Orders of the Day — Finance Bill. – in the House of Commons on 18th June 1935.
I hope the new Secretary of State for the Colonies will make a better case for retaining this Clause in the Bill than the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was able to make for retaining the previous Clause. The new Colonial Secretary and myself represent adjoining divisions, and I would like to congratulate him upon appearing for the first time on that bench in his new office. I do not know whether he will use the same kind of argument as was used by his predecessor in respect of the Budget Resolution on this matter. We were informed, when the Resolution was before the Committee, that the Clause embodied a great piece of Imperial policy and that the intention behind it was to give a preference to the oil-yielding products of the Colonial Empire against the oil-yielding products from the Far East. The previous Colonial Secretary never suggested that there was any production of soya beans that mattered in the British Empire, but he said that there were possibilities in that direction, and his avowed intention was to give a decided preference.
When we were discussing the preceding Clause I called attention to what I said were the vagaries of the Government, who do one thing at one time and a year or so afterwards do something which conflicts with it. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade smiles because I am repeating my previous argument. The inclusion of this Clause provides a clear illustration of the contradictions in Government policy. One of the intentions of the Government has been to help the farming community in this country, and they are subsidising various farm products in order to keep up the price of those products for which, otherwise, an economic price would not be obtainable. By this Clause the Government are pursuing a policy which will adversely affect the farmer by increasing his costs.
When the Resolution was before the Committee I listened with great interest to a speech in which an hon. Member argued that cattle feed made from the soya bean was far more nutritious, because of its chemical content, than cattle feed made from oil-yielding products of the Colonial Empire, and he was an expert on the matter. So far as I was able to judge, no other speaker in the Debate controverted that argument. If he were correct, it is obvious that if the British farmer is deprived of cattle feed made from the soya bean and has to use cattle feed made from palm kernels, ground nuts or oil extracted from other Colonial products, he will have to use more of that cattle feed to get the same result, and will have to pay more in the long run for the raw material with which to feed his cattle. That reveals a contradiction in Government policy in regard to the farming industry. Presumably the present proposals are intended to stimulate and benefit Colonial products from which oil can be obtained for the same purposes as oil produced from the soya bean, but with less nutritive value and less advantage to the parties concerned. At one and the same time the Government are increasing the farmer's costs and are subsidising him to enable him to get a better price for the products from his farm.
Other hon. Members will probably have something to say upon the subject as it affects their constituencies, so I will leave the employment side of it to them, and will content myself with calling attention to what I conceive to be the inherent contradictions in Government policy in many of the economic courses they pursue. We shall be doing the Government a kindness therefore, if we delete the Clause from the Bill.
I support this proposal for the same reason that I supported the proposal to leave out the previous Clause, namely, because of the effect of the Government's policy upon Liverpool and my own constituency, particularly from the point of view of employment. My fears are borne out by the fact that the employers and the employés are united in their opposition to the new duty. The Joint Industrial Council for the seed crushing and compound cake manufacturing industry in Liverpool has supplied certain information, which comes particularly from the employers' side, and the joint representations from both sides of the industry emphasise the point that many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, will lose their employment if this new duty is persisted in. The underlying suggestion of the Government's policy seems to be that the seed crushers ought to use more Empire produce, and by Empire produce I mean ground-nuts, palm kernels, and copra. But I would suggest very humbly, because I am not by any means an authority on the subject, that that shows abysmal ignorance of the trade. I say that because, in crushing, two products are produced—first, oil, and, secondly, cake or meal; and it follows that the crusher must be able to dispose of the two products in about the proportions in which they are produced.
I should like, if I may, to quote some figures from the statement given to me by the Joint Industrial Council to which I have already referred. Soya beans yield 16 per cent. of oil and 80 per cent. of meal; ground-nuts yield 43 per cent. of oil and 56 per cent. of cake; palm kernels, 45 per cent. of oil and 55 per cent. of cake; and copra, 63 per cent. of oil and 36 per cent. of cake. Therefore, assuming that the crushers were trying to substitute 170,000 tons of soya beans by 170,000 tons of ground-nuts, they would have to try to market 73,100 tons of oil and 95,200 tons of cake, instead of 27,200 tons of oil and 136,000 tons of meal. How can the crushers dispose of the extra 46,000 tons of oil on the top of the existing quantities. It is computed that, if the new duty is carried, United Kingdom crushers will lose 110,000 tons of crush, and there will be a shortage of meal amounting to about 100,000 tons, which would have to be made up by importing foreign cakes. It is pointed out that the price of feeding stuffs has already risen owing to the fact that the proposed duty has had to be taken into consideration. These are the points brought forward in representations by the employers' and the employés' side of this most important industry in Liverpool and in the country generally. I suggest with all deference that representations coming from such quarters might receive the consideration of the Minister.
