§ THE MARQUESS OF CREWE rose to call attention to the hardship caused to teachers and students of science in Universities 252 and colleges by the application of the provisions of the Safeguarding of Industries Act to the apparatus and material necessary for education and research in chemistry and physics.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I have placed upon the Paper this Notice dealing with some parts of the effects of the recent legislation embodied in the Safeguarding of Industries Act and also, in some degree, in the German Reparation (Recovery) Act, both of which were passed earlier this year. It would, of course, have been 'possible to institute a general discussion on the effects of the Safeguarding of Industries Act upon many branches of commerce and industry, and I have no doubt that some interesting facts would have been forthcoming if such a debate had been set on foot. I dare say one would have been initiated if it had not been for the very hurried Prorogation of Parliament, with regard to which, in spite of the statement made by His Majesty's Government, I confess I do not entirely apprehend the reasons which actuated them in bringing it on.
§ My Notice, however, deals only with a single branch, and I venture to think by no means the least important branch, of the effects, unforeseen, I think, to some extent, and I am sure undesired by the Government, of this recent legislation. That is to say, these Acts have exercised a distinctly hampering effect both upon research and upon the teaching of many branches of science in respects which can easily be proved. I well know there are some choice spirits who consider that too much money is spent upon education as it is; that the total amount ought to be reduced; and, possibly, that more ought to be spent upon Imperial Defence. But I would remind these patriotic persons that the complaints that are made do not proceed from those engaged in what they would consider the useless study of literary subjects, nor even upon the dreary discoveries of pure science, but that really interesting things such as poison gas, high explosives, and the guns from which they are fired, are perfected through the efforts and researches of those on whose behalf I am speaking.
§ But there is another much larger class who may look with suspicion upon a Motion of this kind, because they do not recognise the value of any scientific researches which are not immediately connected 253 with the application of research to some discoveries or inventions by which money van be made. I would remind them of what I am certain it is quite unnecessary to remind noble Lords opposite, and this is that it is altogether impossible to draw a line between what is described as pure research, on the one hand, and research, in its application to industry, on the other, it has very often happened in the course of a. piece of pure research, carried out apparently merely with the desire of adding to the store of scientific knowledge, and with no intention of its immediate application to industry, that discoveries have been made which have proved to be of the largest scope and of the most lucrative sort. Therefore, I think that not merely those interested in scientific studies, but the public generally, ought to observe with concern what is stated by teachers and students of science.
§ What has happened. is that under the Safeguarding of Industries Act a charge of 33⅓ per cent. was placed on imported articles regarded as having a bearing on what were known as key industries, those articles being vaguely and generally indicated in the schedule to the Act, but subject to the publication by the Board of Trade of a list defining the precise articles intended. That list has been issued. It occupies, I think, over seventy pages of print, and contains a vast number of articles used by chemists, and I shall say a word about it generally later on. Then it has to be remembered that if these articles are brought from a country in which the exchanges have collapsed they may be in sonic circumstances liable to another charge of 33⅓ per cent. That is to say, bringing the total up to 66⅔ per cent. There are also, in the particular case of Germany, the provisions of the German Reparation (Recovery) Act, which makes articles of all kinds brought from that country liable to a charge which is nominally 30 per cent. but reduced to 26 per cent. The effect obviously is that a great many articles required by professors of chemistry, physics and engineering, and not only by the research students but also by the less advanced students whom they teach, are subjected to these high penalties before they can reach those who have to use them.
I may venture to read one or two not very long extracts from letters which I have received from eminent professors
engaged in research, and, of course, also in advanced teaching. This is from a distinguished professor at one of the old Universities. Speaking of the two Acts he says—
There is no doubt that these Acts have the effect of appreciably diminishing the amount of research work that can be done in the laboratory.
He is a professor of chemistry.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL Does he say "will have" or "has had"?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
He says "these Acts have." It is in the present. Then he goes on, and this, of course, applies specially to the Reparation Act—The delay—in our experience never less than three months—caused in the delivery of chemicals required research (for a very huge proportion of these are not made in this country) and the increase in cost, an, such that we are practically compelled to prepare the greater part. of such materials in the laboratory instead of buying them. For the initial stages of a research the materials can be provided in advance, but it is impossible to foresee what will be required as the investigation develops. Thus, whereas before the war a man could spend his whole time m a research, he now has to devote a considerable proportion of it to the unproductive work of preparing materials which he should be able to buy, but which he is not in a position to wait three months for. The advanced teaching suffers also but, to a less extent. The position with respect to apparatus is similar. There are several pieces of apparatus not made in this country that would greatly facilitate research work which we have been prevented from obtaining.Then he mentions two examples of intricate and important instruments which have been needed in the chemical department of his University during the last few months. Also he says—We have also suffered considerably through the delay which the Reparation Act causes in getting German hooks.Still keeping for the moment to the professors of chemistry, I have received from another very distinguished professor a complaint that a large number of the subjects required for research in organic chemistry cannot be obtained and—what is much more important—never will be made in this country.
