I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill has come down to us from another place, and perhaps it will be convenient to the House if I say a word or two with regard to its provisions. I do not think it is necessary, in spite of the fact that the Bill is a long one, to spend very much time by way of preliminary explanation for reasons which I will give in a moment. The fact is that this Bill is really the natural consequence of the efflux of time. It is now 35 years since the original Merchandise Marks Act was passed, and during that interval of time experience, and, I am bound to add, the ingenuity of the lawyer, has shown there are various loopholes in the working of the Act through which some of those who, I think it will be generally agreed, ought not to pass do, in fact, succeed in passing. Accordingly, one of the tasks which was first taken up by the Government after the Armistice, and which would have been taken up no doubt at an earlier date had it not been for the War, was to pass in review the necessity for some Amendments of the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Act. Accordingly, Sir Auckland Geddes, the then President of the Board of Trade, appointed a Committee to investigate the subject. That. Committee was under the Chairmanship of the hon. Member for the Wells Division (Sir H. Greer). It was a very strong Committee. It held a prolonged inquiry. It collected a mass of evidence which has been presented to the House, and, finally, it presented a unanimous Report, making certain recommendations fur the amendment of the law relating to merchandise marks. Most of those recommendations the House will find embodied in the first part of this Bill.
I may say, in general, of this Bill that while it is true it is called a Bill to amend the Merchandise Marks Act and to do other things, in fact, in plain non-legal language, it can be defined as a Bill for the prevention of fraud on the consumer. The first part deals with fraud in relation to imported goods. The second part deals with fraud in relation to Government marks, and the third part deals with fraud in relation to the use of the Royal Arms devices and titles. The Committee were unanimous in the Report which they presented. With regard to the first part of the Bill I think, perhaps, the most useful thing I can do, in case Members of the House do not happen to have the Report of the Committee convenient to their hands, will be to read two Sections from that Report—Sections (7) and (8)—which really put the matter contained in the first part of the Bill in a nutshell as follows:
On consideration therefore we recommend that when it has been established after an official inquiry that it is in the public interest that the local origin of the goods should be indicated in the case of any particular description or class of imported goods, the Board of Trade. should have power to deal with the question by Order. The power should be wide enough in cases where the official inquiry has shown that the circumstances so require to enable an Order or Orders to be made—
The Committee go on to point out what is the main reason for a recommendation of that nature. The main reason, as I have indicated to the House, is the fact that experience during the past 35 years has shown that there are certain loopholes—certain undesirable loopholes—through which those who have, I will not say exactly a fraudulent mind, but at all events who are not entirely truthful, might and do contrive to creep. It has been held and it is the law to-day, that while the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887. prohibits a false indication of origin being given to goods it has been held that that indication, in order to be false in the meaning of the Act, must be in writing in the first place, and in the second place it must be in general physically applied to the goods. The Committee point out that while it is true that these limitations have been imposed in the principal Act, yet by legal decisions they have been made to exclude a number of forms of misrepresentation which ought to be covered, and in particular misdescriptions in catalogues and advertisements or false indications by title—for instance, the use of such a term as "Irish linen" by a firm which does not deal mainly or exclusively with Irish linen. They go on to recommend that
There should he brought within the scope of the Act all indication, descriptions or statements, oral, documentary or other, whether physically attached to goods or not. including statements in advertisements or catalogues and false indications given by trade names or titles of firms or companies
which are reasonably calculated to lead a purchaser to a false belief as to the origin of the goods.
That is, in short, the purpose, and I think it will prove to be the achievement of Part I of the Bill. The essential part of Part I of the Bill is Clause 1, which provides that
Where the Board after making such inquiries as they think necessary for the purpose of enabling them properly to exercise their powers under this Section are of opinion that a false impression as to the origin of any class or description of goods imported into the United Kingdom is likely to arise by reason of their form, get-up, style or finish, or otherwise, the Board may, subject to the provisions of this Section, make an Order requiring an indication of origin to be given in the case of goods of that class or description made or produced outside the United Kingdom.
The remainder of Part I really deals with the remedies for various other defects which have appeared through the progress of years. Part II, as will be seen, deals shortly with the wrongful application of Government marks. Here again I do not think any serious controversy will be raised in any quarter of the House. Part II is designed to hit the man who wrongfully puts on goods a mark which is well known as a Government mark, and the Government marks in question hon. Members will find specified in the Second Schedule of the Act As to Part III, equally I do not think there will be any great controversy. It deals with the wrongful use of what collectively I might call Royal insignia—with
the Royal Arms, or any Royal device, or any arms or device closely resembling the Royal Arms or any Royal device; or any title, name, or description containing the word "Royal"; or any other title or name suggesting the patronage of His Majesty or any member of the Royal Family or connection with His Majesty's Government.
I do not think that in any quarter of the House there will be any serious desire to contest what I have said, namely, that these cases are of a class in which we should all desire to see fraud on the consumer avoided. I want now to make an appeal to the House. The Bill, as I observed at the outset of my remarks, is a somewhat long one. I admit that at once. It consists of 16 Clauses and three Schedules. As I have said, however, the general principle underlying it is one about which I do not think there is any controversy in any part of the House. We are all agreed that we want to prevent what I have called these fraudulent
dealings. Therefore, I appeal to the House that they will, without any very protracted discussion, perhaps be good enough to give me the Second Reading of the Bill. I agree that it is a Bill which needs very careful examination in Committee. It is just the sort of Bill which does need very careful examination in Committee, because we are in the position of having the general recommendations as principles, and we are endeavouring to translate them into the language of an Act of Parliament. That is always a difficult thing to do. It is always a thing in regard to which there is bound, naturally, to be a certain amount of criticism, and in regard to which criticism can be and is helpful. There fore, I hope that when the Bill goes to Committee hon. Members will give us such criticism as they can and such help as they can. The objects that we want to achieve are, I believe, common to the whole House, and I trust that a friendly reception will be given to the Bill.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his speech, though I do not think he has done himself justice with regard to the Bill. A habit is growing up on the Government Benches of coming down to the House with a very considerable Measure, and saying, in effect, "Do not worry about discussing this in the House of Commons; send it up to Committee, and we will give you ample opportunity in Committee to go into all the points that arise out of the Bill." When the Bill goes upstairs into Committee, hon. Members who sit on those Committees know the kind of treatment that these Bills receive, and the opportunities that are afforded them of going into the various details. It does seem to be asking too much of the House of Commons, in the month of July, when everyone anticipates that the Government is laying its plans for rising, say, in the first week in August or very shortly after that, to bring in a Bill of this kind and ask us to send it upstairs into Committee. I do not propose to discuss the Bill to-night on Second Reading for that reason in particular. I am not surprised that the Government have brought in this Bill. A coupon Government is almost certain to bring about coupon trade, and that is what this Bill really does. It is another attempt on the part of the Government
to interfere with the legitimate trade interests in this country. We have had far too many such attempts from this Government, and we have entrusted, and have been forced by the weight of the Government majority to entrust powers to individuals and Departments which they ought not to have if trade is going to improve in this country. Therefore, I want to confine myself entirely to Clause I of the Bill, which is the operative Clause, and to make what comment I want to make upon that. It is one of the most-extraordinary Clauses that I ever saw in any Bill brought before this House. It provides that
Where the Board, sifter making such inquiries as they think necessary"—
for the purpose of doing what?—
for the purpose of enabling them to exercise their powers under this Section, are of opinion that a false impression …is likely to arise …
That is the basis on which they are to come to a decision. When they have made up their minds that it, is conceivable that a false impression is likely to arise, then they have powers to interfere with the importation of certain goods into this country. They have four categories on which they can form their opinion. There is first the question of form. I should like to know what that means. What would be the definition of "form" in regard to trade? The second is the "get-up." One understands that. It is, I believe, a slang phrase which is used in commerce, and which one does not expect to see in an Act of Parliament, particularly from my hon. Friend, who is an expert in style. The third category is style, and I do not quite know what that means in regard to trade: nor do I quite understand what: finish, the fourth category, connotes. Apparently, however, these four words arc used in order to try and describe the nature of articles which are imported into this country. This Board of Trade, which has already given us a sample of the way in which it can interfere with trade under the operation and administration of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, is. apparently, going to interfere in the same way with every article that comes into his country. If he goods are affected by any one of these four categories, they can put into operation machinery which requires an indication to be given of the origin of any
piece of goods of that class or description which is produced outside the United Kingdom.