May I also be permitted to offer my most sincere congratulations to the new Secretary of State for the Colonies on assuming his high office. At the same time, I should like to say how sorry I am that, on the first occasion on which I address him as Secretary of State, I shall have to oppose the policy adopted by his predecessor. The late Colonial Secretary, speaking on the Budget Resolutions with reference to soya beans, stressed the point that the Colonies had nearly all asked for this duty, and that it was being put on in the firm belief that the Colonial products, that is to say, ground-nuts, palm kernels, copra, and so on, were a real substitute for what was being produced in this country from the soya bean. When that Debate took place in the House, I think that many Members, and certainly I myself, had not had the time to go into the question as fully as we should have liked. During the Whitsuntide Recess I have spent a great deal of time studying this question from every angle. I have visited factories where crushing was taking place, I have been in communication with a number of farming and agricultural interests, and I find wherever I go that in no case is it admitted that the product of the soya bean is replaceable by the products from other nuts and kernels. The products from the Colonial nuts and kernels are of far lower protein value than that from the soya bean, and therefore they are used for different purposes. It goes without saying that I am a firm supporter of Empire preference, and would do nothing that would in any way damage Colonial development or Colonial enterprise, but from all my inquiries I find that the Colonies cannot produce the soya bean, and that what they produce cannot replace what is required by the farmers and is made from the soya bean. Therefore, I think there is much to be said for the retention of the import into this country of the low-priced soya bean.
With regard to the palm kernels which come from our Colonies, I find on inquiry that the amount we import is comparatively small, and that the sale for the cake and meal from these kernels is also small and a diminishing quantity. A few years ago we had a very large export trade in palm kernel cattle feed to Germany and Belgium, but that is now completely stopped. I find also that the oil from these kernels is what is called a hard oil, and cannot in any way take the place of the oil resulting from the crushing of the soya bean, which is a liquid oil and is used for a different purpose. With regard to ground-nuts, since the Ottawa Conference these have been made into cake to a very large extent in India, and India is sending to this country ready-made cattle cake and cattle meal in ever-increasing quantities. I find that between 1933–34 alone the increase was something like 100 per cent., and that means that less and less is made in this country. The oil that is produced from the ground nuts is of such enormous extent that an outlet cannot be found for it in this country. Something like 50 per cent. of oil is produced in the process of the manufacture of the cake or meal, but in the manufacture of meal from the soya bean there is only something like 15 per cent. of oil, and that can be easily disposed of. Therefore, it is obvious that ground nuts and palm kernels can in no way take the place of the soya bean, either with regard to the manufacture of the meal or the disposal of the oil.
I have also discovered from the farming industry that they require the soya bean for particular purposes at a particular time, that although they use the other cattle stuffs they have to have the soya bean for particular purposes. If the 10 per cent. duty on soya beans is confirmed, it will have the effect of putting up the price of soya cattle feed in this country and of encouraging the introduction of foreign made soya meal. We have had negotiations with the Board of Trade, and they recommend that we should apply for a, tariff on foreign im- ported cattle food made of soya beans. If we do that, it will put up the price of foreign-made soya meal, and the farmer will be doubly handicapped. The home-made soya cake will be increased in price and foreign-made soya cake will also be increased in price, and both will hit the farmer. We have therefore arrived at this situation. The Colonies want us to use palm kernels and ground nuts. As far as we know at present, they cannot produce soya beans in anything like commercial quantities. Although in this country we use palm kernels and ground nuts to a certain extent, we need the soya bean as well. All farmers will support that statement.