I have here two lists. One is a German price-list of organic and inorganic chemicals and of solutions, all of which are liable to be required in chemical research, and, of course, a great many of them in teaching chemistry. There are 1,863 of these. I also have a list, which I believe to be 255 complete, of those chemicals which are being made in England and can now be supplied. They are 678 in number, that is to say, between 36 and 37 per cent. of the number which are being made in Germany. All the things in the English list can be found in the German list, but only about a third of those in the German list are to be found in the English list.
The professors have asked the principal chemical manufacturers in this country as to what hopes they have of redressing the balance and of supplying the remaining materials, and they have said, as I am informed, that there is about a further 10 per cent. which, if they could get a market for them, they would be prepared to make, but that they would not be able in any circumstances to make the others. It must be remembered that these subjects are very often wanted in quite small quantities, some of them are very expensive, and there is no prospect, so far as I know, that they can be prepared in this country.
I think your Lordships will appreciate that if you take into account the very long period in which this industry has been going in Germany, the long time during which it has benefited not only by the interest but by the pecuniary support of the Government, the conditions of greater personal knowledge under which a large proportion of the German operatives work, there does not seem to be much prospect of anything like a successful attempt; in this country to do here all that, has been done in Northern and Western Germany in that regard.
The Board of Trade list was issued in the middle of September. It includes a very large number Of subjects, required not only in chemistry but also in physics, which cannot be obtained in this country; for example, compounds of some of the rare metal earths —those extraordinary substances upon which so much research has been expended, and, as the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Peel) knows, in some cases with some extraordinary results for the advantage of industry. I suppose it is not too much to say that gas as an illuminant would have disappeared almost entirely if it had not been for the invention of the gas mantle, made with two of these rare earths, thorium and cerium, and due, of course, to the most elaborate research by distinguished chemists. That is an instance of what you may hope for if research is encouraged, and of what you may lose if it is discouraged.
256 I will read an extract from another letter. This is from one of the most distinguished authorities in physics in the country, a. man of world-wide reputation. He writes to me making the same complaints that were made by the other professor. After explaining that the case of physics differs in some respects from that of chemistry because it is much easier to put the chemical facts into terms of figures, he says—Perhaps my own experience is a good illustration. My experiments require the use of very elaborate apparatus made of glass. These are made by my assistant, who is one of the most skilful and experienced glass-blowers in the country. Some of the apparatus takes two or three weeks to make, and in the pre-war days when German glass was available, when once it was made it stood and lasted for months. Now, when it is made of English glass, it often cracks and breaks of itself,That, your Lordships may remember, bears out a story which I told during the Committee stage of the Safeguarding of Industries Bill about the breakage of a glass flask which wasted a great amount of labour and also the results of sonic considerable expenditure of money by a different professor from the one whose letter I am reading.
This letter continues—It breaks of itself—not through rough usage—and the whole process of manufacture has to be commenced again. At the beginning of the year one piece after another broke as soon as it was made, and it took me some months before I could make an experiment. Had the pm-war German glass been available it would not have taken as many weeks. Then, again, there are instruments which are specialities of certain German firms, who have all the patterns and special tools required for their manufacture, and, though as a matter of theory, these might be made in England the cost in time arid money of making these tools is so great as to make their production here impossible. The difficulties of research have always been great. They arc now made much greater by the difficulties in the way of getting the best possible materials and implements,Those are grave allegations made by men whose status and bona fides are-beyond any kind of doubt.
