§ MR. LAFONE (Southwark, Bermondsey)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether it is a fact that the French Government have, within the last few days, determined that no more English leather shall be used in the manufacture of their Army accoutrements as heretofore, and have also deter mined to compensate their contractors by an extra payment to cover the advanced price they will have to pay from being obliged to use only French tanned leather; and, whether the French Government also propose to introduce fur ther taxation on all British leather with the object of preventing its importation; and, if so—as such action has entailed and will bring a further heavy loss upon the tanning trade of this country—the Government will be prepared to consider the advisability of placing such taxes upon the large importations to this country of French tanned leather as may, by preventing its import and so closing a large trade to France, induce the French Government to re-consider their action, and agree to a mutual free trade in leather between the two countries?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
The tendency of the War Department in France, no doubt, 1396 is to insist in all contracts on the use of French as against all foreign leathers; but Her Majesty's Government has no information as to the alleged compensation to French contractors to cover the advanced price they would have to pay if hereafter obliged to use only French tanned leather. No proposal has been made with regard to an increase of duties on British or any other foreign leather. The duties on leather imported into France are fixed by Treaty stipulations, of which Great Britain enjoys the advantages as long as the law of February 27, 1882, remains in force, and no change is believed to be in contemplation. There is, doubtless, a desire on the part of the French Government and Legislature to employ and encourage native industries; but for Her Majesty's Government to propose to retaliate by placing protective duties on French, manufactured goods would be opposed to the fiscal policy which for many years has been adopted in this country.
MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOE (Donegal, E.)
asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman would ascertain if it was not a fact that a firm which had supplied Her Majesty's Government with leather, some of which was now in the Saddlery Department at Woolwich, had had its leather rejected by the French Government on account of its bad quality?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
That is a Question which ought to be addressed to the Secretary of State for War.