From inquiries I have made I cannot find anybody in this country who is in favour of this duty. I do not know who has been consulted, if anybody. I believe that possibly the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce might be in favour of this duty. I do not blame them for that at all. Liverpool is very highly interested in the West African trade and naturally they would like to see a greater import of colonial products into this country. The soya bean does not go to Liverpool to the same extent, and naturally, if they were consulted, they would be in favour of the duty. On the other hand, the other industries which are so much affected should also have a voice in the matter. The chief manufacturing town in this country for soya crushing is no doubt Hull, and I do not think that the Hull Chamber of Commerce has been consulted in this matter at all, and from inquiries that I have made I do not think that the farming industry has been consulted. Therefore, it is a little hard that this duty should be imposed after what seems to me to be insufficient inquiry.
I repeat that I would like to see the Colonies develop in every possible way. If they could only show that they can grow the soya bean and produce it in sufficient quantities and at a price that we can afford to pay, I should not be opposing this duty, but until such time arrives that the Colonies can produce the soya bean, it is a pity that we should impose a duty, the result of which will inevitably be to put restrictions upon a flourishing industry just at the very time when we are supposed to be doing better all round, when unemployment is going down and when everybody feels happy for the future. By all means let us con- sider the matter and say to the Colonies: "Go ahead, make your experiments, show us that you can grow soya beans; we want soya beans. As soon as you can tell us that you can produce soya beans at a price which we can pay compared with the price at which we can get them from foreign countries, and in the quantities that we require, we will do all we can to help you with the necessary tariff." In the meantime, I hope that the Government will seriously consider whether it is a good policy to impose a further burden upon one of our chief industries. I hope that the new Colonial Secretary will be able to give me some hope that between now and the further stages of this Bill he will give this matter consideration anew.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for the Wavertree Division of Liverpool (Mr. Cleary) speaking against this duty, which is designed to, and I believe will, greatly assist the trade of the dockers and sailors of Liverpool and the West African trade in general. He must know, coming from that City, which has been described as one of the distressed areas, that one of the causes of the distress is due to the loss of the West African trade.
I pointed out that I was speaking from a brief supplied by the Joint Industrial Council representing both sides of the seed crushing industry—employers and employed—in Liverpool.
I hope that it is well known in Liverpool that the hon. Member is speaking on behalf of the employers.
I as a Conservative Member—and I was born in Liverpool and lived there for many years—to-night speak on behalf of the dockers and the men whose living depends upon the trade between Liverpool and West Africa. The whole of the argument so far has been based upon the assertion that if you put on a 10 per cent. duty you thereby necessarily increase the price. The tariff policy of this Government has clearly shown that if there is an alternative supply of any article the person or the country supplying the product pays the duty.
That is borne out by the facts. When the soya bean was left on the free list, the price of the soya bean declined more than 10 per cent., but that decline in price was not reflected in a diminution of price to the consumer. As the price of the soya bean is now 10 per cent. less than it was formerly, the manufacturers of the soya bean meal cake can still supply the cake for the farming industry and pay the duty without increasing the price, if they so desire, because that margin still remains. Furthermore, the argument on the other side has been based upon the increase in price. I wish that that were so. My regret is that the duty has not been made considerably higher. The soya bean is grown in Manchukuo and is under the rule or oversight of Japan. It comes over in Japanese ships, and employment is given to Japanese or Chinese labour in growing the bean and in bringing it to this country. On the other hand, our own Colony of West Africa has been very badly hit. The removal of the duty on whale oil enabled the Norwegians still further to strike at one of our most loyal and, from the trade point of view, very valuable Colonies. Germany is not buying West African goods. France, whose colonial policy is far wiser than ours, brings its colonial products from its own colonies and keeps out as far as possible the products from our Empire.
West Africa is one of the greatest markets for the cotton industry, and in former years gave employment to many thousands of Lancashire cotton operatives, and also to dockers and British seamen who carry and handle West African trade with Liverpool. Because the commodity of the West African natives, the palm kernels, has been reduced in price by over one-third, the West African can only give one-third of the employment that he formerly gave to the people of this country. Therefore, the present policy of the Government is a first step towards that which some of us would like to see, namely, a Customs Union throughout the whole Empire. We recognise that we belong to one great family, and that West Africa and the other Colonies of the British Empire are very valuable markets for our goods. If we can increase this duty and keep out the soya bean we shall help employment in Liverpool and in Lancashire and do good to the British Empire. I hope that the time will come when the duty instead of being diminished will be increased more and more, with the result that our own Colonial Empire will benefit and therefore British trade, and particularly Lancashire trade, will benefit, because Lancashire trade depends upon the Colonial Empire, which this duty is designed to help.
