will go into it later. I have an opinion about it, but it would be out of order now to go into it. Then he said, "That is owing to Newfoundland, is it not?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I wish Newfoundland was out of the Empire."
He did not use the words "out of the Empire." He used two words, not four, to express the view that he wished the climate of Newfoundland suddenly to change from being rather cold to being very hot. I paraphrase his words and say "out of the Empire" because the place to which he referred is out of the Empire. That is a tiny symptom of strain. Hon. Members who do not agree may say that that does not come to much after all, that he was simply one man, angry, isolated, uninstructed, and so on. That may be true, but when you look forward to a general election people who think that sort of way will no longer be isolated or uninstructed, and they will be quite as angry, believe me. That is what I am looking forward to with very grave anxiety, from the point of view of this question not only raising Imperial 511 strains, but making those strains very serious from the point of view of the future of the Empire.
May I just ask a rhetorical question of those who do not agree with me to which they need not reply? Do not they know perfectly well when they look ahead that the moment there is, as we all hope there will be, any improvement in the unemployment figures, of course they will say that it is due to Protection? That is the common form. They have probably already got the leaflets printed, but they have to wait month after month for the figures to come their way. Unfortunately, they have not come their way yet, but, of course, if things are better in the next election than now, they will say, "The whole thing is due to the success of this wonderful Protection of ours." That is the common form, and they all know that it will be so. On the side of hon. Members opposite, the side I take on this question, the same sort of thing will be raised. None of us has a monopoly of using only the best arguments at election time, and, quite inevitably, when there is, as there must he, an increase in food prices, people will be told—and even if you do not tell them, they will think—that this increase in food prices has been due to the Protection system set up, and particularly to these Agreements. And just as hon. Members who disagree with me will be saying, "Look what wonderful improvements there have been because of Protection!" or very likely it will be in spite of Protection, so on our side people will say, "Look at this increase in food prices! It is due to these Agreements," and so on.
That is the inevitable way in which this matter will come right into the centre of politics in this country and elsewhere. I say "and elsewhere" advisedly. Supporters of the Government on this matter may say, "We do not mind. Our view is always going to prevail. The view of our friends opposite will never become predominant. We shall always maintain our majority, or, at any rate, it will last out our time." It would not be too safe to prophesy about that. Things swing rather rapidly. They have swung very violently in this country in the past, and they may do so in the future. But the position from the point of view of the Dominions is very much stronger than 512 that. In Canada and Australia, at any rate, I understand that the Opposition parties have definitely said, or speakers on their behalf have said, that these Agreements will be better if they are liable to the possibility of termination on notice, rather than only within the five years by absolutely breaking your agreement without doing it as provided for. The point is this—if it has been made before, I apologise, but I do not know that it has. In those Dominions, the Opposition parties represent a majority of the voters, and if they had had the system in which many of us believe—Proportional Representation—they would have been at this moment in office. That is surely pertinent. Whereas the view I am taking now may not prevail for a few years, yet the view that is taken by the Oppositions in the Dominions is, shall we say, practically certain to prevail as soon as there is a chance for a change of opinion to express itself in those Dominions. My whole point is that nothing whatever that we can do, nothing whatever that you can put on paper, will prevent things that are contained in these Agreements becoming absolutely first-class matters of discussion and decision at general elections here and elsewhere. That is a fact we all know. That will lead to strain, and I come back to the point, how can the seriousness of those strains he minimised?
I come to my final point. Surely if a Dominion makes up its mind to vary the Agreement, as it might do at any time as the result of an election, if we in this country make up our mind to vary an agreement, as we might do at any time after a General Election, it makes all the difference in the world whether that is done politely, properly and reasonably by giving six months' notice, or whether it is done—which is the only alternative —by breaking the Agreement., and therefore of course precipitating an absolutely first-class Imperial quarrel and Imperial struggle. That is all I want to avoid. These things may be departed from; these things, I fear, will be departed from. If they are departed from, let them be departed from decently and in order, and not be over something which will shake the foundations of the Empire to the bottom. I go further. I want to make a point in favour of those who really desire the stability of these Agreements. 513 I say that they will be more stable, and less likely to be broken, if you have a six months' clause in.
Let me give an illustration which must be as familiar to other hon. Members as it is to me. I have been a civil servant. I know the system of notice under which civil servants retire at 60 up to 65 years of age, and the difficulty of considering and deciding whether a man shall be retired, that is, that he shall leave the work which he has made the work of his life, and from my experience, I think I know quite well that the securest tenure of all, the tenure that lets a man go furthest before he is retired, is if he is simply on a year's notice, with no guarantee about 60 or 65, or something of that kind. Anybody who really knew would say, "I would much rather be at short notice, because that is not likely to be suddenly terminated," than be subject to a definite age limit of 60, 65, or something of that sort. Here we have one or two perfectly clear things. Parties in the Dominions representing, as I say, majorities of the populations of those Dominions, would rather have the six months' clause put in. Parties here which are weak to-day, but may be strong in a few years' time, for the same reason, want to have this clause put in, simply in order to minimise the Imperial strain, and avoid the risk of a break-up of our Empire.
Why will not the Government, at any rate, consider this question? They have got it in the Indian Agreement already, so there cannot be any constitutional difficulty. Will they not, before these Debates conclude, ask the Dominions whether they would not be willing, and indeed anxious, in order to avoid the Imperial strain, to have the six months' clause in every Agreement, as it is already in the Indian Agreement? I do not think they will refuse, at any rate, to do that. I think they will realise that the absence of the possibility of reaching the courteous and orderly way, does increase the strain on the Empire. I hope, at least, that they will look into this matter a little more, and try to see whether these arguments are so substantial that they ought to be met. I leave it there. I never make a peroration—it ought to be out of order, particularly on Friday mornings—and, therefore, I merely thank the House for the 514 very great courtesy in having listened to what is practically a maiden speech after so many years.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, not on a maiden speech, for ho has just returned to this House which be formerly adorned, but on the admirable way in which he has put this question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) very ably answered the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made yesterday. He referred to the statement of the Foreign Secretary that this proposal was analogous to commercial treaties and instanced the Cobden Treaty. It is not, however, really a. complete analogy with the Cobden Treaty of 1860 for there was an important provision in that Treaty that it did not violate Free Trade principles because any reduction made in that Treaty applied to any other country. There was therefore no violation of Free Trade principles, and it was in no sense a bargain or a system of negotiation. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a great deal of play about the weapon which was held in reserve at that time of being able to inflict penalties on other countries which did not agree with the Treaty, and a great deal has been said about this question of a weapon.
We Free Traders do not recognise that there is any weapon at all and that inflicting duties on ourselves penalises other countries. We believe that it penalises ourselves. That was the principle of the Cobden Treaty. We were anxious to get other countries to reduce their duties, but we did not want to put duties on ourselves because that would penalise us. We do not subscribe to the idea of negotiations by means of a weapon. We believe that the best way to fight protective tariffs is by Free Trade. Retaliation or negotiation as it is to-day might be described as a blunt weapon with a sharp handle. It does this country far more harm to inflict retaliatory duties, and the whole essence of the argument breaks down because there is no advantage in retaliation or what is called negotiation or using the so-called weapon.
I tried to invoke your Ruling, Sir, at the opening of Tuesday's proceedings, with 515 regard to the rights of the House of Commons, and it is on that point that I wish again to appeal to hon. Members, more particularly Members of the Conservative party. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) said that every treaty, of course, binds this House and limits its powers. I assume that hon. Members of the Liberal party and the Labour party will vote for this Amendment; therefore, my appeal, if we want to get any addition to our numbers, must be to Members of the Conservative party. Do they really wish to fetter the powers of this House 7 Do they wish to limit our powers to tax whether we be Free Traders or Tariff Reformers? Why do Members of the Conservative party desire to do that? As we cannot tell what financial crisis or panic may be in store for this country, is it wise to fetter the power of the House over finance? We obtained that power with great difficulty, and the Speaker on many occasions has intervened on behalf of this House against the House of Lords. He may possibly have to intervene on behalf of this House against the Dominions. Are hon. Members aware that the Crown recommends taxes to the House of Commons, but does not recommend taxes to the Dominions. That is the result of our losing the American Colonies, now the United States of America, yet Conservative Members, in voting for this Resolution, will be subscribing to a principle under which the Crown does not interfere with the Dominions but that the Dominions may interfere with the House of Commons.
§ Mr. GODFREY NICHOLSON
The hon. Member appeals to Conservatives. The answer is quite simple; it depends on the quid pro quo. It is like spending money; it depends on what you get in return. On the hon. Member's principle, he would never buy anything. He would never buy a pair of trousers in case he lost a leg in a railway accident six months later.
§ Mr. MASON
The hon. Member's illustration is pretty, but it does not meet the case. He apparently thinks that we are getting a great deal, but the Lord President of the Council has said that he did not know what we were going to get out of this. He did not know the 516 future of trade, and whether it will increase the supply of trousers for the hon. Member by this arrangement I cannot tell. We cannot say what we are going to get out of it. We Free Traders believe that it will tend to contract our trade, but we have said that over and over again, and we have debated this issue ad nauseam.
Let me come back to the question of the rights of the House of Commons. I appeal again to Conservative Members. Is it wise for us to fetter the rights of this House to impose or to take off taxes? I ask them to forget that I am a Free Trader and not let that prejudice any arguments that I am submitting, and to consider seriously whether it is wise for the House to enter into an obligation such as is involved in this Resolution. It will not fetter the power of the House if either side is enabled to give six months' notice to denounce the arrangement. That will not in any way take away from our power. It will rather add to it. The views of hon. Members may change with regard to certain duties and to the negotiation of treaties with certain of the Dominions, and the Amendment will give them, as it will give the Free Traders, the right to raise the question and to use their power to persuade the Government to denounce the Treaty and to discuss the matter anew.
The supporters of the Government can pass this 'Resolution, but I appeal to them to consider whether it is a wise thing to do. The acceptance of this Amendment would not involve any giving away of Tariff Reform principles in any shape or form. It is a question purely of the wisdom or un wisdom of this House, of this Government, tying itself up for five years. It may be argued that for business reasons a certain security of tenure, if I may so describe it, must be afforded, and I acknowledge the weight of that argument, but I say that we must also have confidence in the House of Commons and in the Government of the day. Governments are not generally manned by foolish men, whatever the party from which they derive their support. On the whole Governments are made up of responsible men, and we must have faith in our Governments.