After all, the ordinary consumer knows pretty well what he or she wants, and if they do not get the article they want in one place they find it elsewhere. If the consuming community are going to have imposed upon them this further obstacle to trade, I do not know where we are going to land ourselves. The Board of Trade can interfere with quite a host of things. Take the question of advertisements, which my hon. Friend mentioned. I do not want to refer to any particular commodity and give anyone an advertisement in a Debate in the House of Commons, but hon. Members know perfectly well the class of goods that are aimed at. If these goods arc brought within the circle of suspicion by the Board of Trade, then, before they can be imported into this country, the question of the form of the advertisement of these goods will have to be censored by the Board of Trade. It is, surely, a common axiom, and my hon. Friend will certainly agree with me, that the one thing that is going to bring us back to a sound financial position, and encourage again the old industrial and commercial prosperity of this country, is to get rid of all hindrances to trade; and here, three and a half years after this Government came into power—nearly at the end of their fourth year—they are bringing in another Bill that is a hindrance to trade. I do not say that there are not-certain legitimate cases in which a Board of Trade or a Government might reasonably interfere; but those cases are so glaring and apparent that the public will themselves interfere by refusing the particular article, without any necessity for any action by the Board of Trade. The British consumer is a man, particularly a woman—because they do the bulk of the purchasing—of very broad common sense, and if she is had or deceived on one occasion, she is not going to be deceived a second time, and there are so few, therefore, of these articles, in my view, which would be involved that it is a mistake to give any Government Department powers of this kind because immediately you give them those powers what they take are not the powers which are laid down in this Clause. They take a roaming commission over all the im- ports into the country. There is a section of opinion in this House, and I think it is not unfair to say the Government itself and the Government supporters hold that opinion strongly, which believes that to interfere with trade is to promote success in industry. In other words, they are Protectionists of various degrees of strength, and this kind of thing appeals to them. If they can keep out those goods they hope in that way to create an atmosphere which would make it more difficult in future for other goods to come in. If this Bill goes upstairs I am certain my hon. Friend will not be disappointed if it is subjected to metriculous scrutiny in order that when it emerges from Committee the only power which will be retained in it so far as Part I is concerned is to confine it entirely to dealing with eases of fraud. The average ease in the importation of goods is not a case of fraud at all but in most cases of preference of the consumer, and in cases of preference with regard to the consumer I am not prepared to give this or any Government the powers they seek in this Bill.
While this Bill purports to be one which is to protect industry, I fear unless it is very considerably altered it will do more towards harassing than towards helping. It sets out with the avowed object of making it difficult for goods coming from abroad to come in unless they are subject to very careful scrutiny. This of necessity means delay, and while it means delay it may also mean a loss of business resulting from that delay. I think the Bill, while designed avowedly to check fraud, has associated with it something which will not check fraud at all, but will undoubtedly check work and industry. There are some goods which come into the country falsely marked which ought obviously to be stopped, but which cannot be stopped under the present law and which I imagine no one in the House would desire should not be stopped. For instance, steel goods marked "Sheffield" obviously ought to be stopped immediately they are examined. There are other goods which come in with a false mark upon them deliberately known and intended to be marked falsely, and they are the goods which I presume this Bill is intended primarily to check. But while it sets out to check fraud it puts a harass upon trading that I think the original promoters of the inquiry never intended should result. I. wish to suggest that when the Bill gets into Committee there should be an entire revision of some of the proposals in order that when the fraudulent person is being sought the innocent person shall not be harassed, as he may be very easily under these Government restrictions connected with the import of ordinary goods. It is too late in the day to ask the question whether we propose to encourage foreign trade or not. We must have foreign trade, and it is idle to make any kind of difficulty associated with those who desire and must have these foreign goods. Hence, we should encourage rather than discourage the entrance into this country of goods which are essentially needed. There are some words which are used in the every-day description of goods which will make those now using them under this Bill subject to very serious penalties. It becomes an offence for any person to apply the name of any town to any goods, and it gives a right to any person living in those towns to proceed against those who are thus applying such names to the goods unless they happen to live in the town. There arc plenty of goods sold to-day which have towns or geographical names associated with them by custom. For instance, there are Oxford shoes, which no one imagines need be made in Oxford. They are an ordinary description of a certain class of goods. Banbury cakes are sold all over the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Plymouth gin!"] There are also Chelsea buns and, coming to something very much more important, there are Lancashire boilers and Cornish boilers, types of boilers known the whole world over, but no one imagines that they must essentially come from Lancashire or Cornish firms. But under the Bill as it stands any person using these names would be subject to very dire penalties, although innocently using them. Therefore, while the Bill undoubtedly will give protection in preventing fraudulent goods coming in intentionally marked in a fraudulent way, it will also harass those who are using words that they have a perfect right to use, and associated with which there can be no possible suggestion of fraud.
There is another suggestion in Clause 2. It provides that any person using the word "royal" in Conner don with any name, and trade, or any title shall be subject to penalty. What is to happen to those companies and trading institutions and business people who have associated with their trade at present the word "royal"? There are lots of articles sold the type of which has become known as the Royal type. I am not going to mention those things which are so sold, because it would be a possible advertisement. But there are things used in offices all over the Kingdom which are known as the Royal type. No one suggests that that is deceptive. They happen to emanate from America, where the word has no national significance and where the word "royal" was used as denoting the productions of a certain firm. Is it proposed that these hundreds and thousands of machines now in use with the word "royal" on are not hereafter to be used, not to be repeated and not to be in any way traded with because a new Act of Parliament has come into existence which creates a new offence There are other Clauses in the Bill which are quite fair and the legitimate object of which everyone in the House would desire to encourage, that is. to check fraud and to put down the wrongdoer. But I think the House ought not, under the guise of giving a real safeguard against the illegitimate trader, to do anything which is going to harass, inconvenience or hinder the ordinary trader in connection with the every-day marketing or selling of the goods that he has for long been selling, and concerned with which there is no trouble.