I join in congratulations to my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I should like to ask him a few questions. In regard to tariffs, we must concern ourselves very closely with the diverse interests concerned. The hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) put the point of view of the dockers of Liverpool and painted a glowing picture of what might happen if West Africa were greatly developed and trade between West Africa and Liverpool were greatly developed. We have heard other points of view. The hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Brigadier-General Nation) spoke for the industries of Hull, and the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary) spoke for the industries of Liverpool. The questions that I would put to the right hon. Gentleman are connected with the industry of agriculture. Feeding stuffs and their cost play a very big part in agriculture, and everyone will agree that agriculture has been going through very bad times, particularly the livestock side of the industry. The beef producer, the cattle raiser, has been in a difficult position for several years. He has had to face very severe losses. Prices have fallen and at the present time the Government are assisting with a not inconsiderable subsidy, which is absolutely vital if the industry is not to sink into bankruptcy. Then there is the pig side of the industry. That is none too prosperous, and these particular feeding stuffs are used for pigs. We also know that the poultry side of the industry is in considerable difficulty.
I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he has satisfied himself that the alternative feeding stuffs which may be made from palm kernels from West Africa or ground-nuts from India are adequate and good substitutes for the soya bean. There is a certain amount of scientific evidence that the soya bean is a highly nutritious product. It contains a good deal of the protein necessary in all feeding stuffs. The hon. and gallant Member for Accrington stated that in spite of the lack of the duty on soya beans the price to the consumer, the stock-feeder, in whom I am interested, has not been reduced.
My point was that the import price of the soya bean has declined more than 10 per cent. since the question was first discussed, but the price to the consumer has not been reduced by 10 per cent., but has remained what it was. Therefore, by the imposition of the 10 per cent. duty the manufacturers have still that margin to play with without increasing the price.
That is a question which my right hon. Friend will perhaps be able to answer. It is a very important point to the cattle raiser, the pig-feeder and the egg producer who are the people I am endeavouring to represent this evening. If they do not get any advantage from the absence of the duty they naturally want to know why it is, and they will not take the same view that they otherwise would. It is of vital importance to the live-stock producers of this country that they should get feeding stuffs of the best quality and at the lowest possible price, consistent with fair profits and fair wages. That is all that we in agriculture ask. We do ask that we should get the very best feeding stuffs on that basis. It is not unreasonable; and I hope the Secretary of State will assure the agricultural industry that it will be at no disadvantage by the duty and the possible substitution of palm kernels and ground nuts for the soya bean. It will want some justification, because the soya bean is a very valuable feeding stuff and farmers are prepared to pay a rather higher price for cake made from it than for cake made from other materials. The imposition of this duty, from the point of view of agriculture, requires some justification.
I had not intended to intervene in the debate because I took part in the last discussion in the House on this subject, but, in view of the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Haslam), I should like to make it clear that the views he has expressed do not represent the unanimous opinion of agriculturists. As far as I am concerned, I would much rather support the views expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter). The manufacturers of the soya bean meal might have come down in their price during the last two years. There has been but a very small fall in the price to the agricultural consumer, and I do not think that the duty necessarily means any increase in the price to farmers who purchase soya bean meal. On the other hand, I consider that the West African trade is of great importance to Lancashire, and that the well-being and prosperity of Lancashire is of great importance to agriculture. Indeed, so far as agriculture is concerned, its future prosperity depends largely on a greater access of prosperity to our manufacturing districts.
I desire to oppose the Clause because there is a large mill in my division which will be seriously affected by this duty. I understand that at least 100 men will be dispensed with immediately it comes into effect, and, as in this particular case they deal with cargoes of soya beans running into thousands of tons, it is a pretty serious matter from their point of view. If they have to introduce another raw material, such as palm kernels, when the percentage of oil will be so much greater that it will produce far less cake, there will be a much bigger import of oil cake and the price may be anything. It will affect their manufactures to such an extent that they will have to dispense with a number of men, and, if that applies to a number of other mills, it is a serious matter from the point of view of employment. They are also somewhat doubtful as to whether they will be able to get soya beans from the colonies in time to be of much service to them in the next year. The duty, therefore, should be brought in gradually. Instead of 10 per cent., it should be considerably less until such time as the colonies can produce the soya bean in sufficient quantities. For these reasons, I support the Amendment.