Again, I would make a most fervent appeal to hon. Members supporting the Government to consider whether, before the Bill is brought forward, it would not 517 be possible to introduce some provision which will have the effect of securing our freedom as a House of Commons. I am very proud of being a Member of the House of Commons and, indeed, we are all proud and jealous of its traditions and its rights as the Speaker is jealous of them. Therefore, let us not act unwisely in our anxiety to develop our trade with the Dominions and increase trade generally. I do not think an Amendment such as this would in any way affect our trade with the Dominions, because the danger of the Agreements being denounced by this Government is infinitesimal. Of course we could break the Agreements, but, as has been well pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall North (Sir F. Acland) what a prospect that would
§ open up of a quarrel with the Dominions leading to the disintegration of the Empire. Therefore, I regard this as a most wise Amendment, and I hope that many hon. Members of the Conservative party will reconsider it and come to see the importance of it. I make my final appeal to them to consider what we are doing as a House of Commons, and ask them not to take what I have said as coming from a Free Trader, but as coming from one humble individual Member of this House who is very anxious for its rights to be preserved.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 226.519
|Division No. 311.]||AYES.||[12.39 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Roes (Glamorgan)||Mender, Geoffrey lo M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, F. (York, W.R, Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bernays, Robert||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Plckering, Ernest H.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Price, Gabriel|
|Briant, Frank||Harris, Sir Percy||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cove, William G.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Thorne, William James|
|Cowan, D. M.||Janner, Barnett||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jenkins, Sir William||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||John, William||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lunn, William||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mabane, William|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Caz let, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Eden, Robert Anthony|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Chalmers, John Rutherford||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Christie, James Archibald||Elmley, Viscount|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Balille, Sir Adrian W. M.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Conant, R. J. E.||Falls, Sir Bertram G.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Cook, Thomas A.||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Cooke, Douglas||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Bird Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Cooper, A. Duff||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Blindell, James||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Boulton, W. W.||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Gilmour, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Cranborne, Viscount||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Cross, R. H.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Crossley, A. C.||Go/die, Noel B.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Brown. Ernest (Leith)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Brown,Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Browns, Captain A. C.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T,||Dickle, John P.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Burghley, Lord||Doran, Edward||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Burnett. John George||Drewe, Cedric||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Campbell. Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Maicolm||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Eastwood, John Francis||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Hartland, George A.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Maemillan, Maurice Harold||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Headlam, Lieut. Col. Cuthbert M.||Magnay, Thomas||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Scone, Lord|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Slater, John|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hornby, Frank||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Munro, Patrick||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Peters'fld)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Hutchison,William D.(Essex, Romf'd)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Peake, Captain Osbert||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|James, Wing.-Corn. A. W. H.||Pearson, William G.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(Pd'gt'n,S.)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Petherick, M.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Knight, Holford||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Pike, Cecil F.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Ward, Lt. Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Walisend)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Lennox Boyd, A. T.||Pybus, Percy John||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Levy, Thomas||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Lewis. Oswald||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Liddalt, Walter S.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Reld, William Allan (Derby)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Rosbotham, S. T.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Lymington, Viscount||Ross, Ronald D.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ross Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge)||Young. Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Runge, Norah Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Sir George Penny and Sir Victor|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield,B tside)||Warrender.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot)—in line 1, after the word "expedient," to insert the words:provided that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom enters into supplementary agreements with His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions, rendering terminable the Agreements and the effect of the Announcement made at the Imperial Economic Conference held at Ottawa at a date six months after notice of denunciation has been given by either of the parties concerned.falls in consequence of the Amendment which we have just disposed of. The following Amendment, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)—to leave out paragraph (a)—would be a direct negative to the Resolution.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out the words "more especially."
520 I do this merely for the purpose of obtaining information. In the Resolution, we find the words:it is expedient—(a) to make provision, snore especially in connection with the Agreements made at the Imperial Economic Conference held at Ottawa, and an Announcement made at that Conference on behalf of His Majesty's Government.We all know the important nature of the Announcement, but we are anxious to know, in regard to the words "more especially," what other purpose is to be served by the provisions which have been made by this House; whether this is merely a phrase added in excess of caution by the draftsman, or whether the Government have the intention of introducing, in the Bill that will follow the passing of this Resolution, some other provision altogether outside the scope of the Agreements and outside the scope of the Announcement.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
As my 521 hon. and learned Friend knows, this paragraph is to give effect to the preferences stated in the Agreements and by the Announcement made at Ottawa. Nothing will be contained in the Bill which does not arise out of the Conference at Ottawa. It is, however, necessary, out of caution, to use these words, particularly because of the circumstances in which Ireland is placed. Ireland was not represented at Ottawa, and, if the Resolution did not safeguard her position, she would become liable to the Ottawa duties as well as to the special duties from which she is now suffering. Perhaps that explanation will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I beg to move, in line 13, to leave out paragraph (b).
As the House is already aware, the Ottawa Agreements have made it necessary to cancel the Trade Agreement with Russia. We have already been informed by the Foreign Secretary this morning that the refusal to put a time limit to the Ottawa Agreements has created an entirely new precedent. The arguments which have been used in favour of following that course have been directed to the point that it is necessary for the Ottawa Agreements to run for five years, because any shorter period would be very ineffective. I suppose that the idea lying behind that is that it will take time for the course of trade to be diverted by the Ottawa Agreements. Trade cannot be diverted all at once, and consequently it is necessary, as we have been told by Government spokesmen, to allow the Agreements to run for at least five years, so that any resulting diversion of trade may have time to work itself out properly.
The history of our trade relationship with Russia since the conclusion of the War is a very interesting one. There has been more than one trade agreement with Russia. The last was made in 1930, and it is the 1930 Agreement that the Government are cancelling. I was very interested last night to hear the Lord President of the Council put forward the Government's apology for this cancellation of the Trade Agreement with Russia. 522 He was very careful to point out that the Government did not really want to end trade with Russia, and that they were, as a matter of fact, already taking tentative steps to enter into a new agreement. But before he said that, he prefixed his remarks with one or two observations in regard to the attitude of certain people towards that country. He said that there were people who objected to trade with Russia on moral grounds, and others who objected because they wanted to end her economic system.
However admirable may be the sentiments of the Lord President of the Council in regard to Russian trade, there are a lot of his followers who frequently, in their public utterances and in other ways, adopt the second attitude to which he referred. Many of them seem much inclined to pursue a policy designed to smash the Russian economic system. That is frequently the main burden of their speeches and arguments, to which we listen from time to time. It is obvious that there are in the ranks of the right hon. Gentleman's followers many hon. Members who want to smash the Russian economic system, and I have no doubt that you can find the same sort of people in Canada, Australia, and in the rest of the Dominions. The notice to cancel this agreement with Russia may count for far more than appears on the surface.
I want to put this point. Nobody is yet prepared to tell us that the system of Protection which has been established has found very much more work for our people in this country. No one has yet told us that the Ottawa Agreements are likely to find very much more work for our men and women. The Chancellor of the Exchequer merely stressed the point that these Agreements introduced new tendencies, that something concrete might emerge from them at some date in the future, but that was highly problematical. I am not going into figures this morning, but I think there can be no doubt that, in certain parts of the country at any rate, as perhaps hon. Members will point out later, trade agreements with Russia have given definite employment, and I suggest that what the Government propose to do is something like throwing away the substance for the shadow. They are going to cancel Agreements which have definitely given employment, in pursuit of a policy from which employment may come—it is very 523 problematical whether it will or not—at some date in the future. Consequently, I beg to move that this paragraph be deleted.
§ Sir MURDOCH McKENZIE WOOD
The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment dealt with the question from a general point of view, but, although I shall have a little to say from that point of view, it is not so much the general aspect of the case that I wish to deal with to-day. I must say, however, that it seems to me that the most-unfortunate aspect of the whole question is that, when our trade relations with Russia were just becoming better and better, and our trade was increasing and was being carried on with an increasing spirit of good will, the whole aspect has been changed, and we now find a spirit of hostility being shown towards Russia. At any rate in many places that is the interpretation which is put upon the action of the Government, which, as we all know, has been the result of the special demands placed upon the present Government and its representatives at Ottawa by Canada.
First of all, I should like the House to examine the exact terms of the Resolution and the Article in the Agreement on which it is based. The particular paragraph which this Amendment asks should be omitted proposes to give to the Board of Trade power in certain circumstances to prohibit imports into this country. It is desirable that one should see exactly what it proposes. It provides that there shall be powers of prohibition, to be used when preferences which are to be given under the Canadian Agreement arefrustrated in whole or in part by reason of the creation or maintenance. … of prices. …through State action…1.0 p.m.
I have left out one or two words, but these words are all correctly quoted from the Agreement. A great number of people seem to be under the impression, not having gone very carefully into it, that this is a humanitarian project, that it is an attempt to prevent sweated goods coming into this country in competition with our own. That, obviously, is not the object of this clause. If it were, 524 it would not be confined to State action. I would ask the House to note that it is not the creation or maintenance of prices merely, but the creation or maintenance of prices through State action, and there may be sweating without any suggestion of State action. We have heard in these Debates a good deal about the conditions of the jute industry in Calcutta, and there may be conditions of the same kind—I dare say there are—in foreign countries in other parts of the world; but apparently this Agreement takes no notice of them at all, and leaves them entirely outside its purview. Therefore, this is not a humanitarian project; it is not directed merely to sweating. This is the first point that I would make upon the terms of the Agreement. The next point to which I would like to draw attention is the meaning of the strange words:the creation or maintenance of prices.I do not think I have ever come across that particular phrase before. What does it mean? I hope the Government will give us some indication of what they mean by these words. In the last Debate we were promised an answer to some questions that were put, but, when the speech came, the promise that was given was entirely forgotten. I hope we shall get a real answer as to the meaning of these strange and new words.
We hear a great deal, for instance, about the Five Year Plan in Russia, and about the great efforts that are being made by Russia to reorganise its agriculture on a large scale. We hear about farms of hundreds of thousands of acres given over to the production of wheat according to all the best modern methods. There is no saying how cheaply, with all these facilities, Russia may be able to produce wheat in these circumstances. That could be said to be done by State action. Supposing that Russia were very successful in its production of wheat, and were able to produce it at a price which frustrated—which would not be very difficult to do—the duty of 2s. a quarter which is to he placed on foreign wheat as against Dominion wheat, would that be considered to be a frustration of the preferences sufficient to enable the Government to take action against Russia? I can quite see that is might be and could be argued that that would be so. That gives one an 525 idea how loose and wide this language is. It is not merely that the Government, are going to be empowered to put on extra duties; they are going to be given power to prohibit entirely. We have heard a great deal of late about a scientific and compensatory tariff—a tariff by which the Government will be able, by means of varying duties, to nullify differences in price and in the cost of production of any particular article. But there is no question of a scientific tariff of that kind, even if it were possible; it is absolute prohibition.
The article says also "frustrated in whole or in part." It is prohibition in either case. Whether the crime is murder or a mild assault, the sentence is the same—death or absolute prohibition. That seems to be a strange provision. It. says also, "if the Government is satisfied." Who is going to decide this question? During the last Parliament we heard a great deal about the position of Russia and the conditions there, and it was suggested that special action should be taken to deal with that question. What was the Prime Minister's answer, because he was the man who was most cross-examined on this question? He said, "The law is there ready to deal with the very charges which are put down to conditions in Russia. The law can be used in order to prohibit goods which are brought into this country in the circumstances in which these goods from Russia are alleged to be produced. If any one has a case to be brought against them, let him bring it in open court."
But, according to this article, there is no suggestion of open court in these matters. If the Government are satisfied, they may by order issue this prohibition. No one, as far as we know, will know the grounds upon which the action is taken. No one, as far as we know, will get any opportunity of putting a case against the prohibition. So far as we know at present, we may awaken one morning and find that by his fiat the President to the Board of Trade has prohibited goods coming into this country from Russia or any other such countries that we have not heard of yet. That seems to me to be a tremendous power to put into the hands of any Government or any Minister, and I think at least a power of that kind should be exercised with some discretion and, if possible, after some 526 kind of judicial inquiry. I hope we shall get some indication from the Government as to how they propose to exercise this tremendous power which they are asking to be given them.
My main purpose, however, in intervening in the Debate was to deal with a very special aspect of this question in view of the fact that something like a half of my constituents are directly or indirectly relying upon the herring fishing industry for their living, and I should like the House to hear me for a minute or two as to the nature of this industry, and how largely it has relied upon Russia in the past for its prosperity. Before the War there was probably no industry in the country that was more prosperous. Strange as it may seem to an outsider, it is almost entirely an export industry. It is difficult to believe, but it is the case, that 75 or 80 per cent. of all the herrings caught in these islands are exported. That means that the industry has a special interest in any system which will interfere with the flow of exports and, imports. About 2,500,000 barrels, on an average, were exported every year before the War. About half of them went to Russia and half to Germany, but the half that went to Germany were not all consumed there. A very considerable percentage was re-exported from Germany to Russia.