There is another requirement in the Bill. All the articles coming in from abroad must be marked with the country of origin; an utterly impossible thing with regard to many goods. Is it proposed to mark eggs with the word Holland upon them, and to make it an offence if they are not so marked? Is it proposed to mark fruit with a foreign name associated with it? So on in regard to other things coming from abroad, which are sold singly, removed from the case or package in which they are brought and which is marked. Unless a man indicates the origin upon the separate article he sells, he is to be subject to some offence or penalty under this Bill. These are Committee points, and yet they arc points to which the attention of the House should be drawn, so that when exception is taken to them in Committee it shall not be said that new points are being raised, against which the forces of the Government will be used to prevent their being attended to. I welcome the, Bill with regard to the way in which it will resist and make awkward trading for the false traders; but, at the same time, I urge the Government not to deal with that in such a way that it will not only hurt the legitimate trader but will injure that which we are seeking to build up in this country, an industry associated with our general merchandise, which we obtain from all parts of the world Therefore, while supporting the introduction of the Bill, and while welcoming some of its Clauses, I shall do my best, if I happen to be a Member of the Committee, to urge the Government to revise some of the other Clauses, or to put in such safeguards as will not harrass those who are carrying on a legitimate business;, in connection with which they have long since operated, but in connection with which they might commit an offence unless this Bill is amended.
Like my hon. Friend who has just spoken, I cordially welcome this Bill, which is long overdue in our legislation. May I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade upon the way in which he introduced the Bill? His exposition of its provisions was perfectly clear, and was couched in a very conciliatory spirit which could not arouse opposition among hon. Members sitting above the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House. May I also pay a tribute to the admirable work which was done by the Board of Trade Merchandise Marks Committee, which gave a great deal of time and a great deal of research, under difficult and complex conditions, to the inquiry which they conducted? The Bill, instead of giving grievous offence, as is apparently the case with the ardent protagonists of Free Trade above the Gangway, and, in some small degree, to my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir Croydon Marks), does not go far enough, and I hope that when the Bill is in Committee we shall have a much more definite and concise expression of what is intended by the phrases used in the first Clause.
I agree that the words "form," "get-up," "style," and "finish" do require a little more elucidation and a little more definiteness, and, above all, the words "or otherwise" will have to be more carefully defined in the context of the Measure. As I understand the first Clause, in order to establish a case against an imported article, the British manufacturer will be obliged to show that the false "style," "finish," and so forth, is a copy of an article produced in (his country which is assumed to possess some kind of national characteristic. I do not think that the onus of proving that ought to be imposed upon the British manufacturers. In the text of the first Clause we should have a more definite form of expression as to the remedy which the British manufacturer will have against a competing article from abroad. The Board of Trade Merchandise Marks Committee gave a good deal of attention to what is called unfair competition, but I am afraid that there is no provision in the Bill to cover that important point. If I read a quotation from their Report dealing with compulsory marking my point will be made clear:
The Board of Trade should have power to make an Order, after an official inquiry has shown that such an Order would be in the public interest, requiring indications of origin (either specific or general) to be given in the case of any particular kind, description or class of imported goods, including power to specify the form of the indication. and manner in which, and the time or occasion when, it is to be given and to exempt any kind, description or class of goods from any or all of the requirements of the Order. In the course of the inquiry particular attention should he directed to the question whether the goods are manufactured, produced or sold under circumstances constituting unfair competition.
That is one of the most serious difficulties with which manufacturers in this country have to contend, and I hope that when the Bill goes to Committee some provision will be inserted to enable the British manufacturer to hold his own against the subtle devices which are adopted by manufacturers abroad in order to place their goods in our market. The hon. Member for North Cornwall laid stress upon the delays which may be incurred in dealing with imported articles, under the operation of this Bill. I much prefer to have delay, in order, definitely, to exclude a foreign article which competes with an article produced in this
country, rather than have our own people out of employment. It is much better that we should exercise the closest possible scrutiny over competing articles coming here, than that we should allow them to come in indiscriminately, and thereby keep our own people walking the streets. I regard this Measure as in some small degree introducing into our legislation an amount of protection which will enable us to increase the volume of employment in our industries. On these grounds, without any further attempt at criticism, and because there will be plenty of criticism forthcoming upstairs, I welcome the Measure, commend it to the House, and hope that it will receive a Second Reading.
The last speaker has revealed to the House the intention of this Measure, more so than did the Parliamentary Secretary. It is clear to me that this Bill shows the Protectionist attitude of the Government and its supporters; but I do not rise to criticise it from that point of view only. I would like to show how ridiculous this Measure will be in its operation in some respects. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary what would happen to Caerphilly cheese manufactured in Canada, Devonshire cream coining from Denmark, and many other commodities and articles of food sold over grocery and provision counters in this country which have no mark whatever? There are commodities that are in daily use, and are known by name. Those names are never printed, they are simply bespoken by word of mouth, and everybody knows what he is buying without there being any mark whatever on them.
I should like to put one or two questions upon Part II of the Second Schedule. It is intended to prohibit the use of Government marks. Among those marks are the broad arrow and the double broad arrow. I wonder whether any complaints have reached the Board of Trade that people have been foolish enough to use convict marks on their goods, and what benefit would accrue to anybody using Government marks of that kind. The Parliamentary Secretary said—I should have very much liked to hear him dilate upon it—that this Measure would make the misuse of titles punishable. I wonder what he actually meant by that sentence. In regard to the word "royal," I feel sure that the Board of Trade, in applying this Measure, will find itself up against considerable difficulty. An hon. Member has mentioned a few of the difficulties. Let me give an instance which reduces the thing to an absurdity. In how many connections is the word "royal" used in this country? It is used in common, and those who do so do not use it as it is used in this House. It is used by trading firms and in all manner of ways, for business purposes and otherwise. It would also be very interesting to know how the Board of Trade intend to apply these Regulations, particularly as there are articles of consumption in this country that go by name without having any mark whatever attached to them. They are sold over the counters, and people understand exactly what they are. As an illustration, I have mentioned Caerphilly cheese. That was manufactured, once upon a time, in Wales. It is not manufactured there now: the manufacture of that cheese has gone abroad.
I ought to know more about Wales than the hon. Baronet. This commodity was once produced in the country to which I belong. I trust that the Board of Trade, when they come to deal with this Measure if it becomes law, will remember the position of the shopkeepers in this country under Clause 3. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to the complaint of the shopkeepers with regard to the marking of imported eggs.
Quite frankly, I view this Bill in some ways with a great deal of apprehension. During the last two or three years we have been gradually getting out of that period of Government control during the War that was an injury and that really did harm to trade. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir Croydon Marks) that there will have to be very vital Amendments in the Measure before it becomes law. He mentioned the power in Clause 2 for the prohibition of national or public devices. I tan give the hon. Baronet in charge of this Bill a case which will cause very considerable trouble if these devices are to be prohibited. Some people have a habit of calling clotted cream "Devonshire" cream. Others, again, persist in calling it "Cornish" cream. Is he going to decide, in the first place whether that cream will be called by one or the other of those two names? If so, he will have a very considerable row about it, In the next place, how is he possibly going to stop a name of this kind being used in a general sense in every small dairy throughout the country? If he looks at Clause 2 rather more carefully—probably he has examined it very carefully already—he will realise in view of the possibility of the trouble that may come on various Government Departments in the future if it is carried out in its strict sense, that it will want very drastic amending.