In the first place, I must thank those hon. Members who have been good enough to commence their speeches with a few words of a kindly personal nature, and I should have been only too happy if I could have reciprocated the good will from the other side by saying that I have authority to accept the Amendment. I am afraid that I cannot do that. The effect of the Amendment would be to keep the soya bean on the free list and prevent us from levying a duty upon them as from 1st of August onwards. The reasons why we are anxious to make this change were fully stated, in a way which was greatly appreciated by hon. Members, by my predecessor in the full Debate which took place on the Resolution. To-day some of the arguments on the other side have been repeated, and I certainly would admit that the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Brigadier-General Nation) and others who have spoken on behalf of the crushing industry, have made out a certain case from their point of view. They have represented the case of a certain interest, an important interest, but I would urge that it is a smaller and narrower interest than the wider one which we are seeking to help by this Measure, that is, to stimulate and develop a branch of our Imperial trade.
But even from the point of view of the interests of the industry I do not believe that the case is nearly as strong as they make out. They urge that the result of the duty will be to prevent soya beans being brought into this country for crushing and that therefore large numbers of men will be thrown out of work in the crushing mills. In introducing this proposal, it is the purpose of the Government that the place of the soya bean should be taken by rival raw materials coming in from the Colonies, ground nuts and other substances, which, equally with the soya bean, will require crushing in this country, and which equally will require treatment and which will, therefore, employ additional men in the process. The employment which is lost on the soya bean should be made up on the ground nuts and other substances. Again, it is urged that the shipping which now brings the soya bean will be reduced in numbers, but the reply to that is that there will be an increase in the number of ships carrying other goods from the Colonies.
I thought I had made it clear that ground nuts and palm kernels cannot take the place of the soya bean for cattle feeding purposes, and that the shipping which will be required for the carrying of the cargoes of soya beans will be less on account of the smaller imports of soya beans because of the higher prices which will result if the duty is imposed.
Many of the authorities on that matter would beg to differ from the hon. and gallant Member. I am assured that the increased importation of palm kernels and ground nuts will fully satisfy the requirements of the farmers and users of cake in this country. That is a point with which I was going to deal later. I am only saying, in the first place, that from the point of view of the seed-crushing industry there ought not to be a reduction of employment, and that from the point of view of the dock labourers unloading the ships there ought not to be any reduction of employment either. I would add that, whereas I am told that soya beans coming from Manchukuo are carried to this country very largely in foreign ships, the ground nuts and palm kernels and copra and other substances which will take their place will be carried from the Colonies to this country in British ships. Therefore I urge that, from the point of view of our docks and shipping, the arguments in this matter are by no means all on one side of the case.
But, as I have said, we are seeking to serve a much wider interest. We are seeking to stimulate and develop a certain important branch of Imperial trade. Soya beans come in entirely from foreign sources. It is absolutely true that they do not compete with soya beans coming in from the Colonies, because the Colonies do not produce soya beans at the present time. But we are very much hoping, and we are encouraged to believe as a result of experiments, that this will stimulate production of soya beans in some of the Colonies. That is not our main purpose, however. Although soya beans from Manchukuo do not compete with soya beans from the Colonies, they do compete very effectively with palm kernels and ground- nuts and copra and other substances from the Colonies.
My hon. and gallant Friend has said that he made inquiries about the imports of palm kernels, and that he found that those imports were very little indeed and were steadily diminishing. That is absolutely true. It is the whole point of the policy of the Government in this matter. As a matter of fact the imports used to be very substantial indeed, and still are fairly substantial, but they are diminishing because of the competition of soya beans from Manchukuo. In 1919 317,000 tons of palm kernels were imported into this country. In 1934 that total of 317,000 tons had fallen to 134,000 tons.
But that was the year after the War. Has the right hon. Gentleman the figure for 1921?
I have very carefully studied the figures in order to get an average and fair figure. Other figures which were quoted on the previous occasion were for quite abnormal conditions and abnormal years.