Since the War, of course, like many others, this industry has suffered, but it has suffered in a special degree because of the political situation, and the political attitude of this country and other countries towards Russia. It is in a sorry plight at present. During the War the position was naturally upset, and after the War it took a long time to come to itself again, but in 1924 we again exported a very large quantity to Russia, and it appeared that the industry might regain its previous prosperity. In 1924 276,000 barrels were exported to Russia. In 1925 there was a break in our commercial relations, and the export fell to 59,000. In 1926 it was 63,000, in 1927 it was 41,000 and in 1928 it was none at all. After the breaking off of commercial relations the position got very bad.
In the 1929 election there were three candidates in my constituency, and every one of us was pledged, first of all, to do all he could to help to resume proper commercial relations with Russia. I 527 am certain that neither in that constituency nor in some others would any candidate who was not pledged up to the hilt on that point have the slightest chance of election. The Government that followed that election very speedily entered into a new treaty, and the position immediately started to improve. It has been a slow process, but exports to Russia have been making headway more than exports to any other country that we deal with, and that is a remarkable fact in view of the present depression. Had the position been normal, our exports to Russia would have been very much greater than they are even now.
In view of the new situation, and the fact that good will was entering into our commercial relations with Russia, the fishing industry made a real attempt to get together and to negotiate agreements for the sale of large blocks to Russia. Last year the fishing industry at Yarmouth and Lowestoft was in a very bad way, and it was largely saved by the fact that it was able to sell a block of something like 36,000 barrels to Russia. At the beginning of this year it tried it again, and it was able to sell 100,000 barrels. These were sold by the fishermen and were paid for. In view of the success of that move they put forward another proposal that Russia should buy another block of 100,000 barrels of the catch which was to be made at Yarmouth and Lowestoft. That proposal was before the Soviet at the very time that the Government chose to repudiate this Agreement, and it is not too much to say that what has happened has caused dismay in that industry, as it has in many other industries.
Have the Government considered the effect of what they have done upon this particular industry? The position is very grave indeed, and the industry is directly interested in what the Government are doing. Two years ago, at Yarmouth. 700,000 barrels of herrings were cured. Last year, however, the position was so difficult that the industry came to the conclusion that it must restrict, and it did restrict, the number to 425,000 barrels. This year the position is so bad that it has felt it necessary to make a further restriction, and the cure has been restricted to 300,000 barrels, unless Russia 528 should come in and agree to buy some more herrings, as it did in the first part of this year.
We are in the position that we have thousands of men and women down from Scotland at Yarmouth and Lowestoft to-day, and they want to know how long it will be made possible for them to continue their ordinary pursuits. They wish to know whether the Government will assist them and are thinking about them in the difficult situation with which they are faced to-day. There was a very good prospect indeed that the Soviet would have accepted this new offer and have enabled them to pursue their fishing at Yarmouth and Lowestoft for a week or two longer than otherwise would be the case. Now, however, neither they nor anyone else know what is going to happen. What has transpired has caused dismay throughout the whole of the industry.
It is not this particular industry alone which is in a state of trouble and dismay. I read a letter in the "Manchester Guardian" the other day from the President of the Machine Tools Trade Association of Coventry, and it is worth while reading the letter to the House to show the position which exists in another industry. It says:Sir, All British engineers interested in Russian trade, and thousands of British workers now employed on Russian contracts, will be dismayed by the action of the Government in denouncing the commercial agreement with Russia. Many Russian orders destined for this country were diverted to foreign engineers during the suspension of the export insurance scheme, and now that this insurance is again available a further obstacle to Russian business has been created.The volume of trade in machine tools and other highly developed engineering products which can be placed in this country by Canada is only a fraction of that which can be secured from Russia under favourable and friendly conditions.
§ Yours, etc.,
§ ALFRED HERBERT, President,
§ Machine Tools Trade Association,
§ That gives an idea of the result of the action which the Government have taken. It is a direct result which undoubtedly is going to throw many hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of persons out of employment. It is a very serious step for the Government to take at this juncture, particularly in view of the fact that it is 529 done at the behest of a Dominion which cannot be expected to understand the full effect of what it is doing.
§ As to the general situation, everyone knows perfectly well that the position in Russia to-day is not as many of us would like it to be, and it may be a platitude to say—it has often been said and should be said again—that we cannot by means of trade pressure do much to change the political and social system of Russia. I was very much interested the other day in reading an address which was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) giving the result of a visit which he had paid to Russia. The right hon. Gentleman, as he said, and as we know, is not, and was not prejudiced in favour of the Russian system. But what he saw there apparently completely altered his attitude towards Russia and his view as to the attitude which we ought to adopt towards Russia. Russia is a great country which will develop whether we like it or not, and now is the time when we should be careful of what we do. If we are to get a share of the trade which will be available in Russia, we must be careful to behave in a spirit of friendliness towards Russia to-day. No one really believes that this part of the Agreement which we are discussing is conceived in friendliness towards Russia.
§ I hope that the Government will think twice and even more than twice before they go further in regard to this proposal. If the particular Sub-section were dropped out it would not affect the general policy behind the Agreements. The question raised by the Amendment is not one which deals with the general question of Free Trade or Protection. It is not an integral part of the Agreement, and I hope, therefore, that we shall be able to discuss it free from any ideas as to whether Free Trade or Protection is involved at all. The Agreement will hit thousands of people in this country very hard both directly and immediately. I know it will be said that there may be a new agreement, but we do not know what that agreement may be. It may be a long time before the agreement is reached. Meantime, trade is in chaos. No one is in a position to enter into firm contracts and, as we have been told over and over again, uncertainty is the very worst thing in business relations. I hope 530 the Government, therefore, will look into this matter and speedily give us the exact information and that, if possible, they will be able to withdraw this part of the policy altogether as being misconceived and likely to do this country very great harm.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
Unfortunately, when we come to Russia we have to contend not merely with the prejudices which surround the subject of Protection and Free Trade, but, as the hon. Member who spoke last informed us, with a whole new set of complications owing to the violent political controversies to which the Russian system of government gives rise. It was significant that the Mover of the Amendment—I think he has lost interest in the subject since—based his argument on the assumption that some of the supporters of the National Government were desirous of upsetting the economics of the system in Russia. Whether that is so or not it does not affect the paragraphs in the Resolution which we are considering. I would ask the House to address itself very seriously to what the paragraphs really do mean and not to any preconceived ideas of what other people may have in their minds about the Russian system.
The hon. Member who has just spoken may be congratulated upon having given us a very interesting and exhaustive account of the herring industry, in which his constituency is so deeply interested have no doubt that, when they read the statement which he 'has made on the subject they will be confirmed in the view that they made an admirable choice in sending him to this House. But even the hon. Member will hardly contend that the herring industry ought to over-ride every other consideration on a matter which affects the whole Empire. His whole argument in regard to the herring industry was based on the assumption, entirely fallacious, and entirely without foundation, that the herring industry is going to be imperilled or endangered by anything that may arise out of this Resolution. What authority has he for telling us that the spirit of good will which now prevails or until recently prevailed between us and the Soviet Government of Russia has been replaced by a spirit of hostility? Does he think that 531 that is going to help the herring industry? Is he not by making suggestions of that kind likely to instil in the minds of those who will be negotiating the new treaty on behalf of Russia the idea that he is so busily engaged in propagating, that this matter is prompted by a spirit of hostility, in which case I can quite imagine that the success of the negotiations may be imperilled and the herring industry may find that they are very much worse off than they are to-day?
The hon. Member has no authority for saying anything of the kind, and I would ask the House to believe that whatever may be our opinions about the actions of Russia in the past or in the present this particular Resolution is not based on any feelings of hostility to anybody. It is a simple matter of prudence, to make quite certain that the arrangement which we have made with the Dominion of Canada at Ottawa shall not be frustrated by action taken by any Government for purposes of its own which might have the effect of entirely destroying the value of what we have done. That is not an argument which would appeal to the hon. Member and those who sit with him. They are opposed to the whole scheme and the whole idea of making agreements with the Dominions, and the moment one can say that a particular course would have the effect of nullifying or destroying this Agreement, the better they would be pleased. Therefore, I can well understand their coming down to-day and saying: "Let us get rid of this Resolution, because the effect of doing so will be to destroy the Agreement with Canada and upset the work of the Conference."
I am not arguing the question of whether the Ottawa Conference was good or bad. We have debated that question at considerable length, and the House has shown in an unmistakable way, what its views are, but since the hon. Member professes that he does not understand what the arrangement is, I would like to try to make it perfectly clear what it does mean. We are giving to Canada preferences in the case of a number of articles. I will take one article—timber. There is a timber industry in Canada of a very important character. It is situated partly on the east and partly on the west coast of Canada, and that industry for a long time had a market in 532 Europe and in this country, without any preference at all. It also developed a considerable market in the United States. Not very long ago heavy duties were imposed by the United States Government upon timber going into the United States from Canada and that deprived Canada of a considerable part of the market she had hitherto enjoyed for the disposal of this valuable product. Canada, therefore, was desirous of finding means of replacing the gap in her market, which is to her a very important matter, and she desired to have in the Agreement with the United Kingdom a preference which would allow her a fair chance of competing for trade of the timber importers who get their timber from the Baltic and the countries surrounding it.
If the matter had been one of ordinary competition, such as might be expected from, say, Sweden or Finland, I do not think that any question of this kind would have arisen, but the Canadians found that they were in this market up against the competition of an altogether abnormal and extraordinary kind, namely, the competition not of private exporters of timber but of the Soviet Government itself. The hon. Member talked about a hypothetical case where the Russian Government might find that they were able to produce wheat at a cheaper price than anybody else. I daresay they could, but how are you to estimate what the cost is in Russia? How are you to compare the costs where there are no overhead charges in the shape of interest on capital, investments in land, etc., as in ordinary trading? Obviously, you cannot do it. It is possible under the Russian system to ignore various items of expense which must be taken into account by ordinary traders. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that the Russian Government have it in their power, without being fairly accused of selling under cost, to destroy utterly the market in which ordinary traders are engaged by the simple process of always quoting under the ordinary market price.
That is, in fact, the policy they have pursued in the past, which they are pursuing to-day, and which they are perfectly entitled to follow as long as it only affects their own affairs, but if it is going to ruin arrangements which for our own purposes we desire to make with the Dominions, then it appeared to Canada, and equally to us, that it could not be 533 allowed to take place, and if there were any means of stopping it we must take those means. That plainly, frankly and simply, is the purpose of the article in the Agreement with Canada.
The hon. Member says that this is an enormous power. I agree. He says it is a novel power. Again, I agree. These are novel circumstances, they have arisen nowhere else, and where novel circumstances arise you must adopt novel methods. But we are not doing this in any spirit of hostility to the Russian Government. We say to them: "We have made certain arrangements between ourselves and the Dominion of Canada; we intend that these arrangements shall not be destroyed or broken up by any State action on the part of any other country. We warn you, therefore, that you must not carry on your policy in such a way as to interfere or frustrate the purposes which we have in mind, or we shall be obliged to exercise certain powers which we have taken."