Again on this point of view I feel, very strongly indeed, that the time has come when the ordinary buyer in any market in England should be absolutely certain what he is getting when he pays down his cash. The ordinary consumer of food, when he goes into a shop in London, ought to know, particularly when he is buying food, whether it comes from this country or from abroad; whether he is buying the highest class of article such as British goods are, or whether he is getting some inferior stuff which comes from another land. There are other particulars in the Bill—and there is a very great deal of good in it. If it is administered in the proper way it will help the Government, and it will help the consumer to obtain the best articles and to know what he is buying. I want, however, to ask the Government, when this Bill is dealt with in Committee, to try and make it simpler, so as not to impose needless restrictions on the general industry of the country.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS:
I have been in correspondence with several manufacturers. They are very anxious that this Bill should become law, and they welcome it, but there are certain points on which they are a little doubtful, particularly in regard to the use of the Schedule under Clause 1. I will come to that in a moment. The difficulty is this: at the present moment foreign knives and and other articles—cigarette holders, ash trays, metal pencil cases, etc.—are being imported into this country in a way which is likely to mislead the public. The public are naturally coming to the conclusion that these things are English-made, and especially Sheffield-made. These articles come in without any indication upon them, because they do not bear the name of the manufacturer. If the name of the manufacturer were put on them they would be free from all deception. Many of the articles are introduced into this country by way of advertisement. They are given away as an advertisement to customers—not necessarily to those customers who manufacture knives and those sort of things, but to others. I will give the House one or two examples. The marking comes on the hafts of the knives, which are frequently made of steel or metal. Here are some of the examples of the advertisements: "John Dewar's Scotch Whiskey," "Buchanan's Black and White," "Lea and Perrin's Sauce," "Boot's Cash Chemists." These things are imported into this country and purchased from the importer by the advertiser, in order that he may send out these things as presents to his customers.
Sheffield manufacturers say that if these things are introduced, there ought to be some indication that they are not British manufacture. That is why they welcome this Bill. They regret, however, that the full recommendations of the Committee, which went into the whole matter and reported in 1920, have not been fully followed by the Board of Trade. The Committee recommended in paragraph 7 that when it has been established, after official inquiry, that it is in the public interest that the origin should be indicated in the case of any particular goods, the Board of Trade? hall have power to deal with the question by Order. That is not the form which the Board of Trade have followed in this Bill. Clause 1 says that if they are of opinion that a false impression as to the origin of any class or description of goods imported into the United Kingdom is likely to arise by reason of their form, get-up, style, or finish, or otherwise, the Board may make an Order. That is a different thing from giving the Board of Trade power, if they think it is in the public interest, to make an Order. What we are afraid of is that the words in the Bill might restrict or narrow the result of the inquiry very much.
I am glad to say that the President of the Board of Trade was kind enough to receive a deputation from us the other day, and I have now got a communication from the Board of Trade explaining exactly what they mean. They say that they have now consulted Parliamentary counsel about the point raised in connection with Clause 1. The point was whether, if the Board made an Order under Clause 1 against goods of any particular class, the effect would be, first, that all goods of that class would have to be marked with an indication of origin irrespective of whether the form, get-up, etc., of any particular consignment of goods was calculated to deceive, and that in every case they will have to be marked with the country of origin; secondly, or if only the particular goods in the class referred to would have to be marked in the cases in which the Customs found that the form, get-up, etc., were likely to cause deception. Then they state the Parliamentary counsel thinks that Clause 1, as it stands, means what it is intended to mean, but admits that there may be a doubt, and they will therefore —this is the important part—move an Amendment in Committee which will make it clear that when an Order has been made against goods of a particular class or description, all goods of that class or description will have to bear the indication of origin, without regard to the question whether the form or get-up of any individual consignment of such goods is likely to deceive. Our opinion was that those words "form, get-up, etc.," were not sufficient indication, and therefore we welcome very much the statement that my right hon. Friend will be prepared in Committee to make such an Amendment in the Clause as we consider necessary. In conclusion, I wish to thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has received the deputation, and for the kind response which he has given to it.
There can be no complaint as to the clearness and lucidity with which the hon. Gentleman presented this Bill, But, unfortunately, that clearness and lucidity are not reflected in the Bill. Under the first Clause there will be a considerable harassing of trade, particularly as it is left very much to the arbitrary judgment of certain people to decide whether a false impression is likely to arise. What that means exactly is very difficult to state in precise language. But one can see very much greater difficulties than those from which we are suffering under the present slightly restricted form of protection. This does seem an attempt to bring in protection on a side issue, and it would be far better if that were made clear at the outset. The hon. Member opposite has drawn attention to some confusion that will arise by the use of certain terms which have lost their local significance, and are now of general application—such things as Oxford shoes, or the use of the word Royal, which is used with reference to a certain machine imported from the United States to which the term "Royal" applies, so that great difficulty would arise if there was any attempt to enforce that particular Regulation. Perhaps Clause 9 is an attempt to safeguard that particular position by the Proviso as to the case where a trade description is generally and bona fule applied to any class or description of goods. If that is so, I would suggest that the second paragraph of that Clause goes rather far towards wiping it out. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter to see if the provision cannot be made more watertight than it is at the present time. I gather the intertion is in that particular Clause to meet the position raised by the hon. Member when he made reference to this particular thing.
I was a little astonished by the comment made by the hon. Member below the Gangway who said that he was willing to do anything that would restrict foreign goods from entering into this country so long as they could be manufactured here. That is what we are suffering from at present. That is an extraordinary doctrine to propound just now when we are seeking every possible means to expedite an exchange of commodities. To prevent foreign goods from coming into this country when they could be made here, presumably regardless of everything else, is going to work great disaster, for it makes it almost impossible for us again to revive our trade. One is bound to agree with the remark of the hon. Member who introduced the Bill that, so far as it tends to prevent fraud in. the use of certain names such as Sheffield applied to certain things coming from abroad, it must get; the united support of all parties. But if it is let go forward in this particular form, and I refer especially to the first Clause, which is so loose, it will be impossible for business men to carry on their business without finding their goods constantly held up by arbitrary decisions here and there. In a -Bill of this description surely we are entitled to ask that there shall be more precise language, so that we may know what is the intention of the Government in their declared efforts to promote British trade. It looks as if this were an attempt to impose a form of Protection without saying so, and to cripple trade.
This Bill is a very extraordinary Bill. I regret very much that I was not here earlier to hear the explanation of it. As it stands, it is quite clear, as the last speaker has said, that it will be a great detriment to the trade of the country. I do not think it is in a form to go to a Committee, nor do I think it is possible that the Government could have realised what is the meaning of such complicated Clauses and what this control of trade means. It certainly will cause great injury to the trade of the country, not only because it is not clear, but because it will necessitate the Government making Regulations that must be a great detriment to business, however much the Government intend not to hamper it. The first Clause necessitates orders that would really bring the importation of foreign goods almost to a standstill, certainly in many classes of articles. That we do not want to do. It is all very well for a certain amount of protection to be given in certain cases, but this is not a case where any revenue is to be got or where we are to benefit our own trade. We are simply hampering our trade with foreign countries. Surely it is not a Bill to be brought in in this way, and certainly I shall vote against the Second Reading of it.