I have not got the figure for 1921 here, because I have gone through the whole list of figures very carefully and have picked out those which are fair and representative of trade in the two periods, and I have rejected the figures for 1921 or other years which were not so representative as the figures that I am giving. I have said that there was that very great fall in the imports of palm kernels between 1919 and 1934, whereas in the same period imports of soya beans have increased from 62,000 tons to 178,000 tons. So that while one trade has been decreasing the other has been expanding at a very considerable rate. That explains the fact which my hon. and gallant Friend discovered, that this trade in palm kernels is becoming less and less important as the years go on. It is in order to encourage the Colonies to get back trade which they used to enjoy and which will so greatly benefit the constituents at any rate of neighbours of my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary) that we are anxious to put through this policy.
The Colonies where these commodities are produced have been suffering very severely from the effects of the depression of recent years. They used to be able to send these things into other overseas markets, but owing to the restrictive policy of foreign governments those markets have been lost, and the only great and reliable market overseas which is left to them is the United Kingdom market, and we are anxious to secure that market still more firmly for them as soon as possible. From that wider results will flow. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) spoke about the British farmer. I believe that the British farmer is going to benefit from this policy. If we can improve the prosperity of our Colonies they, being amongst our best customers for some industrial products, will purchase more of those industrial goods, the goods of Lancashire for instance. Lancashire sells nothing to Manchukuo, where the soya beans come from, but Lancashire sells a great deal to Nigeria and the other West African Colonies, to the Western Pacific Colonies, to Ceylon and so on, where ground nuts and palm kernels and copra are produced.
While the right hon. Gentleman is advocating that policy does be remember that representations were made to this House in regard to the palm kernels, and that that industry has entirely gone because of the question of whale oil?
Again this is going to lead to production of palm kernels as against competition from whale oil. My hon. Friend showed that he appreciated that in the speech which he delivered on the last occasion when this matter was debated, though he ceased to appreciate it by the time he walked into the Division Lobby. By encouraging the importation of palm kernels into this country and the extraction of oil from those things we are helping that industry against whale oil or vegetable oils coming into this country from foreign countries. I was in the middle of arguing that if we can help the Colonies, who are our good customers, and make them more prosperous so that they can buy more of our industrial goods, the farmer in this country in his turn is going to get some of the benefit, because his market is made up out of the purchasing power of workers in Lancashire and other industrial centres.
I would like to answer the question put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Haslam). He asked whether I had satisfied myself that the farmer would not suffer owing to this change by having to put up with an inferior quality of feeding stuff or by having to pay more for feeding stuff of the same quality. On the question of the nutritive value of soya cakes as against ground nut or other cakes, I believe that the experts as usual differ. They have differed this evening. On the last occasion on which the matter was discussed something like half the agricultural Members who spoke took one view, and the other half took the opposite view. I take the very highest authority on this matter, who is of course my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. I am bound to stand by what he says. It is a habit we have in the National Government. This is an example of two wings of the Government standing firmly together. But, in all seriousness, the Minister of Agriculture two or three years ago carried out a very careful investigation into this matter and came to the conclusion that the nutritive value of soya cake and that of ground nut cake are just about equal. There is no choice between the two—and when we particularly asked the Ministry of Agriculture last week whether they still held that view they confirmed it and said that they were quite ready to stand by their judgment.
Therefore, as one of the agricultural Members said on a previous occasion, it is a matter of price. When we look at the prices of these goods we see that the advantage is all on the side of the product from Colonial raw materials. The latest figures I have been able to get show that when soya cake was £6 13s. 9d., ground nut cake was £6 and palm kernel cake was £5 10s. In this case, therefore, by purchasing the Empire product the farmer can get as good quality at a less price. With regard to the suggestion that there is a much larger percentage of oil in these substances coming from the Colonies and that we might be faced with an enormous surplus of oil in this country, there is no reason at all why the oil extracted from these substances should not be used in substitution for the vegetable and whale oils coming into this country from foreign countries to-day—as they do in very large quantities. For those reasons, I am unable to ask the Committee to accept the Amendment, and I would ask them to resist it in the interests not only of people in this country engaged in industry and farming but also in the interests of the very depressed Colonies for whom we are trustees.
May I join with other Members in congratulating the Secretary of State on undertaking his high office. May I at the same time commiserate with him on having such an awful legacy handed to him, on the first time he addresses the House, by his predecessor in title. I understand that the case made by the Secretary of State is as follows: I am going to interfere with the free import of soya beans into this country in order that by so doing I can compel the people of this country to use palm kernels, or copra, or groundnuts which come from the Colonies. If that is his policy, let him be bold enough to say that in no circumstances shall soya beans be brought into this country. That would be a clear-cut policy which I could understand.