All that the Soviet Government have to do is to abstain from destroying the market in articles which are subject to this arrangement, and it need not even interfere with the general course of trade with Russia. Both sides desire a continuance of that trade, and as far as I am aware there is no reason to suppose that there will be any particular difficulty in negotiating a new agreement which will leave us with powers which we must have to protect the arrangement we came to at Ottawa and also enable us to carry on trade with Russia in machine tools and herrings or in anything which Russia may desire to sell to us. The simple question to decide is this. Having made the Agreements we did at Ottawa, are we going to leave them open to be destroyed by the unrestricted action of another State? We must say "No" to that. Then all we are asking in this Resolution is that we should have power to make effective the intimation to another country that we intend that the arrangements we have made for our own purposes shall, in fact, be effective.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I only desire to take up one or two points which are of some interest. We are now to understand that if anywhere in the world a people have managed to free themselves from the burden of paying tribute to the capitalist class they are not to have the advantage 534 of trading with us, we must only trade with people who under a capitalist system pay interest and rent and profit. That, of course, is a declaration we might expect from the right hon. Gentleman. The other point is that the present Government object to trading with a State in which there is anything like national State trading, where the industrial organisation of the country is treated as a whole, and where no effort is made to make a profit on every single item. They have no objection when it is a matter of private trading, although it may be run with State assistance. Your tariff system is full of a number of firms getting high prices out of their own nationals and selling abroad under cost price by the help of State assistance. It is all very well to say that this is an attempt to see that an agreement is carried out. Every one knows that these arrangements are in order to provide private profit. It is not a question of any unfair competition.
The whole purpose of this Agreement is to provide private interest in various directions, to enable them to get the biggest amount of price out of the people of this country, to keep out competition and thus make the fullest amount of profit. That is the idea. Canada wants to get private profit, and no doubt these arrangements are extremely convenient for those people interested in timber, whether they own the land or the timber, if they can manage to find a way of eliminating possible competition from a State which is not run for capital and thus get the greatest amount of money out of the people of this country. That is really at the back of this proposal. The Government talk as though there was something wicked about State action when at the same moment they are doing all they can to manipulate trade through State action. The only real objection of the Government is that trade is carried on in the interests of the community in Russia whilst it is carried on in the interests of private enterprise here and in the Dominions.
§ Sir ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
The hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) quite justifiably spoke from the point of view of his constituents in Banff, but there is a port close to my birthplace where they catch more herrings than they ever do around Banff. I am surprised that he should support this 535 Amendment. When his fishing constituents read his speech they will say, "Protect us from our friends." No greater harm could be done to the fishing industry than to adopt the policy he suggests. What does he wish to do? He says he wishes to increase the export of salted herrings to Russia, I agree. He said that the exports had fallen off. Again, I agree. He further said that the Agreement if put into operation would injure the herring fishermen in his part of the world in their endeavour to earn a living. I do not agree with that for a moment. The position is this. The Government have now entered into an arrangement by which they can say to the Russian Government: "Buy everything you wish to buy from us, but buy through the ordinary trade channels. We sell to you through the ordinary channels of private enterprise, because we are an individualistic people."
I am speaking at a moment's notice and have not prepared myself with figures, but when we last had the figures given we heard that we sold in Russia, last year about £6,000,000 worth of our goods, and we bought from Russia about £30,000,000 worth. There is a good old apophthegm which says, "Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you." It is a very safe. rule. We say to Russia, "You bought only £6,000,000 worth of our goods from us, including salted herring, but we have bought about £30,000,000 worth from you. That will not do." We are, after the Ottawa Conference, intending to enter into fresh arrangements by which we can say to the Russian Government, "If you sell to us £30,000,000 worth of goods we shall be in a position to put in force certain regulations which will allow us to say that you must take from us a larger proportion of herring and machine tools than you are now taking." On behalf of the deep sea fisheries of my own native county of Norfolk, I would say that the hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood), has done our fishermen great injury by supporting an Amendment which would prevent the Government getting more trade for our herring industry.
§ Mr. MABANE
With a great deal of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said I am in entire agreement. This paragraph is directed against State-sub- 536 sidised exports. I am entirely opposed to the principle of the State subsidising exports. It seems to me an undesirable and highly Socialistic practice. I do not think that the same reasoning applies to a somewhat similar process used by private traders. For generations it has been the practice for manufacturers in this country to sell abroad at a lower price than that at which they sell in this country. That is quite a different thing, because it depends on private enterprise, while the other depends on Socialism, and the more I see of Socialism in practice the more I am opposed to it. But when we find that there is a determined and deliberate attempt on the part of any one State to undermine or destroy the industry of another State, then I think we have a condition that no one can regard with equanimity. Because I believed that, that sort of thing was going on, I declared at the General Election that as a Liberal I thought it urgently necessary to control imports by tariffs, prohibition or other methods. To that extent, therefore, I find myself in entire agreement with the proposal on which this paragraph is based, the proposal in Article 21 of the Agreement, with Canada, which is aimed at those countries which create or maintain indirectly prices for certain classes of commodities through State action.
If I could believe that that Article was intended as an expression of general principle to be applied generally, I should welcome and support it. If I knew that it was to be applied to all countries I could support it. But, I find a serious objection to the Article in that, from the statements made by Mr. Bennett in his opening speech at Ottawa, and from what we have done in practice, I cannot convince myself that the Article is intended to be of general application. Rather it seems to be directed particularly and especially against Russia. In his opening statement at Ottawa Mr. Bennett said:I am disinclined to comment adversely upon the standard of living of any other country or upon the economic scheme on which that standard of living is based; but I do say that where they are unlike and antagonistic to our own, we must resist the conscious or unconscious efforts to put them in free competition with our own.Those words, combined with the action we have taken in denouncing the trade agreement with Russia, lead me to believe that this Article is particularly 537 directed against Russia. I am not attempting to defend the Russian methods which, as clearly explained by the Lord President of the Council, are quite indefensible; but I do say that this proposal raises a particular issue, and that issue is, is Russia the only sinner in this respect? It raises another issue, and that is, is it expedient or desirable at the present time, in the interests of our own trade and industry and employment, to denounce the Russian agreement before we have another one to take its place? Take the first point—is Russia alone the sinner in respect of the State subsidy of imports? No one with any knowledge of the facts could possibly plead that Russia is the only sinner.
It is well known that Japan subsidises its shipping to the detriment of our shipping. It is well known that in Germany various methods of subsidy are employed. Only recently the German Government instituted a system for subsidising the wages paid to employés, and that, of course, is indirectly a State subsidy of exports. Any manufacturer of textiles in the West Riding will tell you that he has to face very serious competition from Italy, made possible only by the State subsidy of exports from Italy to this country. This is the paradox of the situation: It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that our own Dominions are the worst offenders in this matter of the State subsidy of exports. It is not a process likely to recommend itself to the agricultural producers of this country, that they should be subject to the competition of subsidised primary produce from the Dominions.
I think I can say that I have some first-hand knowledge of the conditions. I was in Australia and Canada particularly to study this problem, and there are certain examples that I would like to cite in support of my case that Russia is not the only sinner. I base my case not on any personal observations, but on what I find in the Australian Tariff, and the economic inquiry instituted by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Bruce, and carried out by five of the leading economists and financial authorities in Australia. In a section of this inquiry which is called "The cost of protected primary products, and the total subsidies to production," they point out that the export of various primary products from 538 Australia is only made possible by very considerable subsidy, and that that subsidy is provided, either by higher prices charged to the Australian consumer, or by direct subsidy from the State. They say, "We shall state three special cases where those conditions exist. Those are sugar, butter and dried fruits." They go on to say:Under the arrangement for controlling the prices of these products, the Australian consumers are required to pay what is necessary to make the Home-consumed consumption profitable, plus what is necessary to make the exported production profitable also.Turning to sugar, these instances are cited by the Commission: In 1925–26 only 56 per cent. of the sugar crop was consumed in Australia and paid for at £27 per ton. The remaining 44 per cent. was sold abroad at £11 6s. a ton. The Australian consumer therefore paid £7 10s. more than the need in order to make up the loss on exports and the subsidy of exports amounted to £2,175,000. Then come the figures for 1927 and we are told that the cost of the sugar export from Australia was £4,000.000 An exactly similar state of affairs exists in relation to butter. Since January, 1926, the butter industry has provided a bounty of 3d. per lb. on all butter exports. In the case of dried fruits the price of sultanas consumed in Victoria was £57 per ton in 1927, and, for the same sultanas, £37 10s. was received in Great Britain. If that is not State subsidy of exports I do not know what is. Finally, we read that, in the year referred to, the total subsidies on primary products in Australia amounted to £22,000,000. That I think ought to show that Russia is not alone the sinner
. If I could believe that this Article is intended to be directed impartially against all who subsidise exports to our detriment I should heartily support it, but, as I have said, I cannot be convinced that such is the case. Rather does it seem to me that it is directed entirely against Russia. The Dominions themselves have no qualms in this matter. Not so long ago a trade agreement between New Zealand and Canada, which provided that New Zealand butter should have a preference on entering the Canadian market, was denounced. The Canadians discovered that the New Zealand butter was subsidised. They said, and I 539 agree with them, "It is not fair that our own producers of butter should be damaged by this New Zealand butter to which we have given a preference, when, all the time, the New Zealand butter is subsidised by the State."
The second point on which I desire to enlarge is as to whether it is expedient and desirable at the present time to denounce this Trade Agreement until we have another Agreement to take its place. There are those who take the view that it would be better if we did no trade at all with Russia. There are those in the House that hold that view but I do not think they are many. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has assured us that such is not the intention of the Government. Very well—if you intend to continue to trade with Russia, is it not better to have another Agreement ready before you denounce the existing Agreement? In this respect, we must think a great deal of our own constituencies. In Huddersfield which I represent, we are principally dependent on the wool textile industry, but after that, we have another industry, the machine tool industry, which is very large and important. I have by a strange chance received this morning two letters from Huddersfield, one from the managing director of an important machine-tool manufacturing firm and the other from the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and both are considerably concerned about the denunciation of the Russian trade Agreement. You have there community of interest.
The position in Huddersfield is that at least two important firms there at present employ more men than they did this time last year; they are working over-time and have work in hand sufficient to enable them to carry on for six months. Virtually every penny of that work is for Russia. It is a strange coincidence that since the denunciation of the Agreement two machines of considerable value, destined for Russia, are delayed in the works because certain difficulties have been raised by the Russians. I have, from my constituents, requests not for a restriction of export credit facilities but for an extension of export credit facilities and it is perfectly clear to me that if Russian trade were cut off my constituents would have to look forward to 540 decreased employment on a considerable scale and certain firms would have to look forward to a loss of prosperity. I put before the House two grounds for my attitude towards this Article. The first is that the Article seems to be particularly directed against Russia, whereas, in my view, it ought to be directed against any State whatever which seeks to undermine our own industry by the State-subsidised export of its products. The second is that it is neither desirable or expedient to denounce the Agreement until we have another to take its place unless we wish to cut off trade with Russia altogether. On those grounds, which seem to me important and substantial grounds, unless we have some further and more satisfactory explanation of the Government's intention and interpretation of it, I cannot support this paragraph of the Resolution.
I rise to support the Amendment. I do not think that any hon. Member can accept the explanation given just now by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a good reason for the abolition of the Trade Agreement with Russia. It is remarkable that in these Ottawa Agreements which we are being asked to legalise, Russia is the only foreign country in regard to which there is the slightest indication of abolishing or changing any Trade Agreements. We heard last night from the Lord President of the Council that there were various reasons for terminating this Agreement. He said there were moral reasons as well as political reasons and it took the right hon. Gentleman all his time to escape from saying that one of the reasons was objection to the system under which the Russian people are governed. As a representative from the north of England I wish to point out that our industries there have for some time looked upon Russia as a tremendous potential market. As has been explained by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) many industries have been started under the existing Trade Agreement with Russia. Now we are told that the Agreement must be ended. We are told that by men who sit here to-day representing the National Government, but whose speeches can be remembered and referred to and who in former years showed hatred and venom towards Russia. They ask us to denounce this Agreement definitely on account of 541 the political outlook of Russia and the form of Russia's internal government.