But I should like also to mention the effect, which in some ways may be regarded as even more serious, upon the students who are the pupils of these professors. I know of one chemical laboratory of the highest calibre in which a great many students are taught, and there, during the first year of their studies, they have to spend about 50 per cent. of their own money on materials; that is to say about 257 50 per cent. of the cost of the materials required for their studies is paid by them. In the second year it is something of the same kind, or rather more. And I have been told by a very distinguished professor who has large classes of these students, that to his personal knowledge, during this last year or two, he has noticed that some of these poor students have had to devote to the purchase of materials money which they ought to have expended on food and have, obviously, been going short in consequence. That is a painful fact, as I am quite sure the noble Viscount will agree.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The noble Marquess said "last year": Did he mean for a week or two, or a month or two?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I was not ascribing it only to the effect of the Act of Parliament. It is quite clear, as we all know, that it is a tight fit for everybody. But the argument that I am endeavouring to enforce is that the increased price of all these materials makes it a tighter fit still for these poor people and, therefore, if it were possible to relieve them in any way that is an object lesson of what might be done.
I remember very well that when I raised this question of relieving from the Duties the subjects used for educational and research purposes, the noble Viscount was good enough to take my Amendment quite seriously and not to pooh-pooh it at all, and he said that the Government view was that a more suitable way of meeting the case would be to give some further grants to the Universities and colleges concerned. That, of course, is all very well, but the noble Viscount will realise that to do that would mean a far larger expenditure of money than would be saved by continuing these particular Duties. Taking it roughly, the estimate at a University or college is that an advanced student, in the material he uses and the allowance that has to be made for lighting and heating in respect of him, costs about £100 a year, and if His Majesty's Government were going to make grants on that scale to all Universities and colleges where advanced science is taught, I think they would find they would be losing on the swings a great deal more than they are making on the roundabouts by enforcing these Taxes for the benefit of the Inland Revenue.
258 Now. I have seen various proposals made for the relief of these conditions. One proposal is that a strict list should be prepared of articles which can be made under economic conditions in this country—that is to say, made to pay at a reasonable price—that the Act should be applied to them, and that all others should go free. Another proposal, which I know finds favour with some of the teachers of science, is that the Government should revert to the principles of the Dyestuffs Act, adopt the licensing plan, and admit these foreign products by licence. A great many of us object to the licensing system, as the noble Viscount knows, because we have always considered it fruitful of possible jobbery and favour, and it is not one which I should like to see applied, except in the very last resort. But I cannot help thinking, and I cannot also help thinking that the noble Viscount will agree with me, that it is really a fatuous policy, for the sake of a small amount of revenue, which is largely paid by these under-paid professors and under-fed students, to hamper research which, as I endeavoured to show at the beginning of my observations, is not merely an intellectual satisfaction to those who engage in it but a business upon which the welfare and the prosperity of the country so largely depend.
I have avoided putting down any Motion because it would be absurd to ask the Government to repeal, or even to amend, the Acts, one of which, I think, was carried in June or July and the other towards the end of August. But what I would ask the noble Viscount is this. I would ask him not to treat this as a simple matter of revenue to be dealt with either by what I venture to think is the not very adequate and scientific advice of the Board of Trade or by the necessarily cold views of the Treasury on a matter of revenue. What I would ask him to do would be to invite the President of the Board of Education and the authorities of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to look closely into this question, and to sec whether the grievances which I have endeavoured to set out by one or two instances before your Lordships' House are not well founded, and whether they are not having not only a most discouraging effect, but an actually preventive effect, upon the studies which those Departments especially, and, I have no doubt, His Majesty's Government in general, would desire to see encouraged to the utmost.
259 I, of course, understand that it is impossible in the present condition of the national Revenue to give enormous grants to research or anything else, but where there exists this perpetual succession of small pinpricks inflicted upon those who are engaged in teaching and study, I really think it ought to be possible for the chiefs of those Departments specially interested to persuade His Majesty's Government to remove them.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend in what I think is the wise course he has taken. Those of us who are concerned about this matter are quite aware of the difficulties the Government have in dealing with it. Speaking for myself I do not want to press or worry the Government in the matter, because pressing and worrying are apt to lead to a blank refusal. What I, for my part, am keen about, is to bring to light, as my noble friend has brought to light, the extreme difficulties in which research is placed at the moment because of the system, and to ask the Government to take the steps that are best adapted to get rid of the embarrassments, or at least mitigate them. My noble friend, in the conclusion of his speech, suggested that the matter might well be entrusted to the Research Department and the President of the Board of Education. I would only add that there are two other countries, one Scotland and the other Ireland, which are also deeply interested in this, and someone representing their nterests would have to be added. But with the general principle I should be quite content.
