HC Deb 06 May 1889 vol 335 cc1223-5
MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, having regard to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Gold and Silver with respect to the abolition of the duties upon gold and silver plate, and the injurious effects of those duties upon the several trades connected with this branch of British industry, the Government will under- take, at the earliest opportunity, to abolish those duties; whether he will. explain to the House the exact position of the question of drawback in relation thereto; how much is demanded by the trade; what precedents there are for the quantity of drawbacks in the case of other goods, such as paper, bricks, glass, &c., when relieved from taxation; and whether he is aware that a sum of about £50,000, or equal to one year's duty, would satisfy the claims of manufacturers of and dealers in silver plate, and that no drawback can be claimed on gold goods, seeing that the duty is almost entirely derived from wedding rings?


The hon. Member's question deals with two distinct subjects—the duty on gold plate and the duty on silver plate. The Royal Commission on Gold and Silver did not touch on the gold plate duty at all. It only recommended the repeal of the duty on silver plate, and based its recommendation on the interest, not of the home industries, but of India. I cannot accept any proposal for the repeal of the gold plate duty, but I may say at once that I should be glad to see my way to abolishing the silver plate duty. I have, how. ever, already explained to the House that the state of the revenue would not justify my taking any steps in this direction at present, and I can give no pledge on the subject. On the question of drawback, in the event of the abolition of the duty, no definite understanding exists between the Government and the trade, and no demand has been formulated by the trade in general on the subject. The precedents quoted by the hon. Member show that similar drawbacks in the past cost the country a very considerable sum. I should be very glad to learn that £50,000 would satisfy the silver plate trade. No drawback could be claimed on any articles, whether of gold or silver, if they were unstamped.


also asked the right hon. Gentleman whether, having in view the Paris Exhibition, and with the object of placing the manufacturers of gold and silver wares of the United Kingdom upon equal terms of competition with their foreign rivals, he will so far relax the laws relating to the duties on gold and silver plate, and the compulsory hall-marking of gold and silver wares, as to permit manufacturers of the United Kingdom to execute foreign orders of any quality to suit foreign markets, without payment of duty, and free from the obligation of assay, upon notice being given to one of the Assay Offices; goods so manufactured to be exported under the official seal of such Assay Office, under the simple declaration of "hard ware," in conformity with the practice prevailing in France in the case of goods exported, either of a quality below that allowed by law for home use, or not required to be hall-marked in France?


I should not be prepared to make so great a change as the hon. Gentleman proposes without a strong and general expression of opinion in its favour on the part of the trade. I do not say that even if such an opinion were expressed it could be done, but in any case I am not prepared to take steps in the absence of such opinion.