I am not concerned with the form of government in Russia but with the working people of this country. I want to see the workers of this country and of Russia allowed to exchange their goods with freedom and with proper and honest facilities. One of the objections to the Agreement is, we are told, that there is slavery in Russia, that the hours worked in Russia are longer than they ought to be, and that many of their goods are produced under conditions to which hon. Members object. Does that apply to any of the Dominions? Can hon. Members opposite say that the slave conditions in India, which they appreciate, which they began and which they control are worse than the conditions in Russia. Not a word is said about India. They only point at Russia. We are not concerned as I say at the moment with the kind of government which Russia has. For ray own part I wish them well in their form of government. But we are tremendously concerned about the abolition of this Trade Agreement and upon that point I would like to put a question. During the discussion we have not been told by any Member of the Government as to how far the Agreement that they propose to make with Russia will be co-ordinated with either Canada or Australia. I have a cutting out of this morning's "Financial News," regarding a trading arrangement between Canada and Russia, which reads as follows:Two days after the British repudiation of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Treaty, the second shipment of Soviet oil—whether crude or refined is a matter of controversy here—arrived at Montreal in the Danish tanker Marie Maersk.'The first shipment of 9,000 tons arrived on 14th September. The second shipment, now at Montreal, is reported to be 14,000 tons.This oil, which comes from Batum, is Russia's second payment on account of £1,500.000 worth of aluminium wire, supplied to Russia by the Aluminium Corporation of Canada from their plant in Arvida, Quebec.Russia is to pay for one-half of the aluminium wire price in oil and the other half in gold.The deal was put through by the Aluminium Corporation of Canada during the Ottawa Economic Conference, and received the approval of the Bennett Government.We should like to know why we should see, under our very noses, trading agree- 542 meats between Canada and Russia during the time that this Economic Conference was sitting when, involved in the Agreements brought back to Britain, is an endeavour to repudiate entirely our Trade Agreement with Russia. Many of us are seriously concerned, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not convinced me—I am only sorry he is not here for me to say it to him—after speeches that he made long before he was in this Government, that either he or the others who went to Ottawa based their view of future trade agreements with Russia on the question of good will and prosperity for this country or Russia. Rather did they base their views on hatred towards the present form of government in Russia. We strongly protest against that, and we wish, like the last speaker, that before this Agreement was repudiated some other agreement had been negotiated, because there is likely to be a feeling aroused out of doing business in this way that is not likely to do any good to the citizens of our own country.
I remember when the industry in which I am interested had a very large trading agreement with Russia, and I feel that that is possible now if we could get out of the heads of the men in the Government their hatred for the Russian form of government. It is rather strange that in this discussion men should raise a strong objection to Russian goods owing to the fact that they are State-subsidised. There are men in this House to-day who welcomed subsidised coal in 1926 from Germany to defeat the miners, and never said a word then. Subsidised industry was all right then, when it suited their purpose.
There is a form of mummery that is very largely included in many parts of these Agreements arranged for the benefit of trade and commerce controlled by private enterprise. I make a lot of allowances for the men interested in that direction, but it will naturally be a bit of a bugbear for them to come to trading agreements with the big continent of Russia under its present control. We want to protest to-day at the Trade Agreement with our friends in Russia being abrogated before any other agreement has been made, and we cannot but believe that there has been more feeling than common sense exercised in the arrangements that have been made re- 543 garding Russia during the Ottawa Conference. It is on those grounds that we offer our protest against the policy of the Government in this matter, and we shall go into the Lobby to show that protest, which will in later days undoubtedly
§ be very useful, when we get on to that side of the House, governing this country.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'by,' in line 15, stand part of the Resolution.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 225:Noes, 54.545
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut,Colonel||Glossop, C. W. H.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mitchell. Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Albery, Irving James||Goff, Sir Park||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Goidle, Noel B.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Apsley, Lord||Gower, Sir Robert||Munro, Patrick|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Grattan-Doyle. Sir Nicholas||Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Grimston, R. V.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks. Aylesbury)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsin'th.C)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pearson. William G.|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Penny, Sir George|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Bowyer. Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Petherick, M.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hartland, George A.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'prn, Bilston)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H. C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Headiam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Buchan-Hephurn, P. G. T.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Burghley, Lord||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Pybus, Percy John|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Burnett, John George||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western isles)|
|Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Howard, Tom Forrest||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reid. James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney,N.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hurst, Sir Percy||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld,B'tside)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Remlord)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||James, Wing Com. A. W. H.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Ker, J. Campbell||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cooke. Douglas||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Sanderson. Sir Frank Barnard|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Scone, Lord|
|Craddock. Sir Reginald Henry||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Crookshank. Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Cross, R. H.||Leckie, J. A.||Slater, John|
|Crossley. A. C.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Smiles. Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow in-F.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Levy, Thomas||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Denville, Alfred||Lewis, Oswald||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F||Liddall, Walter S.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Dickle, John P.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lioncl||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Duncan. James A. L.(Kensington,N.)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Mac Andrew, Capt. J.O. (Ayr)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Tate. Mavis Constance|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||McKie, John Hamilton||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Erskine.Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Magnay, Thomas||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R||Wallace. John (Duntermline)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mayhew. Lieut.-Colonel John||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Ward. Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Wells, Sydney Richard||Wills, Willfrid D.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Weymouth, Viscount||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Whyte, Jardine Bell||Withers, Sir John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Womersley, Walter James||Major George Davies and Capatin|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Attlee. Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson. John Allen|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton. Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Price, Gabriel|
|Bernays, Robert||Hicks, Ernest George||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hirst, George Henry||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Holdsworth, Herbert||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cove. William G.||Janner, Barnett||Thorne, William James|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps. Sir Stafford||John, William||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Johnstone. Harcourt (S. Shields)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Davies. Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Edward John Ogmore)|
|Edwards. Charles||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lawson. John lames||Wood, Sir Murdoch Mc Kenzie (Banff)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lunn, William|
|Grenfell. David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mabane, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
Mr. SMITH ERS
On a point of Order. May I respectfully draw your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the fact that in a Conference Room in this building where the division bell is always heard it did not ring on this occasion, and for that reason I was not able to take part in the Division. May I ask you to draw the attention of the officials of the House to the matter?
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I do not think that that is a point of Order. But I have no doubt that the Sergeant-at-Arms will take notice of the hon. Member's complaint.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I beg to move, in line 15, after the word "Canada," to insert the words:and after receiving a recommendation to that effect from the Import Duties Advisory Committee after that Committee has held a public inquiry thereon.The object of this Amendment is clear. The Government know quite well what is intended by it; in fact, the point has frequently appeared in the Debates of the last two or three days. I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will tell us what the Government propose to do in this matter. Our main contention is that the duties specified in the Schedules should not be imposed without the very fullest consideration, and as machinery has already been set up for ascertaining the possible effects of import duties on commodities by the agency of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, we are not now proposing to set up a 546 new piece of machinery, but are using an existing piece of machinery in order that the effect of duties upon this country may be ascertained and any ill-consequences may be averted.
We go one point further. We hold that when dm Import Ditties Advisory Committee are considering the possible effect of these new duties there should be a public inquiry, so that the public should know what arguments are advanced in favour of a duty on any products imported from foreign countries. We are satisfied that the apprehensions concerning Ottawa will not be removed without considerably more light being thrown upon the whole object and scope of these duties. The country so far has been deluded into the belief that Ottawa, has been a great triumph for this Government and for this country, but the people do not yet know what has been arranged. If this Resolution goes through as it is, and no further inquiry is to be made, people may have to suffer, three, four or five years before there can be any possible redress——
I do not know if the hon. Gentleman quite realises the effect of his own Amendment. The effect of the Amendment, if carried, would not he that the duties would be brought before the Advisory Committee, but only cases where prohibition was proposed.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I should have confined myself to the articles proposed to be prohibited. It considerably streng- 547 thens my argument, however, if this country is to be deprived of the enjoyment of products from abroad without consideration or any public knowledge of the scope to which we are to be committed. That is very serious, and the Financial Secretary should give some assuring words to the House and to the people, who are really much more apprehensive of the effects of Ottawa than the Government imagine.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am certain that we ought not to confer on the Government arbitrary powers of this description. We have already found in the discussion on a previous Amendment that we have virtually transferred to one of our Dominions the power to say whether taxes shall be lowered, and now the Government are asking arbitrary powers which will practically mean that one of our Dominions will have a voice in determining our foreign relations.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I readily respond to the invitation which has been extended to me by my hon. Friends to say one or two words on the Amendment which they have so briefly moved. The purpose of the paragraph, as the House is aware, is to enable the Board of Trade, by order, to prohibit the importation of goods in the circumstances which we have already discussed. The object is to prevent the frustration of preferences by State action in another country. My hon. Friends ask that before we take measures to defend our selves against such State action an inquiry should be held under the auspices of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. I hope that my hon. Friends will appreciate that that Committee are concerned with what happens to British industry in this country. They are concerned with the conditions here. They have no staff of officers abroad who can warn them of circumstances which prevail overseas. The Government- must rely upon its Consular officers and upon its representatives abroad to advise them upon these subjects.. If the Import Duties Advisory Committee had such a staff at their disposal, I might not be here resisting this Amendment, but it is 548 on the practical ground that it has not a staff that I am resisting the Amendment.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
The Financial Secretary is always interesting, and his remarks are illuminating. In this particular case he has illuminated the position. He points out, quite rightly, that the Import Duties Advisory Committee was appointed to look after the interest of industry in this country. It may be surprising to hon. Members to hear that I am mostly concerned for the interest of the industries of this country, and I want to be sure that in the desire to help Canada, Australia or New Zealand, we shall not sacrifice the interests of the industries of this country. I have the greatest respect for the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Although I opposed the Import Duties Act, I recognise that the Government s selection for this Committee was extraordinarily good. In consists of three most competent and highly trained men, and during the last few months it has been their business to survey and examine the whole complicated organisation of our industry in order to consider whether particular taxes on raw material will interfere with or injure any substantial industry in this country. In the discharge of their duties —I say this to their credit—they have already added to the Free List at least three or four articles. Under the present proposals, one of the articles aimed at is timber. We have heard on many occasions of late about timber produced under sweated conditions by forced labour, and about Canada wanting protection against what they think is unfair competition. No one is stronger than I am in the desire to keep out sweated goods, but it is possible under pressure from interests in Canada who are desirous of having a privileged position in this market, that we might do injury to interests in this country—the very thing which this Committee is charged to look after. I want to be sure that the Government under pressure from Canada will not suddenly propose the prohibition of foreign timber.
I have for many years been a member of the Housing Committee of the London County Council. We are building houses on a large scale, and one of our greatest 549 difficulties is to produce houses at such a figure that we can let them at a reasonable rent. We are constantly struggling with the problem of producing cheap houses. I need not tell the House that the London County Council have already given a lead in the direction of a prohibition of foreign timber. They have a large preference for Dominion timber, and they are importing the greater part of it now from Canada and refusing to take Russian timber. Already, however, there have been complaints from the Master Builders' Association that, owing to the insistence on preference for Canadian timber for municipal houses, there has been a large increase in the price of that timber of something like 20 or 30 per cent. So serious.has the matter become, that the First Commissioner of Works informed us that he was keeping a close watch on the operation of title Canadian timber organisation. If under pressure from Canada the Board of Trade suddenly, without any inquiry or consultation with this particular Committee, sweeps down and prohibits the importation of foreign timber from Russia and elsewhere, we may find ourselves at the mercy of the Canadian timber producers.
