1923 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto
Stanley Baldwin's Election Address
In submitting myself to you for re-election, I propose frankly to put before you the present
situation as I see it, and the measures which in the opinion of myself and my colleagues are
necessary adequately to deal with it.
- The unemployment and under-employment which our working people and our great
national industries are now facing for the fourth winter in succession, on a scale
unparalleled in our history, having created a problem which calls urgently for
a solution. Their indefinite continuance threatens to impair permanently the
trained skill and the independent spirit of our workers, to disorganise the whole
fabric of industry and credit, and, by eating away the sources of revenue, to
undermine the very foundations of our national and municipal life.
- In large measure this state of affairs is due to the political and economic
disorganisation of Europe consequent on the Great War. In accordance with the
policy affirmed by the Imperial Conference we shall continue to devote every
effort through the League of Nations and by every other practical means, to the
restoration of a true peace in Europe. But that at the best must take time. A
year ago Mr Bonar Law could still hope that a more settled condition of affairs
was in prospect, absence of any modification of fiscal policy, of the ultimate
necessity of which he himself was always convinced. Since the occupation of the
Ruhr it has become evident that we are confronted by a situation which, even if it
does not become worse, is not likely to be normal for years to come.
- The disorganisation and poverty of Europe, accompanied by broken exchanges
and by higher tariffs all the world over, have directly and indirectly narrowed
the whole field of our foreign trade. In our own home market the bounty given
to the importation of foreign goods by depreciated currencies, and by the reduced
standard of living in many European countries, has exposed us to a competition
which is essentially unfair and is paralysing enterprise and initiative. It is
under such conditions that we have to find work for a population which, largely
owing to the cessation during the war period of the normal flow of migration to
the Dominions, has in the last census period increased by over a million and
three quarter souls.
- No Government with any sense of responsibility could continue to sit with
tied hands watching the unequal struggle of our industries or content itself
with palliatives which, valuable as they are to mitigate the hardship to
individuals, must inevitably add to the burden of rates and taxes and thereby still
further weaken our whole economic structure. Drastic measures have become
necessary for dealing with present conditions as long as they continue.
- The present Government hold themselves pledged by Mr Bonar Law not to make
any fundamental change in the fiscal system of the country without consulting the
electorate. Convinced, as I am, that only by such a change can a remedy be
found, and that no partial measures such as the extension of the Safeguarding
of Industries Act, can meet the situation, I am in honour bound to ask the
people to release us from this pledge without further prejudicing the situation
by any delay. That is the reason, and the only reason, which has made this
- What we propose to do for the assistance of employment in industry, if
the nation approves, is to impose duties on imported manufactured goods, with
the following objects:-
- to raise revenue by methods less unfair to our own home production
which at present bears the whole burden of local and national taxation,
including the cost of relieving unemployment.
- to give special assistance to industries which are suffering under
unfair foreign competition;
- to utilise these duties in order to negotiate for a reduction of
foreign tariffs in those directions which would most benefit our export
- to give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our
duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle
of mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of
our trade, and the development, in co-operation with the other Governments
of the Empire, of the boundless resources of our common heritage.
- Such a policy will defend our industries during the present emergency and
will enable us, as more normal conditions return, to work effectively to secure
a greater measure of real Free Trade both within the Empire and with foreign
countries. Trade which is subject to the arbitrary interference of every foreign
tariff, and at the mercy of every disturbance arising from the distractions of
Europe, is in no sense free, and is certainly not fair to our own people.
- It is not our intention, in any circumstances, to impose any duties on wheat,
flour, oats, meat (including bacon and ham), cheese, butter or eggs.
- While assisting the manufacturing industries of the country we propose also to
give a direct measure of support to agriculture. Agriculture is not only, in itself,
the greatest and most important of our national industries, but is of especial
value as supplying the most stable and essentially complementary home market for
- We propose to afford this assistance by a bounty of £1 an acre on all
holdings of arable land exceeding one acre. The main object of that bounty is to
maintain employment on the land and so keep up the wages of agricultural labour.
In order to make sure of this we shall decline to pay the bounty to any employer
who pays less than 30/- a week to an able-bodied labourer.
- The exclusion from any import duties of the essential foodstuffs which I
have mentioned, as well as of raw materials, undoubtedly imposes a certain
limitation upon the fullest extension of Imperial Preference. But even the
preferences agreed to at the recent Economic Conference within our existing
fiscal system, have been acknowledged as of the greatest value by the Dominion
representatives, and our present proposals will offer a much wider field, the value
of which will be progressively enhanced by the increasing range and variety
of Empire production.
- Moreover in the field of Empire development, as well as in that of home
agriculture, we are not confined to the assistance furnished by duties. We have
already given an earnest of our desire to promote a better distribution of the
population of the Empire through the Empire Settlement Act, and at the Economic
Conference we have undertaken to co-operate effectively with the Government
of any part of the Empire in schemes of economic development. More especially
do we intend to devote our attention to the development of cottom growing
within the Empire, in order to keep down the cost of a raw material essential to
our greatest exporting industry.
- These measures constitute a single comprehensive and inter-dependent policy.
Without additional revenue we cannot assist agriculture at home, but the income
derived from the tariff will provide for this and leave us with means which
can be devoted to cotton growing and other development in the Empire, and to the
reduction of the duties on tea and sugar which fall so directly upon the working
- For the present emergency, and pending the introduction of our more extended
proposals, we are making, and shall continue to make, every effort to increase
the volume of work for our people. The Government are spending very large sums
on every measure of emergency relief that can help in this direction. Further,
the local Authorities of all kinds throughout the country, and great individual
enterprises, such as the railways, with the assistance of the Government, or on its
invitation, are co-operating wholeheartedly in the national endeavour to increase
the volume of employment. This great combined effort of the Government, of
the Local Authorities, and of individual enterprises, represents an expenditure of
no less than £100 millions sterling.
- The position of shipbuilding, one of the hardest hit of all our industries,
is peculiar. It can only recover as shipping revives with the development of
Empire and foreign trade which we believe will follow from our measures. We
propose in the meantime to give it special assistance by accelerating the
programme of light cruiser construction which will in any case become necessary in
the near future. We are informed by our Naval advisers that some light cruisers
will be required during the next few years in replacement of the County class,
as well as a variety of smaller and auxiliary craft, and we intend that a
substantial proportion of these shall be laid down as soon as the designs are
ready and Parliamentary sanction secured.
- The solution of the unemployment problem is the key to every necessary social
reform. But I should like to repeat my convictino that we should aim aim at
the reorganisatino of our various schemes of insurance against old age,
ill-health and unemployment. More particularly should we devote our attention
to investigating the possibilities of getting rid of the inconsistencies and the
discouragement of thrift at present associated with the working of the Old Age
Pensions Act. The encouragement of thrift and independence must be the underlying
principle of all our social reforms.