SAFEGUARDING OF INDUSTRIES ACT, 1921 (REPEAL) (No. 2).

Oral Answers to Questions — Ireland. – in the House of Commons on 14th February 1922.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Leith

I beg to move, That leave be given to introduce a Bill to repeal the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921. As far as any evidence is available, it is safe to say that the Safeguarding of Industries Act has done little good and much harm. There is no evidence to show that it has resulted in the building up of a chemical trade for war purposes, and I see nothing in our professions at Washington to the effect that we desire to abandon chemical warfare. Even the traders who have sought the shelter of Orders under this Act have found in many cases that the Act was a boomerang. We are informed, for example, that in the course of the last few months the British gas mantle market has been flooded with cheap German mantles, as a direct result of a threat to impose an Order on mantles. British traders, therefore, stand to gain very little by it. The harm that has been done is manifested in many directions. We read, for example, a letter from Lord Rayleigh complaining of the ham pering of research, and we know that, hospitals in sore straits find their bills for drugs and certain appliances doubled. I understand, too, that the Minister of Health is about to introduce a Bill increasing the contribution of insured persons for medical benefit on the ground of the increased cost of drugs at the present time. From the consumer's point of view, the Act is bad because it has raised prices. The Minister of Health said, "Of course it will raise prices; that is its object." The Minister of Health said that he was a Free Trader of the old school. I sincerely trust that it is one of the schools which the Geddes Committee intends to close. This Act is an Act which diminishes employment. The mere threat of a duty upon fabric gloves brought a protest from the cotton manufacturers of Lancashire, and I understand that the Act does not even provide any means by which these protests can be taken notice of officially by the Committee appointed to inquire into the subject.

Abroad, in our foreign policy, the Act also does harm. It is inconsistent with the Government's well-known endeavours to make Germany pay, because it is intended to stop the flow of reparation goods. I read that statement in the "Lloyd Liberal Magazine"—it is necessary to qualify the word "Liberal" by saying "Lloyd George Liberal," just as we say "Greek Kalends" or "Dutch courage." Then the Act introduces an element of irritation into our relations with the French, and a good and honest understanding with France is vital at the present moment. Some of the articles scheduled under the Act—as, for example, opera glasses, which we are accumulating in preparation for the next war—come almost exclusively from France, and it would be fair to say that this Act has condoned and justified, if it has not actually caused, the late harassing increases in the French tariff on our goods. Then I contend that the Act impedes the work of European reconstruction. The experts, when they met at Brussels, said that it was necessary that we should have a free interchange of goods. There is to be a meeting shortly at Genoa for the purpose of promoting trade, and the Colonial Secretary and his friends are pressing Mr. Lenin and Mr. Trotsky to re-establish friendly relations with them. It will be a very touching spectacle when these great warriors meet—because the Colonial Secretary is a great warrior. He inherits the ancestral passion for war, unfortunately without the ancestral capacity for winning. He makes amends by ceaselessly and tirelessly endeavouring to take murder by the hand and he is going to Genoa in order to plead with the Russians for peace and trade, and the repeal of this Act would be at least an earnest of the sincerity of the Government in the matter.

4.0 P.M.

I do not know whether this Motion of mine is to be opposed, but I do plead with Members of the Government to support it if it is opposed. They are, in many ways, very consistent. In the tangled skein of their policy one continuous thread, and that is a passion for repeal. It is called "recognising the need for stability." After agriculture, housing, Ireland, why not this little thing? If there is a Division I appeal most earnestly for the support of the National Liberals. As the Air Minister said the other day: "Thank goodness we need no longer work in the dark." That is a cryptic utterance which should bring some en- couragement to this important and newly organised Department. The Home Secretary said, in his fine sturdy way, "We are full-blooded and whole-hearted Free Traders." The Attorney-General, with greater wit and finesse, said: "We are impenitent and uncompromising Free Traders." Now is the chance to show it. The Attorney-General went on to say that the Safeguarding of Industries Act was "not a conspicuously bright example" of the Government's legislation. If it is not conspicuously bright, why should it continue to dim the galaxy of their achievements? The Prime Minister said of the Safeguarding of Industries Act at the same meeting: "The world has never seen anything quite like it." We cordially agree, and for this and other reasons I beg to move.

Photo of Sir Richard Cooper Sir Richard Cooper , Walsall

I desire to oppose the Motion which has been made by the hon. and gallant Member. I do not propose taking up the time of the House in submitting more than two points which I think justify my opposition. The hon. and gallant Gentleman enjoys a short memory. He has forgotten that he was one of the most active and ardent supporters of the Government under the late Liberal Prime Minister, who himself, together with other of the leading Liberal Members of the Cabinet, serving under him, frankly admitted in this House the imperative need as impressed on them by

the lessons of the War in its early stages. The Safeguarding of Industries Act, at any rate in its principal parts, was merely carrying out a purely Liberal Free Trade conviction. The hon. and gallant Gentleman made a reference to the unemployment created owing to the importation of a number of gas mantles. What better evidence could be required to show the effectiveness of this Act? It is evidence that the foreign manufacturer realised immediately that under the terms of the Act he was not in future going freely to import his articles, and while he could do it he took the advantage of sending the maximum that was possible. If it is true that that is having an adverse effect on employment, I would only say that he must know perfectly well that, whether this Act, in its operation, is a good one or a bad one, it at least must keep production in this country and must provide employment. The second reason why I oppose this Motion is that under any circumstances the Act has only had a little over a few weeks of working. It is not reasonable or fair to try and upset the working of an Act until it has had a fair chance of getting into operation and showing what it can do.