The Government should make use of their own creation. They set up the Import Duties Advisory Committee, and they should show confidence in the organisation which they created. Not only is timber for the building trade affected; a large amount of timber is used for case-making, and in the furniture trade, and I am informed that at present suitable woods are not available at reasonable prices from the Dominions. There ought to be a careful examination before a, decision is arrived at. Witnesses should be examined and the various interests should have a dance to state their case. This Committee have been very quick in coming to their decisions—in some cases too quick, I think. [An HON. MEMBER: "In some cases it has been four months."] Then I am afraid I have been too kind to them. I wanted to put the best face on the matter. If what the hon. Member says is true, it is an argument for destroying the Committee altogether and putting in a new kind of Committee, but I have reason to believe, from my experience, that on the whole the Committee has been a good one. At 550 any rate, I a m showing my confidence in it by asking the Government to allow it to have this particular job. If the Committee is over-worked the Government have power to increase its numbers, and, if it is not efficient they should take the first opportunity of strengthening the personnel. But apparently I have more confidence in title Government's choice than has the hon. Member opposite. I suggest that the Amendment is a good one and should be accepted.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The Financial Secretary has told us that but for the practical difficulty in the way he would have been able to accent the Amendment, or that he might have been able to do so. I am going to suggest to him that the practical difficulty is one that can be got over without the slightest trouble, and if it will assist him we will put down an Amendment showing how it can be overcome. Instead of referring this matter to the Imports Advisory Committee, let there be a public inquiry by the Board of Trade. It matters not the least to us what the choice is; we merely put this committee in the Amendment because we thought it was an impartial body—it has that reputation—and that it would act as a judicial body to inquire into the matter. If that be the only difficulty, there is no reason why it should not be overcome.
But let me say one word upon what we regard as the really serious necessity for some action of this sort. A prohibition would be liable to cut off a particular source of supply of a raw material at any given moment and cause the very greatest difficulty to particular businesses. Where there is a shipping line serving a particular area people may have been accustomed to import their goods by that line. Take the case of wood pulp coming from Scandinavia. If there were a prohibition on wood pulp from Scandinavia it might be extremely difficult for people on the East Coast who want wood pulp to make fresh arrangements for its delivery, and surely they ought to have opportunity of making representations to some body which is in a position to judge whether a prohibition is right or not. It may be that the argument will be that the prohibition will not in the least assist the Agreements made at the Conference—or it may be a great question whether it will or not. As the Financial Secretary has said that it is only the 551 practical point that stopped him from agreeing with us, I ask hurl to think over the matter again, and, when we put down our Amendment in its new form at a later stage, to be prepared then to accept it, because he will appreciate that he has already admitted that it has merits.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I do not wish any misinterpretation to be unwittingly put upon my remarks. My hon. and
§ learned Friend will, of course, realise that any public inquiry would have to be held in the foreign country concerned, because it would be the State action of that foreign country that would be primarily in question, or would be one of the principal factors concerned.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 230.553
|Division No. 313.]||AYES.||[2.51 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Grundy, Thomas W.||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normaton)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Methyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Price, Gabriel|
|Bernays, Robert||Hicks, Ernest George||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hirst, George Henry||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Holdsworth, Herbert||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cove, William G.||Janner, Barnett||Thorne, William James|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||John, William||Watts-Morgan. Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields||Wedgwood. Rt. Hon, Josiah|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Kirswood, David||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. Geroge||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Megan A. Lioyd (Anglesea)||Lawson, John James||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan).||Lunn, William|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middiesbro',W.)||Mabane, william||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cooke, Douglas||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Albery, Irving James||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Alexander, Sir William||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Crooke, J. Smedley||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reglnald V. K.||Cross, R. H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Apsley. Lord||Crossley, A. C.||Hartland, George A.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Harvey. George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)|
|Baiilie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Davies, Edward C. (Montgamery)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Denville, Alfred||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Dickle, John P.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hills. Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Duncan, James A.L.(Kensington. N.)||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Boulton, W. W.||Eastwood, John Francis||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Elmley, Viscount||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hurd, Sir Percy|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., N ewb'y)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Hutchison,William D.(Essex, Romt'd)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Bik'pool)||James. Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Everard, W. Lindsay||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Burnett, John George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Campbell. Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Fox, Sir Gifford||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Fraser, Captain Ian||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Gledhill, Gilbert||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Glossop, C. W. H.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Gluckstein. Louis Halle||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Goff, Sir Park||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Goldie, Noel B.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gower, Sir Robert||Levy, Thomas|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Lewis. Oswald|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Grimston, R. V.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney. C.)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Lymington, Viscount||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Pybus, Percy John||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(Pd'gt'n,S.)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I||Rosbotham, S. T.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Magnay, Thomas||Ross, Ronald D.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Margesson. Capt. Henry David R.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mayhew. Lieut.-Colonel John||Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)||Salmon, Major Isidore||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Moison, A. Hugh Elsdale||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Scone, Lord||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Munro, Patrick||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Slater, John||Withers, Sir John James|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Pearson, William G.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Penny, Sir George||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Smithers. Waldron||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Petherick, M.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Captain Austin Hudson and Mr.|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Blindell.|
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, in line 16. to leave out the words "in a Foreign," and to insert instead thereof the words:under sweated conditions of labour in any.The Ottawa Agreements are not fully expressed in the words that are on the Paper, according to the account given to us by the Secretary of State for the Dominions. The Dominions Secretary was at pains to explain that the paragraph which I am seeking to amend was specially directed against sweated labour, but there is nothing whatever in it to deal with sweated labour. I hope that the Noble Lady who sits for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Athol]) will support this Amendment because she is, I know, very interested in conditions of sweated labour in various countries. I am sure that her sympathies are not restricted, and that if there be sweating anywhere, even in parts of the Empire, she is not likely to be willing to allow goods made by that sweated labour to be introduced into this country.
We have heard a-great deal about lumber camps in Russia and about the conditions that are said to exist; if we found that there were a number of such place: in the Empire in which bad conditions obtained, I am sure that she would like to keep out that timber. There are parts of the Empire where goods are 554 produced under extremely bad conditions and for very low wages. The paragraph is drawn very widely. We hope that the National Government at Ottawa was animated by the most humanitarian sentiments and we wish to put it on record that the Government of the day are thinking of the working man and of his conditions and interests. What we have before us is mainly a tax upon his pocket. We have introduced in this Amendment therefore an important principle.
The Government have so far departed from the true faith of laissez faire as to believe, to some extent, in controlling the flow of trade, and there is no reason why they should not make an approach also to the control of conditions of labour. If they object to goods being introduced into this country that are subsidised by Government, on the ground that it is unfair competition, I am sure that they will equally object to goods that are subsidised by unfair competition in the shape of wages and conditions of labour that are below the standard which obtains in this country. It has been so often put forward in this House, and I have heard it from the most unexpected quarters, how strong the objection is to low pay and bad conditions in countries other than our own. I hope we shall get the Government to accept this Amendment and that we shall have speeches in sup- 555 port of it from the strong Imperialists who would not like the good name of the Empire to be brought down by encouraging the importation of goods which, although they are from the Empire, do not reflect the highest conditions of civilisation that should exist in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ Mr. TINKER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think it ought to appeal to many hon. Members on the other side of the House. The argument for Protection, used very often in this House, is that other countries do not pay the same rates of wages or enjoy the same conditions of labour as we do. The other night the junior Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) made a special point of that. She said that it was useless for us to talk about Free Trade when we allowed other countries to exploit labour conditions, and that one of the only ways in which to raise labour conditions in other parts of the world was not to allow goods produced by bad conditions to come into this country.
We on these benches are trying to give a lead. We want, and particularly trade unionists want, to raise the standard of life not only in this country but in every country in the world. That is the trade union policy, and that is what we are fighting for in this country and have always agitated for. I realise that, if other countries do not attain that standard, those who advocate Protection have a very good case. That is why I have never argued very strongly for an extreme Free Trade policy; I could always sec the argument from the other side. This afternoon we have a great opportunity of putting it to the test. In this Resolution we are trying to exclude one country which, because of the saving in overhead charges through not having to pay rent and so on, will be able to send goods into this country at a cheaper rate than other countries can. In the country which we have in mind, namely, Russia, they may he able to pay their labourers and give them decent conditions equal to those in this country, but may nevertheless be able to send goods here as cheaply as we can produce them, because of indirect savings. If other parts of the Empire are not paying their people what we pay in this country, is it 556 right to allow their goods to come in to the exclusion of other goods?
The National Government have a great chance before them of taking up the position that we take up, and of dealing with the question of sweating, without leaving it to us every time to get all the plums in advocating these things. It is evident that the present Government are going to be in power for a long time——[Interruption.] I make no mistake about that. Whenever I am asked how long the Government are going to be in power, I say that it will be for five years, until 1936—that that will be the time before there will be any chance of getting them out. Therefore, they have five years before them to do a good thing for the world and to put Britain in the position of giving that lead which it has always claimed in the past. It has been claimed that Britain has always led private enterprise in the past. We realise that it has failed, and Britain may again take the lead by saying that it will not exploit sweated labour, but will say that the goods of any country which cannot give a decent standard of life in comparison with what we have shall not come in. I agree that it is a big thing to do, but this is a big question that we are tackling. The economic condition of the world has brought us to this pass of appealing to the Dominions to join with us and try to save civilisation if we can, and nothing more effective could be done in that direction by this Parliament than what is suggested by this Amendment.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I intervene for a few moments because I think that this is a very vital matter. It appears to me that, under paragraph (b), the Government have complete power already to deal with the question which has been raised by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in this Amendment. Under paragraph (b) the Government are granted power by Order to prohibit the importation of goods of any class or description grown, produced or manufactured in a foreign country. Surely that is good enough. Why is it necessary to have this Amendment about sweated conditions in any foreign country [HON. MEMBERS: "In any country."] The Mover of the Amendment, if he implies anything at all by the Amendment, surely implies that there are sweated conditions in the 557 Empire, and he is anxious to apply this particular Amendment to those countries as well as to foreign countries. It seems to me, however, that we in this country have a very much better method of dealing with the question of sweated labour within the Empire than by merely putting on prohibitive duties or prohibitions of this kind. If the Empire means anything—and we have reason, as the result of the Ottawa Conference, to think that it does mean something—surely such questions as those of sweated labour, hours of labour, and rates of wages for labour within the Empire ought to he and can be settled by inter-Imperial consultation, without prohibitions or duties or reprisals of that kind.
With regard to foreign countries, it is very difficult, whether you are dealing with the Empire or with the world at large, for the British Government to carry out investigations into the conditions of labour and the rates of wages paid in foreign countries, particularly in Oriental countries, without giving rise to complications of every sort and kind—possibly international complications. If we let a foreign country know that we are not prepared to accept its goods on the specific ground that in our opinion they are being produced under sweated conditions, is it possible to imagine, in a world so full of turmoil and strife and difficulties as is the case at the present moment, anything more calculated to engender international discord I Take the question of Russia itself. I have heard the question of sweated conditions in Russia debated passionately in this House between the Labour party and the Conservative party. I am not prepared to take either the one side or the other, but would only say that I think it would be very difficult far any Government in this country to judge accurately whether conditions in any particular industry, especially in a country like Russia, amount to sweating. Russian standards differ from ours. I have frequently heard members of the Labour party point that out. I simply want to say this with regard to the question of Russia, where, if in any country sweated conditions may be said to prevail, they do prevail at the present time. I do not think I am out of order, because this Amendment deals with sweated conditions, and we hear more about sweated conditions in Russia than in any other country.