The soya bean is a peculiar product. It grows in one country and in one country only and that country is Manchukuo. Experiments have been made in trying to raise it in other parts of the world, but so far they have all been a complete failure. There is only one country where this article is produced, but the world as a whole is its market and England together with other countries is competing in the market for that product, of one country, which has certain special qualities. With the possible exception of France, soya beans are being introduced freely into every other country of the world to try to assist the farmer. Primarily, the soya bean is valuable as a cattle food. The soya bean only produces something like 16 per cent. of oil, but the rest of its content is very valuable as a cattle food. It contains more protein than any other kernel and has a special value for the farmer. As I understand it at the present moment, special machinery is used and special people are employed in crushing it. It may be sold as straight cake, but what is being done with it more nowadays is to use it with other seeds in forming the best mixture of all for the various pur- poses for which feeding stuffs are required. There is a special mixture for dairy cows, another for fat cattle, another for sheep and another for pigs. That mixture is essential to get the best cattle foods.
Can it be said in any way that a substitute can be found? The answer is in the negative. I do not know what authorities the Secretary of State has consulted, but I am perfectly certain that if he consults the trade and his agricultural experts he will find that there is no proper substitute for this soya bean. Yet the policy of this country at present is to make it more expensive to the farmer, while other countries will be importing it freely. The result is that we shall be in a worse position as regards feeding-stuffs even than we are at present—and at the present time we are importing over 500,000 tons of cake into this country every year. What is going to happen now is that the quantity produced in this country will be lessened rather than increased.
I could not follow one other argument used by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that already there is an encouragement to use the palm kernel or ground nut because the price of the cake made from the palm kernel or the ground nut is less than the price of cake made from the soya bean. Then why is it that the farmer asks for the soya bean cake? He is prepared to pay a higher price for it because he needs it—and now the policy is that he has got to pay more.
It is an extraordinary thing that while the Minister of Agriculture is doing his best to maintain this great industry on its feet, other Members of the Government are taking away from it all the time the benefits given, whether by trade agreements made by the Board of Trade with Denmark and Poland and other countries which allow foreign produce to compete with the farmers here, or in other ways. Now the Government are going to add to that policy by increasing the burden on the farmer by making him pay more for soya bean cake—an essential feeding-stuff for his cattle, sheep and pigs. For these reasons I think the Government have made a great mistake; and they are not going to help West Africa in the slightest degree. Fortunately I know something about West Africa. I suppose we are the biggest importers in the world of palm kernels and ground nuts from West Africa, and I do not see how West Africa is going to benefit in the slightest degree by shutting out this peculiar product which only grows in one part of the world and for which the rest of the world competes. For these reasons I oppose the Clause.
I agree with the last speaker in my misgivings about this tax so far as it concerns agriculture. But I particularly want to say that I entirely disagree with him in this statement that soya beans are only grown in Manchuria. That is untrue, because they are grown in England too. I myself have been growing them. When I realised that there was going to be a duty on the importation of foreign soya beans, I thought the best thing I could do would be to take advantage of that protection and grow them myself.
I wish to associate myself with the observations and also with the conclusions of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). Particularly, I should like to associate myself with his expression of pleasure at hearing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies address the Committee for the first time in that capacity and also with his expression of regret that the occasion should be the presentation of an argument which seems to be founded upon a fallacy. I had hoped that my right hon. Friend would have dealt with one or two of the questions which were addressed to his predecessor in a previous Debate upon this subject and to which on that occasion no answer was given. I am not altogether surprised that no answer was given because I do not believe there is any effective answer. The idea of helping the West African Colonies is one which must appeal to every Member of the Committee, and I believe that if a case were made out on that ground, there is nobody who would not be behind my right hon. Friend in this proposal. In point of fact, however, he is here wrestling with a difficulty which cannot be overcome by legislation. That is the physical difficulty involved in the difference in the proportions of oil and meal yielded by these two products which are being considered.