When the Bill was introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary, he said that only a few minutes were needed for the purpose. Some of us would have liked a fuller explanation. So far as the Parliamentary Secretary's statement went, I agree that the explanation was quite lucid, but unfortunately many of the
Clauses were not dealt with at all. Enough has been said to indicate that no more important Bill has been introduced recently. It touches almost every part of our trade, and in the opportunity I have had for going through its Clauses it seems to me that its extent will be much more considerable than was indicated. I can quite understand that an hon. Member who spoke in support of the Hill just now would regard it with favour, because, apparently, he regretted that any goods whatever were brought into this country from abroad. He seemed to regard any such articles as something in the nature of obscene literature or diseased meat. At any rate he spoke of the objection he had to anything like foreign goods coming into this country. I assume, of course, that he knew that any foreign goods brought into this country were brought in by some British merchant because that merchant thought that he could carry on his business by introducing the goods. That is why they come in. I should have thought that it was far too late in the day to talk about foreign trade being stopped. Undoubtedly, if we are to stop goods from coming in we must accept the necessary corollary that we are stopping goods from going out, and we must return to a condition of things that we had hundreds of years ago, when there was no foreign trade at all. The first Clause is the one that causes me some anxiety. It says:
Where the Board, after making such inquiries as they think necessary for the purpose of enabling them properly to exercise their powers under this Section, are of opinion that a false impression as to the origin of any class or description of goods imported.
Who is to give the Board this opinion? Will the Board of Trade, which surely already has enough inspectors, send out a larger army of inspectors to go into the works and shops of the country in order to find out whether there are any offending goods that can be brought before this Board, so that their suspicion might be brought to bear on those goods? If so, it means a very considerable expenditure, and I think the House recognises that there is very strong feeling throughout the country against Departments being swollen more and more in this direction. There is nothing that angers the struggling shopkeeper more than the frequent visits of inspectors, who very often have to justify their existence
by worrying a man who has great difficulty in earning a livelihood. If that is not to be done by the inspector, is it to be done under Sub-section (5) or Clause 1, which says:
If an application for the making of an Order under this Section is made to the Board by or on behalf of any body of persons concerned in any trade or manufacture, the Board shall, if they are satisfied that that body represents a substantial part of the interests concerned, forthwith take into consideration the question of making such an Order and make such inquiries as they think necessary for the purpose.
Is not the danger that almost every trade will now be put on to inquiring what hindrance they can put in the way of other goods? It will mean that almost every trade will have to look round very carefully to see what goods are competing with their own. Then there will be the old sort of influence brought to bear in one way or the other upon the Departments concerned, in order that these goods that are competing with theirs may be subject to some interference. It will put a premium on such interference. It will give to certain big organisations in this country—and if the trades are small they can join together in order to be more powerful—power to harass and interfere with, and perhaps to destroy, some of the trade of those who are competing with them. Supposing that the Board of Trade should make a wrong decision or an unfair decision, what appeal is there? As far as I read the Bill, there is no substantial remedy given. If they make their appeal to the Department which they think is offending, the remedy will not be worth very much.
There is in this first Clause a danger that the small retail shopkeeper might be very heavily hit. If the Bill does go upstairs I hope that there will be brought to bear on it a very long and careful and scrutinizing inquiry, having regard to the fact that it means that the Board of Trade will have its finger in almost every industrial pie in the country. I had hoped that steps would have been taken to have lessened that power of interference. When a Government Department interferes in trade the onus should be on the Department to prove the necessity of so doing. Traders should, as far as possible, be allowed to manage their own affairs. We all want to stop any fraud that may be practised. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to tell us that, not merely did a Committee so report, but that there is ample evidence of people being wronged in the matter, that people are being made to pay wrongly for something they do not get and are not getting a fair consideration for their money. If that be shown, there will be a case for the Bill to be sent to Committee, and I hope that then there will be ample time for every Clause to be gone into carefully so that no injustice may be done.
A brief study of this Bill seems to show that it will make the confusion brought about by the Safeguarding of Industries Act worse confounded. In every Clause of the Bill there appears to be that interference with trade, of which we have already had numerous examples in the Safeguarding of Industries Act. I wish to draw attention to one particular Clause of the Bill, in so far as it relates to Scotland, and to ask a question with regard to it. Clause 4, Sub-section (2), states:
Provided that, if the case is one in which the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has under the Merchandise Marks (Prosecutions) Act, 1894, as amended by Sub-section (8) of Section one of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries Act 1903. power to prosecute, the foregoing provision shall have effect as if references in the Minister were therein substituted for references to the Board.
That is to say, in these cases the Minister instead of the Board is made the authority with regard to prosecutions. Now I turn to Sub-section (6) and I find this:
In the application of this Section to Scotland the Court of Session shall be substituted for the High Court
That is probably correct. It goes on to say:
The Lord Advocate shall be substituted for the Board.
That is a legal point, with which I am not prepared to deal. What I object to is the next part of the Sub-section, which reads:
The Board of Agriculture for Scotland shall be substituted for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Why the Board of Agriculture for Scotland? Why not the Secretary for Scotland? In the first ease the Minister of Agriculture is substituted for the Board —that is to say, a Minister, responsible to this House, who can be attacked on any case in which matters appear to be going wrong. But in the case of Scotland it is not a Minister responsible to the House who is substituted, but the Board of Agriculture, or, in other words, the permanent officials of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland. The same point will arise in regard to the allotment Bill. There, exception will be taken to the Board of Agriculture being included as the authority for certain purposes instead of the Secretary for Scotland. I wish to impress on the Government that they should alter this Sub-section in Committee so as to make the responsible authority the Secretary for Scotland. I have nothing against the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, but from a constitutional point of view the authority should be the Secretary for Scotland, who is the head of the Board, responsible for the proceedings of the Board, and is in a position to be criticised in this House and to have representations made to him if the necessity arises.
I press the point upon the Government in the hope that they will look into it. I find that paragraph 18 in the First Schedule says:
Every local authority is hereby authorised to execute and enforce the provisions of this Order within their area and. except in Scotland, to institute proceedings for any offences against this Order.
That may be susceptible of explanation. If so, perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary, if he replies, will explain why Scotland should be left out.
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
I do so mainly because of the provisions of Clause 1 and some other Clauses which are going to impose further restrictions on the trade and industry of the country. We are all, at this time of day, agreed on one thing—that the industry of this country desires as much freedom from bureaucratic control, and the restrictions involved in such control, as is possible at this juncture. We do not want any legislation which is going to hamper trade any further, and the traders of this country are pretty well united in opposition to the Bill. I have had numerous communications from associations and organisations of traders in my constituency and they look with great alarm on the provisions of the Bill. We have only to look at the first Clause to see the sort of restrictions which are going to be imposed on the already harassed trader. He has got in certain cases to indicate the origin of his goods. We know the difficulty which arises under the Reparations Act and other Acts in determining the question of origin. Are we again to go through all the difficulties which we have experienced in the past?