At the present moment the Treasury Committee is, in practice, intimately connected with the Department of the Privy Council which deals with research and dispenses among the Universities a certain amount of assistance. They are well acquainted with the individual circumstances of those Universities, with their laboratories and everything else, and if the Government would adopt my noble friend's suggestion of making an exception or dispensation from the general rigour of the existing system, I think that would be very much better than any special grant. I entirely agree with my noble friend. I think the case is not one for a special grant, which may easily be diverted from its purpose, but that attention should be directed to a licence being given by some 260 such authority as I have been suggesting, for getting the things that are required.
I could have added to the tale told by my noble friend of the hardships under which our professors are suffering at this time. One of the reasons given for including optical glass in the Safeguarding of Industries Bill was that it was very desirable that we should make our own optical glass. The war, it was said, had shown that. I agree, it is very desirable that we should do so, but you have to assume two disadvantages. One is the disadvantage of optical glass not being produced, or being produced very slowly; and the other is the disadvantage of putting off the stream of your own research work to a very material extent. I am aware of the difficulties of making optical glass. It takes time for a system to grow up. The kind of work that has been done for fifty years by men like Zeitz, Goertz and Abbé in Berlin has produced something of a spirit which has grown into the workmen, and that something cannot be rivalled quickly. I am far from sure that passing. a Protection Act is a way to increase the skill that is required. I am of the opinion that free competition is best, if only you have the intelligence here and proper instruction is given.
You have now a very great increase in the technical assistance that is given to the industry for producing optical glass, and I doubt very much whether that industry is likely to gain much by protection. It has not done so up till now. The men of science whom I see— and I see a great many —complain of not getting what they need. It would be much better if our optical glass makers were exposed to a certain amount of competition, at any rate in these limited matters. Other matters I do not want to enter upon. Our people simply are stopped in their work by the difficulties of getting the instruments they need. It is all very well to say, "You can go and order them," but when you get them the grade is not of the finest order, nor are the degrees marked with that accuracy you can get abroad. And there are fifty other disadvantages from which the instruments suffer.
As an illustration I ask your Lordships to take the best quality of gun made, or something which is a much cheaper article, those very remarkable-looking guns which are made by the Birmingham Small Arms Company for a comparatively low price, 261 and which are to be seen at their place of business in Pall Mall. I often look at and admire the admirable gun which is advertised to be sold for twenty-five guineas.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
No, never. If you look at those guns and then do what I have done, look into the gunmakers' shops in the streets of Berlin, or in other German towns, you will see a great difference. The German workman cannot make what the English workman has made in this matter because the English workman has grown up with a spirit and a tradition. It is the same with the finest kind of watches. They cannot rival on the Continent the work of the British skilled worker. For myself I think that when the British skilled workman has a chance, when he is instructed, and when he has sufficient time behind him to have had a spirit put into him, you cannot beat him, but when you ask him to plunge suddenly into the making of glass it is a very different business.
I remember very well the late Lord Kelvin introducing me one day to a prominent optical glass manufacturer in this country, and the gentleman to whom he introduced me said to me: "I can tell you what max interest you. I found I could not compete with Zeitz, and I got hold of two of his very best workmen. I had to pay for them, but I got them, and I am now doing very welt in competition with Zeitz. But it is only in a small way. What did my two Germans do when they came? Instead of sitting down, as expected, and giving some first principles of glass manufacture, they looked round, talked to the workmen, then took off their coats, put on leather aprons, took my English workmen to the benches, and there showed them how the thing ought to be done according to the tradition and the spirit which they had imbibed in their own workshops." And the optical manufacturer said that they were right. It was a matter of the workmen embodying a kind of spirit and tradition which the British workman in the gun and watch trades has imbibed after years, and of transferring that, spirit and tradition to the work to be done.
The long and the short of it is this. At the present time we are hampered in every way in getting the best instruments for 262 research. The other day I was told by a very competent person who had been working in the laboratories at Cambridge, which are supposed to be the best we have, and in the physical laboratory in a German University, that the German laboratory, although it had not the positive advantages of the laboratory at Cambridge, was enormously superior because it had a much better equipment.
Just consider the period in which we live. The twentieth century is an extraordinary century. There have come up a crop of new ideas which presently will produce revolutionary effects. It was said by the noble Marquess, and I will say it again, that nearly all the great improvements which have taken place in industry are the result of some great discovery in pure science. Ever since Descartes learned to combine geometry with arithmetic and algebra., and laid the foundations of those tables which our engineers and architects use, it has been pointed out that the discovery is one which will live and survive and remain when the steam engine has been thrown into the scrap heap. That is an illustration which could be multiplied over and over again.