Soya beans produce a much larger quantity of meal than ground nuts, and ground nuts produce a larger quantity of oil. Those engaged in the crushing industry must be able to dispose of the meal and the oil in the proportions in which they are produced, and if we were to attempt to substitute the present crush of soya beans by a like amount of ground nuts, we should produce 46,000 tons of oil more than is produced at the present time. My right hon. Friend who dealt in passing with this point suggests that this oil might be used in substitution for some other product or dealt with in some other way, but I am assured that it could only be got rid of by depressing the price because the market is already satisfied. Therefore so far from helping West African producers and shippers, it could only injure them by depressing the price. But that is not the whole story. From the same operation there would result a shortage of something like 100,000 tons of meal. The substitution of the present import of soya beans by a like amount of ground nuts would lead to a surplus of oil and a shortage of meal to the extent indicated, and we may assume, whatever the substitute for that meal, that it would not be imported from the British Dominions. It seems to me that the whole proposal is based upon a fallacy and that this is a physical difficulty which cannot be overcome by legislation.
Can the hon. Member say how these problems were solved before the soya bean was introduced?
I am afraid that my knowledge of the history of this matter does not go back to those early times but my hon. Friend knows that the practice in every industry is bound to change. If you go back for 15 or 20 years you will probably find that the practice in the seed crushing industry was entirely different from what it is to-day and probably in another 10 or 20 years time it will be different from what it is at the present time. To talk about going back reminds me of the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) who asked about the importation for a particular year. Prior to the earlier discussion on this subject I made a careful study of the figures of the importation over a number of years. I notice that when this question is raised in Debate the year 1919 always seems to be chosen by speakers on the Government side. My right hon. Friend's predecessor took that year but by taking particular years, here and there, one can prove anything and where anything can be proved from figures we may also take that those figures prove nothing.
If we take the year 1910 we find that the importation of soya beans was 413,000 tons or greatly in excess of anything we have at the present time. I am assured by those who have made a careful and practical study of the matter that the importation from West Africa has not in fact suffered through the importation of the soya bean. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery asked why farmers should be prepared to pay 10s. a ton more for soya bean cake than for
other kinds of cake. I have sufficient esteem for the common sense of agriculturists to believe that they know their own business and that they would not pay 10s. a ton more for a particular product unless they knew they were getting value for their money. As I say, the idea behind this proposal is one which would naturally appeal to every Member of the Committee. We know that West Africa has suffered and is continuing to suffer although I understand that the situation is now beginning to improve. But if we support this proposal in the belief that it is going to help West Africa I submit that we are founding hopes upon a fallacy.
|Division No. 236.]||AYES.||[9.45 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Little, Graham., sir Ernest|
|Albery, Irving James||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Assheton, Ralph||Drewe, Cedric||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Elmley, Viscount||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Mabane, William|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. Sir Charles|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Fermoy, Lord||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Blindell, James||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Bassetlaw)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Ganzoni, Sir John||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gledhill, Gilbert||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Graves, Marjorie||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Grimston, R. V.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. sir B. Eyres|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. Ernest (Lelth)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hales, Harold K.||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Burnett, John George||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Munro, Patrick|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hanbury, Sir Cecil||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Harbord, Arthur||Peat, Charles U.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Penny, Sir George|
|Cassels, James Dale||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. Leslie||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hornby, Frank||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Cooke, Douglas||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jamleson, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Remer, John R.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Leigh, Sir John||Rickards, George William|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lewis, Oswald||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Cross, R. H.||Liddall, Walter S.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Ruggies-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward||Smithers, Sir Waldron||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Somervell, Sir Donald||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Spens, William Patrick||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Stevenson, James||Wells, Sidney Richard|
|Salt, Edward W.||Stones, James||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Selley, Harry R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Thompson, Sir Luke||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Thomson, Sir James D. W.||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Shute, Colonel Sir John||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Wragg, Herbert|
|Smites, Lieut.-Col. sir Walter D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Smith, Sir J. Walker (Barrow-in-F.)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Mr. James Stuart and Captain Hope.|
|Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R.||Harris, Sir Percy||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Banfield, John William||Holdsworth, Herbert||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Jenkins, Sir William||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Batey, Joseph||John, William||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Carver, Major William H.||Kirkwood, David||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cleary, J. J.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawton, John James||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Curry, A. C.||Leonard, William||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Daggar, George||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Logan, David Gilbert||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Dobble, William||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Edwards, Sir Charles||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||West, F. R.|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||White, Henry Graham|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Wilmot, John|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'. W.)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh. E.)|
|Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James||Mr. Paling and Mr. D. Graham.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.