Then we have it left to the discretion of the Board of Trade whether or not they should make orders requiring the indication of origin. That again is placing the trade of this country under the control of bureaucrats. We have had enough of bureaucratic control and we do not want any more of this interference, however laudable may be the object the Government may have in view. The House should look with great care and close scrutiny on any proposals of this kind to reimpose such control. The matter is left to the discretion of the Board of Trade if they are of opinion that certain conditions exist. As the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) asked, how are they going to determine what their opinion is? It necessitates no doubt the setting up of committees of inquiry. We shall have over again the farcical procedure we have already experienced under the Safeguarding of Industries Act where interminable inquiries are held into cases in which the result as a rule is a foregone conclusion. Traders will not know what future conditions they have to cope with and they cannot place forward contracts because of the doubts and the hesitancy which exist as to what action the Board of Trade is going to take in these matters. These things, though they may be pinpricks, in their cumulative effect are doing great harm to the trade of this country, and I think this House, before embarking once more on legislation which reimposes this bureaucratic control, should hesitate, and I hope that it will support my Amendment.
I beg to second the Amendment, and I do it really on the broad lines that the time for a measure of this kind is inopportune. It must have one effect, and one effect only, and that is to raise the price of goods to the consumer. If you do that at a time like this, when wages are falling, when money is scarce, when people, especially the working classes, have great difficulty in living and paying their way, you are inflicting upon the general community a grievous wrong. This Bill is not brought in at the dictation of the consumer. The consumer is not complaining that he is getting cheap foreign goods, or that he is buying goods that are open to queston as to their country of origin. I doubt whether the Board of Trade has received a single complaint from a person who has been shopping in the markets of this City during the last six or eight months. The whole object of consumers to-day is to chop down prices. They do not care whether goods are manufactured in this country, or in Germany or in France. Their great object is to get a good article, and as cheaply as possible.
I think we have cause of complaint against the Government for the explanation which they gave when they introduced this Bill. The hon. Baronet who introduced it clearly did not tell us the whole of the story, and it was left to the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Sir S. Roberts) to enlighten the House on a very important matter, which, I venture to say, would have come with better grace from the Government Bench. In Clause 1 there are certain conditions under which the Board may make an Order. But that surely is not to apply to all goods of a particular class "by reason of their form, get-up, style or finish, or otherwise." The hon. Gentleman told the House that there had been communications passing between the Sheffield manufacturers and the Board of Trade, and that the Board of Trade had agreed, as I understand it, to introduce very important Amendments. I think that was an important agreement between the Sheffield manufacturers and the Government which should have been revealed to this House when this Bill was introduced by the Government. I think it is a very dangerous Measure. It is intended as part of the system of Protection to which this Government has committed itself, and I think that we, whose primary object is to look after the interests of the consumer, should oppose this Measure by every means in our power.
The hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill must once again have breathed a fervent prayer that he might be saved from his friends when he listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who hailed this Measure as the first step towards that glorious system of our national affairs where we should be entirely self-supporting, neither importing nor exporting any commodities. The hon. Gentleman forebore to explain exactly how this country could support itself without the import of foodstuffs and the export of manufactured articles in return, but he hailed this Measure as the first step towards that complete and beneficent system. One must admit, in reading this Bill, that some part of his aspirations is supported by the facts, for it very definitely reposes in the hands of a Government Department the power to discriminate adversely against imported foodstuffs, and in thin respect it differs very sharply from any previous attempts of this Government in protective legislation. Not only do we find foodstuffs for the first time brought within the purview of this protective system, but also we find the most vicious form of Protection being introduced, in that the protective system is not laid down within definite legislative limits, but is imposed within the power of a Government Department to act in bureaucratic control of trade. It has emerged in this Debate that there are cases existing which are vicious, and should be stopped, but the hon. Gentleman failed entirely to adduce proof that a Measure of such an extensive character as this is required; and, further, he also failed to adumbrate the difficulties which may arise if such extensive powers of prosecution are granted to the residents of any locality whose name may be infringed by the foreign importer.
It really did appear that the hon. Gentleman's advisers had not entirely foreseen the extent to which this Measure might lead, and it would be interesting to hear from the hon. Gentleman exactly what step he would contemplate in the event of action being taken by the residents in any locality, such as Oxford or Banbury, to prevent the use of the names of their towns, and for the protection of the marks of such commodities as shoes or cakes. Will he tell us whether he contemplated such action when he drafted the Bill for, apparently, other purposes, and can he tell us whether he will be able to introduce any modification of this Measure which would meet such obvious abuses of its intention? Could the hon. Gentleman also enlighten us as to the exact meaning of the provision for the marking of imported foodstuffs? Is every apple or banana which is taken out of its original receptacle, and placed for sale upon the stall or counter, to be stamped with the country of origin? In what manner does the hon. Gentleman propose to safeguard himself in the sale of isolated commodities of this character? It really does appear that one more burden is being added by this Bill to the shoulders of the already harassed small shopkeeper, the man who staggers beneath a great weight of official restrictions already. Further than that, it imposes in the hands of a Government Department a power of discrimination in the case of imported foodstuffs and commodities, and seeks to invest our bureaucracy with exactly those powers which this House has so strenuously resisted in the many abortive Measures this Government has introduced. Therefore, I claim that it does need a certain amount of elucidation which, admirable as the hon. Member's opening statement was as far as it went, was not present in that statement in regard to all the provisions of this remarkable Measure.
It must be admitted that the object of this Bill is to encourage the sale of British goods and at the same time to restrict as much as possible the introduction of foreign goods, and that being so, it is clearly a Protectionist Measure. I would suggest to the Government that this is the very worst time they could select for bringing in a Bill of this kind, because what we want is freedom in the passage of goods between one nation and another, and not to hamper the trade of the country. The point I want to emphasise is this, that I think my right hon. Friends may be hoist with their own petard. If goods have to be marked with their place of origin, other countries may benefit rather than ourselves. It is a splendid advertisement. I recollect, some 30 years ago, I think it was. there was an Act of Parliament passed which required a certain well-known statement to be put upon goods: "Made in Germany." What was the effect of that? The German goods were made well, and they were known and appreciated, and were wanted by different countries and our own Colonies, and we suffered very much in consequence of the introduction of those words. If I am right in my memory, something had to be done to stop the effect of that. I suggest that the Government should be extremely careful with this Bill, because it may have the very opposite effect to that which they intend.
I should like to ask those in charge of this Bill whether there is anything in it, which restricts its operation to countries other than those within the commonwealth of nations known as the British Empire? As far as I can see, the governing Clause, Clause 1, merely says "outside the United Kingdom." Suppose that in Canada there is a class of goods made which is manufactured on the model of British imports to Canada, or to Australia, or to New Zealand, or to any other part of the British Empire. It is very well known, as a matter of fact, that British models are very largely copied in our Dominions beyond the seas and that they send into this country very effective goods in competition with the manufactures here. What are the powers of the Board of Trade in this respect? The Bill says that whenever there is likely to arise a false impression, these powers come into full play. I do not know, of course, what the Department may develop into, but it really looks at present as if the war spirit still dominates even a Department presided over by so common-sense a President as my right hon. Friend, who is at present at the head of it, and his very able, efficient, and courteous assistant. There is nothing in the world to prevent that. They are bound to act upon it. They have no discretion left at all. Acts of Parliament are not passed merely for the purpose of being put on the Statute Book, as my right hon. Friend knows very well in connection with the Safeguarding of Industries Act. There are a very large number of Members of this House, perhaps some on the Treasury Bench, who would only be too glad if it were not put into operation. If, however, you pass an Act of Parliament the plain duty of any Minister who has any self-respect and any respect for his Department is to administer it.