Splendid work is being done in our own laboratories. The work at Cambridge on the structure of the atom will probably have a very powerful effect upon chemistry. There is no limit to what imagination has in store for those who choose to speculate on the consequences of the work which is being done. Is it not a monstrous thing that for this delicate work our students should be hampered and kept back? It is riot merely in this particular case, which is a special one. Take the question of books. It is most difficult to get foreign scientific books, and yet there never was a time when the outpouring of these books was greater. I am specially interested in one or two departments of science and I have to get the books. I get them with the utmost difficulty, unless I. write for them or get some friend to obtain them for me; whether strictly within the limits of the law or not I do not know. But the difficulty of getting an adequate supply of knowledge as to what is going on in the laboratories of other people engaged in research, what is being thought out by the great workers abroad, is much increased by what I may call the spirit and tradition which came to us from the "Khaki Election." I want to avoid, however, entering into that subject.
263 What I wish to say in conclusion is that I hope the noble Viscount who is to reply, should, rather than feel himself compelled, perhaps for want of materials, to refuse this straight off, take time to consider it. We are most anxious to get a practical and real grievance redressed, and if by consultation with the Treasury and the heads of the Government, and the Departments concerned, he could find some way to mitigate the hardship which exists at the present time, I am sure he would be doing something material towards preserving the great position which this country has deservedly attained in the past in science and the application of science to industry.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I said it arose rather from the spirit than from anything else. But whatever may be the source of the delay and difficulty, all I can tell the noble Viscount—and I am speaking from practical experience—is that the delay and difficulty of getting books from abroad is very great. It is so great that most people get a friend to bring them over in his bag.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, notwithstanding the fact that the few observations I desire to make on this Question arc to the same effect as those that have been uttered by my two noble friends, it appears to me it would be fairer if the noble Viscount who is to answer for the Government heard what was proposed to be said on this side altogether rather than that complaints should be made against the administration of this particular Act after he has answered the incidents that have already been mentioned.
It is true that this question relates only to a special branch of a special Statute, and it is also true that the special Statute itself is only one branch of a general idea. There is no doubt that it arose originally not because of any general desire that protection should be granted for these particular industries but as some kind of a compromise between the demand on the part of people who were in favour of Tariff Reform and the Free Traders who were anxious that there should be no tariff at all. It is, no doubt, the child of a Coalition Government, and it bears upon 264 its face all the unfavourable features of both of its parents.
Personally I would much rather have had introduced a general scheme of Tariff Reform, which I have opposed throughout the whole of my political life, than this particular and selective measure. And for this reason. It always seemed to me that it was peculiarly unfair to throw upon the whole community the burden of securing protection for a particular branch, and in this particular case the burden is very largely felt by the people whom, above all others, it ought to be our desire to encourage and protect. The burden of this Act, so far as it relates to the matters which have been mentioned, is borne almost entirely by the scientific students. The extent to which they suffer is not properly appreciated.
I wonder whether there is one of your Lordships who knew what it was in his younger days to have to save money in order to buy a microscope. I know something about it, and I know the self-denial, I will not say the positive hardship, but the rigorous and severe self-denial, that a man had to undergo in order to be able to secure sufficient money to buy a microscope with which to pursue his work. You are going to add to that at the present time, notwithstanding all the increase in prices, an extra burden of 33⅓ per cent. You are going to interpose that difficulty between a young man and his appetite for work and make it harder for him to pursue his studies; and there is no class of the community which less deserves to have such special and selective treatment.
Really if one thought for a moment of what would be gained if you could only put into the hands of every one of the young men who al e crowding now into our scientific institutes a microscope for his own use, in order that he might pursue his studies in his own time and follow his own trend of thought, I do not think the benefits we should receive from it are capable of being contemplated. They are absolutely immeasurable, if you could once get the disciplined intelligence of this country turned upon the matters which only the microscope can reveal. It is not merely a matter of industry, but of health and matters connected with our own existence, of which we are still most imperfectly informed. The whole of that can be revealed through microscopic work and through microscopic work alone. And yet microscopes are to be subjected to this 265 burden before any one can use them at all.