Question put, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921."

The House divided: Ayes, 92; Noes, 170.

Division No. 3.]AYES.[4.8 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamHancock, John GeorgeRendall, Athelstan
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherHayday, ArthurRichardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteHayward, EvanRobertson, John
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)Hirst, G. H.Rose, Frank H.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Royce, William Stapleton
Blake, Sir Francis DouglasInskip, Thomas Walker H.Sexton, James
Briant, FrankIrving, DanShaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)John, William (Rhondda, West)Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Cairns, JohnJohnstone, JosephShort, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Cape, ThomasJones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Sitch, Charles H.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.
Colfox, Major Wm. PhillipsKenyon, BarnetStrauss, Edward Anthony
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)Kiley, James DanielSturrock, J. Leng
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)Lambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSwan, J. E.
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Lawson, John JamesSykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lunn, WilliamThomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John MurrayThomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)Watts-Morgan, Lleut.-Col. D.
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)Mallalieu, Frederick WilliamWedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Finney, SamuelMalone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Galbraith, SamuelMills, John EdmundWignail, James
Gilbert, James DanielMosley, OswaldWilliams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Gillis, WilliamMurray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)Wilson, James (Dudley)
Glanville, Harold JamesMurray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Myers, ThomasWood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Graham, R. (Nelson and Coine)Naylor, Thomas EllisYoung, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)O'Grady, Captain James
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Grundy, T. W.Ratcliffe, Henry ButlerHogge and Major Barnes.
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)Rees, Capt. J. Tudor. (Barnstaple)
NOES.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William JamesGreig, Colonel Sir James WilliamPennefather, De Fonblanque
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel MartinGretton, Colonel JohnPerkins, Walter Frank
Armstrong, Henry BruceGuest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Bagley, Captain E. AshtonGuinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.Pratt, John William
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGwynne, Rupert S.Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Randles, Sir John Scurrah
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.
Barnston, Major HarryHambro, Angus ValdemarRees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Beckett, Hon. GervaseHamilton, Major C. G. C.Reid, D. D.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryRemer, J. R.
Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart.(Gr'nw'h)Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)Remnant, Sir James
Betterton, Henry B.Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Birchall, J. DearmanHilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankRobinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)
Blair, Sir ReginaldHills, Major John WallerRoundell, Colonel R. F.
Borwick, Major G. O.Hope, Sir H.(Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn,W.)Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith.Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Bowles, Colonel H. F.Hopkins, John W. W.Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Houston, Sir Robert PattersonSeddon, J. A.
Brassey, H. L. C.Hurd, Percy A.Simm, M. T.
Brittain, Sir HarryHurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.Smithers, Sir Alfred W.
Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. CuthbertStanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Burdon, Colonel RowlandJephcott, A. R.Starkey, Captain John Ralph
Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan HughesJellett, William MorganSteel, Major S. Strang
Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)Jesson, C.Stewart, Gershom
Butcher, Sir John GeorgeJodrell, Neville PaulSurtees, Brigadier-General H. C.
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.Joynson-Hicks, Sir WilliamSutherland, Sir William
Casey, T. W.King, Captain Henry DouglasSykes, Colonel Sir A. J. (Knutsford)
Cautley, Henry StrotherLane-Fox, G. R.Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)Lindsay, William ArthurTickler, Thomas George
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)Lloyd, George ButlerTownshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.Tryon, Major George Clement
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Turton, Edmund Russborough
Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. SpenderLocker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Clough, Sir RobertLowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Cobb, Sir CyrilLowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)
Colvin, Brig.-General Richard BealeLoyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.Lyle, C. E. LeonardWeston, Colonel John Wakefield
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryMacnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud
Curzon, Captain ViscountMcNeill, Ronald (Kent. Canterbury)Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.
Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)Mitchell, Sir William LaneWilson, Capt. A. S. (Holderness)
Denniss, Sir Edmund R. B. (Oldham)Molson, Major John ElsdaleWilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)
Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander HarryMond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Morit[...]Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)
Ednam, ViscountMontaou. Rt. Hon. E. S.Winterton, Earl
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)Moore- Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Wise, Frederick
Elveden, ViscountMunro, Rt. Hon. RobertWood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithMurchison, C. K.Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Falle, Major Sir Bertram GodfrayMurray, William (Dumfries)Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Fraser, Major Sir KeithNewman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)Young, E. H. (Norwich)
George, Rt. Hon. David LloydNicholson, William G. (Petersfield)Younger, Sir George
Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamOman, Sir Charles William C.
Gilmour, Lieut.,-Colonel Sir JohnO'Neill, Rt. Hon. HughTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir
Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. HacketR. Cooper and Lieut.-Colonel Sir
Grant, James AugustusPalmer, Brigadier-General G. L.J. Norton-Griffiths.