558 I am inclined to oppose this Amendment on the very ground that I am an advocate of the maximum possible expansion of trade between Russia and this country. Quite frankly, I am not nearly so concerned about the conditions of the Russian workers, and whether they are sweated or otherwise, as about the conditions of the workers in the engineering trade in this country, and of the herring fishermen whom I myself represent. I want to see the maximum possible trade done between this country and any other country that will trade with us, and I think we have a clear duty at the present time to look after our own people before we start bothering to too great an extent about whether the Russians are sweated or not. I would like an assurance from my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who, I understand, is going to reply, that, so far as the Government are concerned with overseas trade, and particularly with this question of sweated labour and the question of the Russian market, their prime objective in denouncing the present trade agreement and in the negotiation of a new one will be to secure for the people of this country the maximum amount of trade that they can possibly get, before taking into serious consideration the conditions under which goods are produced in any other country, whether in the Empire or elsewhere.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) will forgive me if I do not follow up his point, because the House dealt with it about an hour ago. It has been very exhaustively examined by the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood). I am in sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) ——
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
For one thing, it bores the House. It is very useful in Debate sometimes to take fresh points——
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I agree. As to what was said by the hon. Member for 559 Leigh, he said that we ought not to exploit sweated labour. We are all agreed upon that, but is it not already provided for? Is this Amendment necessary? I heard what was said by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) on the first day on which the House reassembled, and his duologue with the Dominions Secretary struck me so much that I tore out this page from the OFFICIAL REPORT, thinking that he would refer to it again some day. His Amendment is rendered unnecessary by what he was told:Mr. ATTLEE: May I ask whether Russia is the only place where goods are produced under sweated conditions, and whether the Government are prepared to take any action against goods produced under sweated conditions coming from Empire countries?Mr. THOMAS: So far as the Ottawa Agreements are concerned, the Government have undertaken to take action against any Government that would he responsible for preventing the preferences given being maintained, and therefore, if my hon. Friend has any fear of sweated goods from other foreign countries, I am quite sure—[Interruption]."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1932; col. 12, Vol. 269.]That is an undertaking by a Cabinet Minister on the Floor of the House. The thing is settled and the Amendment is unnecessary. There is another reason why the word "foreign" should he left in. It has nothing to do with Russia at all. Some hon. Members have not got Russia on the brain. Java and Sumatra are not in British territory. When I was at Geneva, there was some discussion about the unpleasant conditions of labour of the coolies in Java and Sumatra producing tea, and rubber against our own people in British territory. It is sweated labour, if I may use the word without offence. The hours and conditions in Java and Sumatra are not of a kind that we should approve of. A great deal of British capital and savings are invested in tea and rubber in British territory and, to use a colloquial expression, our interests in those industries have been pole-axed by the coolie labour of Dutch produced rubber and tea in Java and Sumatra. Not only does it go so for as to render the savings of our people non-productive, but the money that we have invested has also given employment to our own people at home ancillary to these industries. Not only do our people get no income from these indus- 560 tries which have been hit by the system of labour in Java and Sumatra but the Exchequer itself suffers. There has been no income tax for some years from investments in tea and rubber. It would be of great advantage to us to keep this word "foreign" in this arrangement in order that our people may at least have some opportunity of altering conditions by bargaining with the Sumatra and Java people so that the low-paid coolie labour may not continue to injure the British tea and rubber industries. For that reason, I think the hon. Gentleman will see that, by removing the word "foreign" he would do us a considerable amount of harm.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I should like to recall to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) the fact that the House is dealing at the moment not with the terms or the statement made by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, so much as with the articles embodied in the Agreement in Command Paper 4174. It is true to say that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), made this statement:So far as the Ottawa Agreements are concerned, the Government have undertaken to take action against any Government that would be responsible for preventing the preferences given being maintained, and therefore, if my hon. Friend has any fear of sweated goods from other foreign countries, I am quite sure—"—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 18th October, 1932; col. 12, Vol. 269.]That is all very well so far as it goes, but Article 21 on pages 22 and 23 of Command Paper 4174 is the actual Agreement which this House will either ratify by turning down this Amendment or disapprove by accepting the Amendment, and giving effect to the statement by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. Article 21 says:This Agreement is made on the express condition that, if either Government is satisfied that any preferences hereby granted in respect of any particular class of commodities are likely to be frustrated in whole or in part by reason of the creation or maintenance directly or indirectly of prices for such class of commodities through State action on the part of any foreign country, that Government hereby declares that it will exercise the powers—That deals exclusively with foreign countries, and to that extent implies only Russia, who, as the Chancellor of the 561 Exchequer said this morning, are operating in many directions without overhead charges and without having to pay, at all events, interest and profits, and who, the Chancellor of the Exchequer truly said, might put any industry in any country out of business and still maintain a higher rate of wages and conditions of labour than operated elsewhere. The first point which we wish to submit is the original one put by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse, that if 46,000,000 people in this country are to be called upon to pay more for their bread, meat, butter, cheese, fruit and so forth in order to provide higher profits for certain industrialists in Canada or elsewhere, we who represent trade unionists in this country at least ought to know that we are not to be called upon to pay further tribute while we still understand that employers in Canada or elsewhere may be exploiting their labourers to the extent of importing sweated goods into this country. I submit that Article 21 clearly is designed to prohibit goods from coming into this country from Russia where it is conceivable that the wages paid may be far higher than those paid in many parts of the Empire to whom we are to give preferences.
I am not only concerned with the question of Canada. I have always felt that we have sweated goods in this country. I have never yet been made to believe other than that whenever the mine worker descends into the bowels of the earth he is sweated. If we are to pay approximately £212,000,000 in extra indirect taxation if these Agreements are all ratified, they ought to carry with them conditions which ought to apply, not only to Russia or to France or to Belgium, but, in fact, to every part of the Dominions. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to give effect to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs he is obliged to accept the Amendment and allow us to have fair play all round.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I am very much obliged for the assistance of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and I willingly give the assurance that we shall do our best to get the maximum amount of trade with every country with 562 whom we make commercial agreements. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen was quite right when he put that point forward in the interest of the constituents he so ably represents.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
Any country with whom we negotiate a trade agreement. An announcement has already been made that we are ready to negotiate a new agreement with Russia. The general question has been raised by hon. Members opposite of the propriety of importing into this country goods produced under sweated conditions abroad in any part of the world. That matter used to be raised very frequently in this House at the time when we were defenceless, but we are now, for good or for evil, a protected country, and there is under the Import Duties Act adequate assurance that industry in this country may be defended from assaults delivered upon it by sweated labour outside. So much for the general question. We are now dealing with a specific question, and I invite the attention of the hon. Members who moved the Amendment to the words which we have already passed before the moving of their Amendment. Those words were:The Board of Trade may prohibit the importation of goods in the circumstances contemplated in the Agreement.We are, therefore, bound to have regard to the fact that the whole purpose of the Bill is to respect the Agreement and to protect its integrity from frustration by foreign countries. The type of frustration is State action, and it is so specified in the Clause which my hon. Friend who has just sat down read to the House. We have undertaken to prevent these Agreements—the preferences we offer under it—from being undermined by State action by a foreign country. We are in this position, that we have met together with Empire countries and made arrangements for our mutual advantage, and it is only natural that we should say that we shall preserve the integrity of the Agreements which we have reached. In these circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friends will be satisfied.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of thy Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 228 Noes, 33.565
|Division No. 314.]||AYES.||[3.19 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Munro, Patrick|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Ganzonl, Sir John||Murray-Phillpson, Hylton Ralph|
|Albery, Irving James||Gledhill, Gilbert||Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Alexander, Sir William||Glossop, C. W. H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Goff, Sir Park||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Goldie, Noel B.||Pearson. William G.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gower, Sir Robert||Penny, Sir George|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Waiter||Petherick, M.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Grimston, R. V.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)|
|Bainlet, Lord||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Guy,.I. C. Morrison||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Hanley, Dennis A.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. (Midlothian)|
|Blindell, James||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Hartland, George A.||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Bossom, A. C.||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Howard, Tom Forrest||Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)|
|Burnett, John George||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Caine, G. R. Hall.||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hurd, Sir Percy||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Scone, Lord|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon.N. (Edgbaston)||Ker, J. Campbell||Slater, John|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Leckle, J. A.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Levy, Thomas||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Lewis, Oswald||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Loder, Captain J. de Vera||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lymington, Viscount||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Taylor,Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt,n,S.)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||MacAndrew, Capt..J. O. (Ayr)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Denville, Alfred||McCorquodale, M. S.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Dickle, John P.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McKie, John Hamilton||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Magnay, Thomas||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Elmiey, Viscount||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Mills. Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Withers, Sir John James|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Moore. Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Fox. Sir Gifford||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|and Mr. Womersley.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Batey, Joseph||Cocks, Frederick Seymour|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Cove, William G.|
|Banfield, John William||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Edwards, Charles||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Grentell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Lunn, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Thomas (York, Don valley)|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|John, William||Thorne, William James||Mr. Groves and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in line 18, to leave out paragraph (c).
Paragraph (c) is as follows:(c) to empower the Board of Trade, for the purpose of giving effect to certain provisions of the Agreements made between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and His Majesty's Governments in the Commonwealth of Australia and in New Zealand respectively, to regulate the importation of certain frozen and chilled meat.3.30 p.m.
I hope to give a few reasons why the Government should accept this Amendment. The House has spent practically the whole of the day in dealing with Imperial questions, with Russia, and with sweated labour. My Amendment is devoted entirely to the point that if paragraph (c) is allowed to remain in the Resolution, it implies without any shadow of doubt that our people will be compelled to pay more for their meat in future. It will be noticed that the preferences under this Resolution have been given only to Australia and New Zealand and the first question which I would put to the Government is: Why has South Africa been left out? I find from the official documents in connection with the Ottawa Conference that Mr. Havenga, representing the Union of South Africa, said at the Conference that there were in the Union 44,500,000 sheep, that the farmers of the Union had already commenced breeding the mutton type and that there was very little doubt that the production both of mutton and lamb could be carried out rapidly on an extensive scale in order to supply our home market. I should have thought after the speech of Mr. Havenga that the claim of South Africa in this respect would have been considered as good enough, and that if we were going to admit these preferences at all, South Africa should have had a share. Why then has South Africa been left out of this proposal?
It has been repeated over and over again in these discussions that the deliberate intention of these proposals is to raise the wholesale prices of commodities. In every argument put forward by our own representatives at Ottawa 566 they deplored the very low wholesale price of meat coming into this country. I confess that there is a point in that argument but we ought to make known to our people outside the remarkable contradiction of a Government sending its representatives to Ottawa with the deliberate design of raising the price of meat coming into this country, and, on the other hand, doing its utmost to reduce the purchasing power of the very people who will be called upon to buy the meat. I think that is a contradiction almost without parallel in British politics. The strange thing is that the intention of the Government appears to be to control wholesale prices but they will not go as far as we would suggest and take the further step of controlling retail prices as well. We are told that there are Socialists in this Government. If Socialist policy is good as regards the control of wholesale prices, why should not the same policy be followed on to the control of retail prices as well?