Again, you cannot at this moment get proper staining reagents, by which you can stain preparations of microscopical cultures of diseases, for examinations taken in the course of biological preparations. You cannot get them. It is true that you can get something which is called a substitute, but I know quite well, because I happen to have close relations who have been doing this work all their lives, that it cannot he done. You cannot get the proper staining reagents now, except with great difficulty, great delay, and at great expense. It does appear to me to be something little short of intolerable that we should have put the heavy hand of this scheme of protection upon the very branch of knowledge and education which deserves every possible kind of encouragement.
It is not merely that, though that is surely a very big thing. The one thing above all others that we want to-day is to keep our expenses as low as we possibly can. The county councils are receiving, as everybody knows, instructions to try to bring their educational costs down to the lowest figure. Let us see what the county councils have to do when they take over the secondary schools. I have here a list of some chemical apparatus, dated before the war. The prices are those of 1908, so that they arc not immediately before the war, and the present prices—
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I only wondered whether they come before or after the Safeguarding.of Industries Act.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
If they are before the Act, it will make the thing so much the worse, because there will be 33⅓ per cent. added.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It does not prove that the price now has gone up by 331 per cent. However, I must defer the discussion of that for the moment.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
You must remember—it has never been denied, and cannot be denied—that the object of this Duty is to raise prices. It was so stated by the hon. member who introduced this measure in the House of Commons. That is 266 the purpose of the Act, and it is the only reason why the Duty was put on. Consequently, if these figures are taken before the price was raised, your Lordships will be able to do the pleasureable arithmetical exercise of adding 33⅓ per cent.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
The noble Marquess who gave them to me, says "They are the latest," so perhaps the 33⅓ per cent. is included; if not, it has to be added. Glass basins were 2s. 6d. per dozen before the war; they are now:10s. 6d. per dozen, which is more than four times the former price. Funnels, winch, as everybody knows, are wanted in quantities, were 2s. 6d. a dozen, and are now 17s. 10d. per dozen. Flasks were Os. 9d. a dozen, and are now 34s. per dozen. Flasks, in beaker form and spouted, were 2s. 3d. per dozen for the smaller size, and they arc now 12s. 9d. per dozen. Test tubes were 2s. 3d. per gross, and are now 10s. per gross; while a larger size were 3s. 2d. per gross, and are now 14s. per gross.
Making every allowance that you desire for the added cost of materials and of labour, those figures are out of proportion. There is something far bigger than that. Those are the prices in a protected industry, as I submit to your Lordships, an industry that is not suffering from the proper stimulus of free competition, and is not having prices brought down by what ought to be the real test, that of an open market. The county councils arc, at one and the same time, implored and entreated to see that the expenses of education arc cut down as low as possible, and they arc forbidden and denied this apparatus, which they need in quantities, at anything but an artificially increased price. Surely it is not reasonable, it is not wise, to pursue a policy of this kind.
For what purpose is it pursued? Although the purpose is, as I said, to increase the price, the ultimate purpose behind it—at least, so it has been said by the Prime Minister so many times that I think he really believes it——the real purpose is to prepare for the next war. That is the object of this measure. I would entreat the Government, if they are going to kill the educational enterprise of this country for the purpose of preparing for the next war, to do something else at the same time, to prepare for the next bankruptcy; for 267 the bankruptcy will come with steps far more certain, with a progress far more rapid, than even the possibility of such another conflict as that through which we have recently had the good fortune to pass.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lords who have spoken for desiring to put their full case to your Lordships' House before I had the opportunity of a reply. They have developed their case on rather wider lines than I expected from the Notice, and I am sorry that I have not been able to arm myself with these lists of comparative prices, so that I could deal more fully with the points that have been placed before your Lordships' House. I think it is a tribute to the breadth of mind of the noble Marquess opposite that very soon after he, as chairman, has produced a most valuable and interesting Report on the place of the classics in education and, as I think, advocated the extension of that teaching, he should take up the cudgels as well on behalf of scientific teaching and scientific research.