Admitting that as a. sound principle, what is going to happen in this matter? We have those goods made by our fellow citizens put upon the British market. They may be the subject of complaint by the British manufacturer. It does not matter at all to the British manufacturer whether the goods in competition with his come from Australia or Germany. If they do compete he has a grievance that his business is injured and a complaint, is accordingly lodged. What is the Board of Trade going to do? They have to make inquiries such as will enable them to exercise their powers, and then may come to the conclusion that a false impression has been created. On whose part? It does not imply mala fides on the part of the exporter at all. It simply means that goods are made that under the Clause of such form, get-up, style, or finish, or otherwise, that they are likely to create an incorrect impression on the buyer. It is not intended to suggest any unfair competition, any dark design, any sinister device on the part of Germany or any other Power to oust the British manufacturer. You are proceeding here to protect the buyer. You are going to protect him from the manufactures of our fellow citizens overseas. That is what the Bill says. That is what Departmental control run mad has come to. Thus it has come about that the Departments have managed to put their Bills on the Order Paper. They notice how the business of the House is arranged, and they say: "Here is a glorious opportunity, seeing things are not so active in the House of Commons as they were, of getting our little Bill run through." His Majesty's Opposition gets rather tired and Members of it want their meals like other people. Here, they say, is an opportunity of developing the special interests of the British people. Here is another example of which the whole Order Paper is full. I hope the House of Commons is going to awaken to the fact, that Members are alive to the way in which these little Acts of Parliament are carrying on the control of the War into peace time. The Opposition, with some slight assistance from other hon. Members, are fighting for the liberty of the subject. There is a real danger unless the House of Commons guards against it, that we shall have all the most objectionable shackles of the War which were laid upon us by Orders in Council put on us permanently by Act of Parliament. That is one of the reasons why we are exercising such Parliamentary gifts as we may possess in order to see that such measures as this shall receive very careful examination before they receive a Second Reading. So far as I understand it, the font el origo of this Bill comes from Sheffield. "We know that man; he comes from Sheffield." Is the special interest of the man from Sheffield to be utilised to impose a new form of Protection.
I want to know what other interests have placed their case before the Board of Trade, and what case has been made out for interests which are wider spread than Sheffield and one or two other important industries. What is the general case for this Bill? Let hon. Members look through this Measure, and they will come to much the same conclusion as I have clone. This Bill teams with fresh officials, new Sub-Departments and legal points of the most abstruse description. I hope that further consideration will be given to this Measure, and I hope that the arguments used which have been so full of sound substance will have this effect upon the President of the Board of Trade, that if it goes to the Committee such points as we have raised will receive very careful consideration. There are some parts of this Bill to which not very much objection can be taken. I suppose that the unauthorised use of Royal Arms and devices, and titles of that kind is perhaps a matter for legislation, but I do not know. I should have thought that we already possessed sufficient administrative power in the executive to deal with such matters. The main objections raised to this Bill require most careful examination.
I note that the President of the Board of Trade assents to that, but the objection which the House of Commons is entitled to make is that all these matters ought to be fought out before the Bill is presented to the House. Here we have a Clause like Clause 1 drawn in the most wide and sweeping terms laid before the House— I do not know whether it is a new Departmental idea—on. the principle of laying; down the greatest measure of power that can be given with any degree of reasonableness in a Bill in order to see how the House will take it. I do not think that is the way in which Bills should be presented to this House. Yet that is the sort of thing evident in this first Clause. I do not know who was responsible for drafting it, but it seems to have been inspired by such a spirit as that, leaving it to the Committee to cut these powers down. Is that the way in which the House of Commons should be treated? I submit that this Measure, as land before the House, is not worthy of the Second Reading which the Government asks for it.
I have no complaint to make of the Debate which has taken place. As I expected, the bulk of the criticism from those who have taken the pains to read the Bill is criticism directed against various points which naturally present themselves for consideration on the Committee stage. I should like to make a few remarks in answer to what has fallen from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last. Both he and I, seated on opposite sides of this Table, very often find ourselves in a certain amount of agreement.
With a certain amount of what he has said this evening I find myself in agreement. It may be that what he said about Bills being presented in a. hurry does apply to some Bills, but it is not true of this Measure. I should like to say something about the genesis of this Bill. Just three years ago, under the regime of my predecessor (Sir Auckland Geddes), now our distinguished Ambassador to Washington, the matter of merchandise marks and the question of bringing the old Merchandise Marks Act up to date, was brought before him by his Advisory Council, that is an Advisory Council not of bureaucrats but of business men, and, as a result of the case which was put before him, the right hon. Gentleman appointed a Departmental Committee to examine the whole question. Their Report was published in 1920, and is no doubt familiar, together with the evidence they took, to many Members of this House. Owing to the pressure of business in this House, and also owing to the difficulty of drafting an Act which would meet the manifold points which were raised, a delay of two years has occurred. I do not think the time has been wasted, because in the interval naturally we have had an opportunity to give very careful consideration to the question, and we have cut out here and there parts of the Report of the- Committee which did not seem to us to deal with the one point we wanted to deal with, and that is the stoppage, as far as we can, of fraudulent practices, that is to say, of attempts to make goods appear as British goods and be sold as British goods when in fact they are not. If that gives protection, it is a protective Bill; but in any of the conventional uses of the word "protection" it is not a protective Bill.
I could not help wondering, when I heard some of the criticisms which were applied to Clause 3, whether hon. Members realise that what we are asking for is a continuation of a few of those Orders which have been in existence in this country for five years, have been tested by their working, and have given so much satisfaction to the consumer that, at the request of the Leader of the Labour party, we consented to put that Clause into the Bill. We gave an undertaking some time ago, I think, that the existing provisions as to the marking of imported eggs and meat should be continued, and that we have done. I freely admit, however, with those who have criticised in sincerity our Bill, that it needs a great deal of careful examination in Committee. It is an extraordinarily difficult task to make a Bill of this kind effective and at the same time one which will not go outside of what we want to perform. When the Bill goes into Committee, we shall be prepared to consider any Amendments that may help us to attain the object of our Bill and that will improve and simplify it. The last thing I desire is to push this Bill through in an undigested form. That is not my intention at all.
I would just say one other thing. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that anyone looking at the first Sub- section would feel a little natural alarm. It has been a very difficult matter to find the best way of dealing, and dealing promptly, with the kind of complaints which will be brought forward. We put that forward as, on the whole, the best machinery we have been able to devise. I can assure my right hon. Friend and the House that it is no question of flinging before the House anything. What we put before the House is something which we have considered very carefully, and which was recommended, in fact, by the Committee; but there is no part of the machinery to which I am pledged, if I can be shown a better way of effecting what we have in view. I am sure that the general verdict of the House would be in favour of an effective Measure to secure the objects that we have in view, and I hope that all those who agree with us in that principle will give the Bill a Second Reading, on the understanding that in Committee we shall do all we can to make it an effective Measure for the purpose, but for no other purpose than that which we have in view.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the Scottish point, which I put to him, as to why the Board of Agriculture for Scotland is put into the Bill instead of the Secretary for Scotland? Is the right hon. Gentleman willing to substitute the Secretary for Scotland for the Board of Agriculture?
