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An Open Letter


An Open Letter TO THE BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH. TARIFF REFORM AND THE FOOD OF THE PEOPLE. My Lord Bishop,-I note with great satis- faction that ou are really much concerned lest Tariff Reform may after all mean an increase in the price of bi ead to the working man and his family, and that, because of this doubt in your mind, you want an assurance from Mr. Balfour that-this will not be the case. From your remarks you seem to hope for a favourable reply from him to that effect. But why apply to Mr. Balfour? Is his answer to an economic question like this of any more value than that of any other man of intelligence ? He cannot regulate the price of the markets. You ask for an assur- ance which it is quite impossible for him to give He may consent and bring into being a political act, but the economic results of that act are entirely beyond his powers of control, so he can give no such guarantees. You are quite as able to settle this question as any man. You have only to look at the facts of the case fairly and squarely in the face and there is but one conclusion you can come to, and that is that a duty of 2S. per quarter on the price of imported corn must increase the price of the workman's loaf. I venture to put before you why I have come to this conclusion. In the first place, we do not grow sufficient corn for our own consump- tion and are therefore compelled to buy from outside sources. Rouehlv speaking, we trrow about one quarter of our own requirements and import the other three-quarters. The Tariff Reform proposal is to put a duty of 2s. per quarter on imported corn. Mr. Wyndham says this is only a small duty and will not add one fraction to the price of bread, but his word evidently does not satisfy you. Mr. Chaplin another great authority, has not committed himself to the amount of duty but expects it will be a substantial one. He wants it to be a substaniial one because it will benefit his friends the farmers, that is to say, that he expects that home grown corn will advance in price by whatever duty is placed upon the imported corn. Mr. Yerburgh, M.P. for Chester, in a letter to the Times, June 22nd, 1903, says :—" That for all practical purposes a 2s. duty is of no use, that no duty under 10s. a quarter would have any appreciable effect in increasing the area of corn grown in this country." This view of the situation—this prospect of increased duty-is borne out by the report of the "Agriculture Committee of the Tariff Reform Commission which reads —" The average price of British wheat for igo6 has been 27s 9d, and the evidence we have received is to the effect that no considerable extension of wheat growing can take place unless the price is at least 40s. per quarter, and to restore the growth of wheat to any- thing like its old proportions a rise in price to 50s. per quarter would probably be required." That then is the Agricultural Tariff" Reform- ers" dream. This Committee also suggests in their report, vol. 3, par. 394. That the duty on flour shall be for a beginning—mark thai- Is. 3d. per cwt. or 3s. per sack. Given then,that these Tariff"Reformers" had their way, the grocer and the baker would have to pay at least 4s. per sack of flour more than at the present time. Now, as this would mean an additional cost to them of at least d. on every 41b. loaf, I want to know if the baker and the grocer is going to meet this increased cost, because Mr. Balfour has pledged his word that the price of bread shall not be increased Don't you think that in spite of any political pledge they would only be doing what was clearly within their rights to pass this increase on io the consumers, the purchas- er, the poor working man with iCi a week, whom you picture so pathetically, and have such a tender regard for Suppose a baker uses 50 sacks of flour in a week—and there are many who use this much and more-s, per sack extra means L I o extra cost. I am sure you would not wish to have the baker penalised to that extent merely to gratify the change of policy of one of the political parties in the State. Now, my Lord, it so happens that we have had in very recent times an object lesson which helps us to view this important matter with something like accuracy. In 1902, under Mr. Balfour's Government, Sir M. H. Beach (now Lord St Aldwyn) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he included in his Budget of that year a corn duty of is. per quarter for revenue purposes only he said. But luok at the sequel. The next year- 1903-N,lt-. Ritchie, who had succeeded Lord St. Aldwyn, repeated this duty, and in doing so said My right hon. friend, Mr. Chap- lin, says that the corn tax of is. per quarter has not increased the price of bread." But, he said, "that is an impossible thing to say. Undoubtedly the price of flour has increased to the amount of the tax, and a good deal ?tiore, and as a good many people make their own bread the cost of bread must have been increased. "-House of Commons, Apiil 23. 1903 Lord St. Aldwyn was speaking in Man- chester on November 5th, 1903, and in the course of his speech referred to this matter and said I thought that my Corn Duty last year was so small-is. per quarter-haif what Mr. Wyndham proposes, rememher- that it would rot increase the price of bread. I made a mi.,take I found that in not a few cases it had the effect of giving an excuse to the baker (hardly fair to the baker, I think' when he had to pay about -1-3 on every ion sacks of flour) to raise the price of bread, an1 therefore, I must confess that I believe that doubling that duty to 2s. and adding duties upon meat and dairy produce must increase the cost of food to the working classes." Now I submit that with that experience before him-the experience of his own Chan- cellors of the Exchequer and of the policy of his own Government I cannot see how Mr. Balfour can give you the pledge you ask of him. Mr. Balfour, the politician, may work around that fact whatsoever dialetical web he pleases, but Mr Balfour the man of affairs must admit that duties on corn and meat must raise the price to the consumer, be he working-man or not. Here is a circumstance which occurred under his own government, his own leader- ship for which he was responsible, and I submit that what was right in 1902--3, cannot be wrong in 1910. But let me quote what a German Economist has to say on this matter. Baron Rheiiibaben, says Germany could obtain far more revenue from beer, wine, brandy, and tobacco, if it were not that the necessaries of life,bi-e;Ad, meat, eggs, butter-iii fact evei-ything at-e niade so dear by the German duties," There is no ambiguity here, surely that is testimony of first-rate importance coming from a man and a country where tariffs are an accomplished fact, and not in the region of speculation and political expediency. To increase the price of the food of the people must fall particularly hard 011 those least able to hear it, and for the sake of the helpless ones, I do hope you will cast your influence, generous, and heart-felt as I believe it to be,011 the side of the poor.—Yours respectfully, Colwyn Bay, R. THOMSON. Nov. 17th, 1910.

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