I should like to remind him, as I think I stated on the Safeguarding of Industries Bill, that the point which he then raised had been subject to very close consideration by the Government, that it had not passed at all unawares, and that it was one of the points, in dealing with the placing of the 33⅓ per cent. Duty on these particular articles, which had been very closely and very constantly considered. The noble Marquess reminded us that this 33⅓ per cent. arises under the first portion of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and he indicated that these particular articles might be subject to another 33⅓ per cent. under the second portion of the Act, whether as (lumped goods or in relation to the collapsed exchanges, which would make the full duty 66⅔ per cent. In any case that, to him, deplorable situation has not arisen. A few days ago I made inquiries of the Board of Trade, not in connection with this matter but with another matter, as to whether that particular portion of the Act concerning the dumping and collapsed exchanges clauses had been put into action. I found that it had not, but Committees are being set up, and in those circumstances I do not think the noble Marquess will argue that the prices of these articles are affected by that particular provision of the Act.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
In the future, under the Act, they obviously may be. I am only pointing this out for the information of the House. I think it is an interesting point, and it bears upon the position at any rate to this extent. I was rather surprised to hear of these complaints, the numerous and general complaints alluded to by all three of the noble Lords who have spoken, because this first portion of the Act has been in operation for such a very short time, and the lists, as the noble Marquess said, were published only on September 15. Now I think that I should be borne out by the noble Lord on the back bench when I say that if it is pretty well known that a particular Duty is coining into operation at a specific time, generally it may be some time before that particular Duty is in operation, because of course all the people who are wanting supplies attempt to bring into the country as much as they can, and I am honestly surprised, if any of those effects happen which the noble Lord has referred to, that they should have happened so quickly. One would think that the supplies brought in would keep down the price for some time to come, but, naturally, I must accept what noble Lords have said on the subject.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
The noble Viscount overlooks for the moment that there has been a Statute in operation for some time which excludes German goods, with a payment of a very large percentage.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I thought I dealt with that several times, and I thought it was admitted that the German Reparation Act, which was only a method of collecting part of the reparations, could not have any effect upon the price of goods, because the amount by which the German exporter goes short is returned to him by the German Government. That is the effect. I happen to have been inquiring the other day as to how that Act was working, and I was told that it was working perfectly, and that the German Government recognised this method of paying, and so 269 the German exporter was getting his money —I admit in two halves, or one-third from one source and two-thirds from another—and the amount which is deducted from the amount paid by the British importer is not a Duty, because the German exporter gets it from the German Government, and therefore it makes no difference as regards price.
I was in a little difficulty also with regard to the point made by the noble and learned Viscount at first, because I understood him to suggest that there was some duty to be placed on books, but I believe that; that is not so. In fact, I was in a good deal of anxiety at first when I heard the noble and learned Viscount, because although he put the matter in a very delicate way, I gathered that he had been engaged in the nefarious trade of smuggling, and I was wondering whether I ought not to give information to the Customs. But I was very much relieved when he mentioned books, because, although I have not scanned this gigantic list published by the Board of Trade, I do not think books are contained in it.
§ VISCOUNTNT HALDANE
I do not think they are, but the general system gives rise to immense difficulty in getting books as well as other things. One reacts on the other.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not understand the difficulty about books, but if the noble Viscount has been bringing in books I hope he has not also included microscopes and such things, which would render hip liable to the law. Of course, the noble and learned Viscount was very fair in his argument, as was also the noble Marquess, in expressing what was the difficulty of the Government in this particular matter, but the noble and learned Lord, in his speech, took a very wide line indeed. He was not only against the Bill, or method of the Bill, but against the whole principle of the Bill. He seemed to think that the whole of the lessons we had learned during the war should be thrown away. Of course, if we are to assume that there is never to be any war again in the world, I agree that it is possible there is no need for that particular portion of the Act, but I might remind your Lordships of what is the fundamental purpose of the Act, and may I say that I think it was a little bit misunderstood by the noble Marquess, because he alluded to the "cold Treasury "—
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Surely it is the business of the Treasury to be absolutely frigid in its collection of revenue? I might add that I think it would be better if it were sometimes more so.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It was the felicity of the phrase of the noble Marquess which made me try to imitate him. Of course, the object of the first portion of the Act is not revenue, but to secure the manufacture of goods in this country, and therefore I think the amount of money is rather negligible. The whole object of the Act was to promote the development in this country of the manufacture of products of great national importance, upon which we, before the war, were very largely dependent upon foreign countries, particularly those which proved to be our greatest enemies, with the result that in the earlier days of the war we were placed in a position of the very greatest disadvantage. I do not think I need dwell very much upon this point, because Lord Crewe will remember, as well as anybody, the difficulties we were placed in during the war with regard to scientific instruments, scientific glassware and porcelain, which were largely used not merely by educational institutions but by all kinds of industrial undertakings, and I think it is not very fair to suggest that if there was a rise in price it would fall upon a number of poor persons engaged in scientific education.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
All sorts of methods had to be adopted to develop -the production of these necessary commodities, and we were gravely handicapped in so doing, not only by the absence of works and plant but by the entire absence of trained work-people. A great deal of valuable work on the scientific problem is being done by such research associations as the Scientific Instrument Research Association and the Glass Research Association, with the aid of the Department of Scientific and 271 Industrial Research, and also by many individuals and groups o manufacturers. But there is really no inducement for the getting together of these staffs of skilled workpeople, to be trained and given employment, unless manufacturers can be assured of a moderate degree of security for a period, and not find their markets destroyed by a large influx of foreign products, facilitated to a large extent by a greatly depreciated exchange. Of course, the nature of these products is such that a very substantial proportion is consumed by scientific and educational, as well as industrial, institutions, but I should like to point out that if the requirements of these educational workers were to be exempted, the extent to which these newly-started or struggling industries would be assisted by the Act would be very limited.