In answer to my hon. and gallant Friend, I am not a Parliamentary draftsman. I have no objection to the term, and the Secretary for Scotland is meant; but Parliamentary draftsmanship is a curious thing, and he sometimes appears, as he does here, as the Board of Agriculture. If it is possible to do the same thing and use those words, I have no objection at all to doing so.
I am obliged to the President of the Board of Trade for the certain amount of reply which he has given to the discussion, but I do not think he has really dealt with all the points that have been raised. There is one thing to which we ought to draw his attention. He first of all replies to us by saying that this is not an undigested Measure: that, as a matter of fact, his predecessor, Sir Auckland Geddes, set up a Committee which reported in 1920; and that, following that Report, they themselves have taken two years to draft this Measure for which he is asking a Second Reading. And then he says that in spite of that this Bill requires the most careful examination in Committee. That is surely an extraordinary position for the Government, in the month of June, rising in August, to bring in a first-class Measure of this kind.
But the other place is controlled by the Treasury Bench. It is only for the convenience of that bench. The trouble is that, whether they are beaten in the House of Lords or beaten here, they take no notice of the expression of public opinion. There is nothing that can make an impression on the Government Bench, not even on the President of the Board of Trade. He himself said he was once of those ordinary business men. Does he really think it is a business proposition, after a Committee has inquired into this and reported in 1920, that the Government should come down with a Bill that they have taken two years to digest and turn it out in this undigested form, in such a form indeed that they plead as an excuse why we should give it a Second Reading, that they will allow us to make the most careful and meticulous examination of the Bill upstairs. This House will make a great mistake if it puts any reliance on the opportunities which this Government will give it upstairs to investigate any Measure which is sent there. On the Measure itself we have had no reply at all to the questions put by myself and others. This means a roving commission for the Board of Trade for this branch of industry. We have an example already in the Schedule of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and in the number of officials who have been created, of what the administration of any Act of Parliament interfering with commerce and business means. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us what he thinks this will mean in extra expenditure, in extra staff and in the loss of business to the people of this country. The consumer is the least likely to be tricked into buying goods he does not want, and if the Government are going to pursue this with regard to goods which are imported they have a tremendous field in front of them in the goods sold in ordinary commerce in this country. Look at the advertisements which appear in our public Press and on the posters with regard to goods which everyone is invited to buy from day to day. The description of these goods is as foreign to their nature as the form of get-up, style or finish of any goods sent to this country. As a matter of fact, what does it come back to at the finish? Any trade of that kind that comes from abroad is a competition with a certain trade which is languishing in this country. The history of Free Trade in this country has been that we have pushed out of this country the lower paid classes of trade and we have employed the more skilled and higher paid branches of every industry. The reason that you have this competition from abroad is that we have pushed out these cheaper trades through the operation of Free Trade. It is a very good thing for the worker and the consumer in this country that these cheaper trades have been pushed into countries where the economic conditions are worse, and where they work longer hours for lower wages. By this Bill the right hon. Gentleman is interfering with a system which has kept this country prosperous.
I am not sure that I understand the effect of Clause 1. I would remind the Government that when the first Merchandise Marks Act was introduced a good many years ago, the general idea was that by marking foreign-made goods we should be encouraging and promoting the sale of articles made in England; but the reverse of that took place. What happened was that when the public were aware that a certain article was made in Germany, and they knew they could get it at a lower price than a similar article made in the United Kingdom, they invariably asked for the article made in Germany. The result of the Merchandise Marks Act was that instead of promoting the sale of British goods it promoted the sale of foreign goods. There was some alteration in a further Merchandise Marks Act.
The object of the first Clause of this Bill, which seems to be the only Clause which is open to objection, is to perpetuate the mistake which was made in the first Merchandise Marks Act, and to allow the Government to go into a person's business and say: "In our opinion, the way in which you have finished this article, which was imported from abroad, is to give the impression that it is an English article, and not a foreign article. Therefore, we are going to insist that you shall put upon this article a statement showing where it came from." That will entail a considerable amount of expense for inspectors and other people. The taxation of the country is extremely heavy at the present time, and I should be against doing anything which would create more inspectors and more salaries, even if I thought it was going to do any good. I am speaking as a Protectionist. I have always been a Protectionist. Nobody can read from any book; certainly, if the President of the Board of Trade has a book, as had the Colonial Secretary yesterday, he cannot read anything to show that I have in any way changed my opinions. I hope I shall always remain a Protectionist. I do not think this Bill is the proper method to carry out what I believe to be the right policy, namely, a Protectionist policy. It seems to me that this Clause is only going to give rise to extra expense, and to do no good to anybody. Therefore, I agree with the remarks of the Opposition that, towards the middle of July, in a Session which, we understand, is going to close very shortly, it is presuming on the good nature of the House to bring in a Bill of this sort at such a late period. We have managed to get along without this Bill during the last few years, and we could get along without it for a little while longer. If the Bill is going to be passed, it will require very considerable amending in Committee. I am inclined to think it may be as well to leave Clause 1 out altogether. I have not had time to look at the Bill with care, but it appears that the other Clauses are devised with the intention of preventing fraud by people selling as a certain article something which is quite different. With that I thoroughly agree. I hope, however, that the President of the Board of Trade will not endeavour to force either the Committee which considers this Bill, nor the House on the Report stage, to accept Clause 1 unless he can give very good reasons for recommending its acceptance.
|Division No. 206.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Green, Albert (Derby)||Parker, James|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Pease, Rt, Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Perkins, Waiter Frank|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Greer, Sir Harry||Perring, William George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gregory, Holman||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Pratt, John William|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Preston, Sir W. R.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Reid, D. D.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Remer, J. R.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hamilton, Sir George C.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hills, Major John Waller||Rodger, A. K.|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Hohler, Gerald Fltzroy||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Brown, Brig. Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hood, Sir Joseph||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hopkins, John W. W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Koufton, John Plowright||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Seddon, J. A.|
|Campion, Lieut-Colonel W. R.||Jephcott, A. R.||Shaw, Hon. Alex (Kilmarnock)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Jesson, C.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Casey, T. W.||Jodreil, Neville Paul||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon Fredk. George||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Kennedy) Thomas||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Kidd, James||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sugden, W. H.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Lloyd, George Butler||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Thomson, Sir W Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Davidson, J. C. C.(Kernel Hempstead)||Lorden, John William||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lort-Williams, J.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camiachie)||Waddington. R.|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Macquisten, F. A.||Waring, Major Waiter|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Manville, Edward||Waterson, A. E.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mason, Robert||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Elveden, Viscount||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Evans, Ernest||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Murchison, C. K.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wise, Frederick|
|Forrest, Walter||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonei Francis E.||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||O'Grady, Captain James||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Gould, James C.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Dudley Ward.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothlan)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Grundy, T. W.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Myers, Thomas|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Halls, Walter||Parkinson. John Allen (Wigan)|
|Cairns, John||Hayward, Evan||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Cape. Thomas||Hirst, G. H.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Hogge, James Myles||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robertson. John|
|Foot, Isaac||Kenyon, Barnet||Sexton, James|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Lawson, John James||Spencer, George A.|
|Gillis, William||Lunn, William||Swan, J. E.|
|Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. O.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbrdge)|
|Tillett, Benjamin||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.||Wilson, James (Dudley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Major Entwistle and Mr. Ammon.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.