I think it is the general opinion that we in this country have reached an extraordinary stage in connection with this matter. The proposal with regard to frozen and chilled meat has been made because of the very interesting fact that to-day, for every pound of fresh meat consumed in this country, a pound of frozen or chilled meat is eaten. I am informed on good authority that the question of frozen meat hardly enters into this problem; most of it goes into institutions such as prisons and workhouses. So we come back to the question of chilled meat. The first objection which we offer to this proposal is that by its adoption the Government assume that the people of this country, in their consumption of meat, have settled down for good to a fifty-fifty basis as between chilled meat from abroad and home produced meat. I think that assumption is wrong. I am satisfied that the purchase of chilled meat in this country has developed coincidentally with the reduction in the purchasing power of the poor people, and that if they could get it at the same price they would prefer the home-pro- 567 duced commodity. I think the Government will find out very soon that their calculations will be upset. To stabilise that fifty-fifty basis will have very serious consequences to the people of this country.
The intention, as I said, is to raise the wholesale price of this commodity. I know that the representative of the Government will say that we cannot produce facts on which to base our argument in this case. The chilled meat coming from Brazil, the Argentine, and Uruguay is known to be about 2d. or 3d. a pound cheaper than the same quality coming from Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, if we reduce the amount of imports from South America and increase those from New Zealand and Australia, we are in fact compelling our people to pay more for Dominion produce than they would have paid for similar produce from South America. I do not think anybody can refute that argument, I am assured that that is the case.
Let me pass to another point. I would like to know who is to benefit by this arrangement about chilled meat. Is British agriculture going to benefit? I think it is true to say that before these proposals were enunciated the British farmer was increasing the number of his livestock in order to provide sufficient meat for the home market. I am assured too that these proposals are the most discouraging of all to the farmers who have up to now produced cattle for the slaughter-houses of this country. Let me come to one point that has never yet been mentioned at all in connection with this meat business. The more livestock we produce in this country, and the more livestock that is brought in from Canada and the Argentine, to Birkenhead in particular, the more employment there is provided for the slaughtermen in this country. The Government ought to take note of this fact, that the more chilled and frozen meat that comes into this country, the less employment there is in our abattoirs. Further than that, we are losing all the employment connected with by-products because the chilled carcase conies in here with- out hide or anything else. Consequently we lose a great deal of employment in the slaughter-houses of this coun- 568 try by encouraging the importation of chilled meat.
I would be very glad to know—and this is really the most important point I want to raise with the Government—who is going to work this quota. It is all right for a Government to decide on its policy, and it is all right to call upon the Civil Service staff to work out that policy, but before you can put this policy of quotas into operation, you must consult the shipping companies and the meat companies too. Then there is what is called the Chicago Five. I think they will have a say in the matter too. Those of us who are interested in this problem are very apprehensive lest a great deal of logrolling will be done in order to see that this quota business is carried out. I think the Lord President of the Council has said something about log-rolling. In my view, once we establish quotas and preferences of this kind, the shipping companies, the powerful capitalist influences behind them, and the great meat traders of the world will have a great deal to say to the Governments of New Zealand, Australia, the Argentine, and Brazil as to how this quota is to operate. It is well, therefore, that we should know, before we part with this Resolution, how, in detail, these great meat and shipping companies are going to deal with the quota, how they are going to carry the meat and how they are going to distribute it.
There was a meat war in this part of the world in 1328, and one great firm came out on top. It was called the Vestey group, and I am informed that that group alone has 4,000 retail shops in this country. The question I want to ask the Government is this: Will it be possible for that group alone, as I think it may be, to arrange with the Governments of New Zealand and Australia to capture the whole of their quota and determine when the meat arrives in this country as to whether the whole shall be sold through their retail shops, barring out the co-operative societies and the small retail meat traders in this country I think that that is a very proper question to put to the Government because there is something else in that connection. Those who are connected with the meat trade are very apprehensive that these colossal firms, some of them with 569 interests in Chicago and the Argentine, will have a great deal to say when this quota is carried out in detail. I say, therefore, that we are putting a very important point to the Government in asking that question.
Let me pass on to something else. I have said that these proposals take no account at all of British agriculture. It is a surprising thing to me that delegates from this country seem to have lost all conception of their duty to their own people. It seems to me, from reading these documents, that all along they were told what they were to do when they returned home to London. There is a letter in one of these documents signed by Mr. J. G. Coates to the Lord President of the Council on this meat quota business. I do not want to be offensive, but I have never seen a more impertinent document in a Blue Book. One of these gentlemen practically told the Lord President of the Council what he had to do when he got back to this country. The Agreement is laid down by this gentleman in that letter, and there do not seem from this document to have been any negotiations at all as to how the quota should be worked. He was told just as an errand boy to go back to London and carry out what they thought was right in their opinion. I object personally that we in this Parliament—it is sometimes called the Mother of Parliaments, but it is not exactly so; still, it is the most democratic institution in the world—should be told by one of our Dominions what we are to do through the Lord President of the Council. I think we ought to have some information about that letter, too.
Let me pass on to the point about agriculture. I should have thought, after the declarations of the present Government since they came into power, that they were very much concerned about increasing employment in this country. That was the basis of the whole of their election campaign last year. I would ask the representative of the Government, is it not a fact that when the last cattle census was taken the farmers of this country had made a very definite move forward in order to cater for the fresh meat market in their fight against chilled meat from abroad? There was an increase in that census of 290,000 in the number of live beasts over 570 the previous year, 729,000 in the number of sheep and 398,000 in the number of pigs in the same period, showing that the British farmer, at any rate, was taking advantage of the situation to provide fresh meat. He knew, and every Member of this House knows, that when fresh meat is at the same price as chilled meat, the house-wife will always buy the fresh meat in preference.
If that be so, I should say without hesitation that to stabilise the 50–50 basis, and to then say that for five years we must accept at least 50 per cent. of our meat as chilled, will be a very severe blow to British agricultural interests. Let me say a word about quality. I know that the argument of the Government is that the quality of the New Zealand and Australian chilled lamb is very much superior to that of South America, and that although South American chilled lamb is cheaper by about 2d. or 3d. a pound there ought to be paid a greater price for Dominion chilled lamb, because the quality is better. I am told on excellent authority that in the Argentine, in which I am personally interested because it is done in Patagonia where there is a Welsh colony, they have crossed their breed of sheep with livestock from this country, and by that process have raised the quality so that it is now equal to that of Australian and New Zealand lamb, although it is 2d. or 3d. less per pound. That point ought to be remembered by those who are making these arrangements.
I know how these delegations work; I have been in conferences myself. I am certain that the delegates from this country at Ottawa were stampeded into entering into these engagements. The British home market was flooded some months ago with chilled meat from every part of the world. The meat-traders said to themselves that the price had fallen because the supply was so tremendous and something must be done to raise the wholesale price by a quota. Is it nut a fact that the Argentine, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand literally flooded the markets of this country, not because they wanted to compete with each other to reduce prices, but because they knew that these quotas were in the offing. Knowing that the quotas were coming, they said to themselves, "If we are to be tied down to a percentage 571 later on, we must make sure that our imports into Great Britain are high enough now, because the quota will be based upon the imports of 1932. I say, therefore, that our delegates should not have been stampeded by the very people who caused the reason for the stampede.
There is another point that ought to be made. What is to become of the Empire Marketing Board now? The Board was established to carry on propaganda in favour of selling Empire goods here. The astonishing thing has always been that the Board's operations were financed almost entirely by this country, whereas the money has been used to propagate the purchase of goods from the Dominions. Will the Empire Marketing Board be necessary now? If you lay down a quota and say that we are compelled to purchase so much meat and other commodities from within the Empire, what is the use of propaganda to ask people to buy it? We are spending about £400,000 per annum on the Empire Marketing Board. If it is going to be done in future, all it will do is to tell people to buy commodities which the Government has decided they are compelled to buy. In that ease, it would be a waste of money, and this £400,000 might very well be spent instead on the education of our children. I mentioned in the beginning that the Government's representatives at Ottawa were always insisting that these arrangements were intended to raise the wholesale price of meat. Complaints have been heard in this House about the gulf between the retail and the wholesale price of meat. I see the hon. Gentleman shaking his head.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I was agreeing.
§ Mr. DAVIES
But I do not agree. I do not think I shall agree with any member of the Government on anything—not of this Government—so much am I opposed to it. I may say that this is the only point of the problem with which I can claim to be somewhat conversant personally; all the rest has been borrowed, more or less, though nevertheless it is true. Hon. Members opposite have complained that the wholesale price is too low and the retail price is too 572 high, and we are informed that they are going to do something to bridge the gulf. Let me inform them that they will find a very great difficulty in accomplishing anything in that direction. As one who has worked in a shop, my view is that we shall never again see retail prices following the decline in wholesale prices to the extent we did prior to the War. The habits of the people of this country have changed enormously. Possibly 25 percent. of the people who enter some of the great emporia of London never buy anything at all. The proprietor of a very large shop in Lancashire provided a brass band for the entertainment of his customers the other day. Someone has to pay for all that.
In our forefathers' time the housewife used to take a basket and buy the whole of the requirements of the family for a week on one day. Now a woman may go to a shop as many as ten times a day. The complaint of the family shopkeeper is that his shop has become a pantry instead of a trading concern. In view of these changed habits of the people the retail price of any commodity will never again fall with the decline in the price of the wholesale commodity, because someone has to pay for all these shopping facilities. Another factor in the situation is that nowadays everybody wants his goods conveyed to his home, nobody carries anything from the shop; consequently, the cost of retailing has gone up enormously.
I wish to make one further observation and then I will sit down. I have only one enemy at the moment, and that is Die clock. I said a moment or two ago that one of the representatives of the Dominions had sent a letter to the Lord President of the Council. It would be worth while quoting what the gentleman said. What annoys me about it is that the Lord President of the Council does not appear to have sent him any reply. The letter is given on page 60 of Command Paper 4174. There have been several of these communications in connection with the Ottawa Conference. It would be interesting, incidentally, to know what was the cost of this Conference; we shall raise that in due course. This is what he said—I will not read the whole of the communication:Dear Mr. Baldwin.573 That is very friendly. I would make this comment in passing about Imperialism, that it reminds me of a Welsh proverb. It is no use quoting it in Welsh here. Translated into English, it would be:Serve your relations only, and smash the business.That is very true of any community, if it circumscribes its business only to its relations. To return to the letter. It says:I have given further consideration to the matter of an agreement between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and His Majesty's Government in New Zealand. In my conversations with you and your Ministers we have agreed that a policy will he adopted that will have for its definite objective the two-fold purpose of raising the price of meat to a remunerative level and of progressively increasing the share of the Dominions in the United Kingdom market. I accept your undertaking that effective steps will be taken to secure these results.What astonishes us on this side of the House is that any representative of any Government of this country should go to any international conference abroad with the avowed object of raising the price of food—for that is what it says. Our Amendment is deliberately designed to bring to light what the Government are actually doing. The Agreements may be characterised as a carcase of dead mutton. Nothing will come out of them. The Leader of the Opposition put the case very well the other day when, speaking from this Box, he said that all that we were doing was to transfer our trade from one country to another, and that we were not increasing it by one penny piece. We are doing something else in addition to that; we are actually transferring our trade from South America, where we can buy our meat cheaper than we can buy it from the Dominions, to the Dominions, and we are saying that we want to raise the price and that we will raise the price against our own people, whose standard of life is already reduced. My time is now up. I have the greatest possible pleasure in moving the Amendment.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I beg to second the Amendment.
574 I do not accept all the statements of the hon. Gentleman who moved it. He asks us to treat these proposals as not likely to have any marked effect. That was the note of his speech.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I was referring to the hon. Gentleman's peroration. I am very glad to hear that the first part of his speech really represented his views, and that the peroration was only verbosity. Certainly his peroration suggested that this particular proposal was like dead mutton, and would not have any material effect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Welsh mutton! "] If it were Welsh mutton it might be good.
§ It being Four of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next, 24th October.
§ Second and subsequent Resolutions to be considered upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the Rouse, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 24th October.