There were two suggestions put forward —one, I think, by Lord Crewe, both on this occasion and on another Question—namely, the licensing system. That has been very carefully gone into by the Government, but they felt that in this particular case it was open to many of those objections to winch the noble Marquess alluded, and that, even if it were put into operation, it would cause a great deal of delay, and might really cause more difficulty than it was designed to prevent.
The other suggestion was that all educational institutions should be allowed to import commodities of the kind in question which they required, free of Duty, and the examples of South Africa and of Canada were given. I should like to mention, however, that in those cases I believe these Duties were mainly instituted for Revenue purposes, and therefore the question of security., the manufacturer was not so very important. It was only a question of losing so much revenue, and therefore it did not very much matter, in that case, how large the exemptions were; whereas, in the United Kingdom, I understand that the magnitude of the exemptions would be so great that the matter would be vital, and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to draw the line between various grades of institutions.
Again, as regards the question of cost, it ought to be pointed out that the cost of these instruments and other products for laboratory use is only quite a small part of the cost of running and working these laboratories. The noble and learned Lord 272 has drawn a very harrowing picture of the difficulties put in the way of research and education, and of the difficulties to which these very poor workers are put by possibly having to pay more for their goods. On the other hand, supposing the Act is successful and that in four or five years these industries do acquire such solidity that they may be able to stand by themselves, a very much larger field would he provided in that case for the employment of chemical and scientific workers. And that has always been a matter of complaint in this country. One remembers very well the complaint of all those engaged in scientific research that there were so very few opportunities, either in industry or elsewhere, for them to obtain positions, and it certainly would be an immense advantage if, owing to the operation of an Act of this kind, a number of these places were provided for them. That, at any rate, might be to some extent a set-off against their other difficulties. Again, if the scientific men would help the manufacturers by constructive advice and criticism these developments would be very much expedited.
One interesting point was stated by the noble Marquess. He said that in certain cases inquiries had been made and that some of these particular articles might, at any rate in time, be produced in this country; some might be produced at a cheaper price, but some had no likelihood of being made at all. I suppose he alluded to the fact that the manufacturers concerned would suppose that the demand was so small in this country that it would not be worth while to manufacture them. It occurred to me that it might be possible that sonic of these articles so scheduled might be removed from the schedule if it were shown that there was no likelihood of their being produced in this country; because the whole object. of this Act is that they should be produced here.
I cannot, therefore, from the Board of Trade point of view, give very much consolation to the noble Marquess, because it is their view—and I am only answering now for that particular Department—that the exemptions claimed by the noble Marquess would very largely defeat the whole object of this Act, which is, of course, to build up these industries in this country, and not to be dependent on other countries. If the Act were repealed we should go back to the state in which we were before the war, and be entirely dependent upon the 273 manufacturers in Germany and other places who are so well equipped for supplying our wants.
As to the appeal of the noble Marquess and the noble and learned Viscount to the Minister of Education, I shall be very glad to put before him the complaints of price, and so on, which have been brought forward by those noble Lords, and to ask him to see to what extent these disabilities are laid upon research and education in Universities and elsewhere. After all, it must be a matter for him, but I will certainly take care that the whole subject is placed fully and adequately before the Minister of Education. At the present time that is all I can undertake to do.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Viscount for the concluding passage of his speech, in which he said he would bring the appeal which I have made to the notice of the Minister of Education, who would, no doubt, in a matter of this kind, desire also to consult the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I might remind the noble Viscount that when he spoke of the repeal of the Act I made no suggestion of that repeal, and I think I confined my observations entirely to the question of the hardships inflicted on teachers and students.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It was the more drastic and fulminating observations of the noble and learned Lord to which I was then replying.