§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 3. "That in lie of the Duty of Customs now chargeable upon Currants there shall, on and after the first day of May, one thousand eight hundred and ninety, be charged and paid upon Currants imported into Great Britain and Ireland the duty following (that is to say):—
§ *(3.50.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
Will the right hon. Gentleman now make some statement as to the time when the alteration must take effect? The currant trade is a season trade. I am informed that imports take place between September and December. So 1099 that large stocks are now held by grocers and others in this country, and, unless some drawback is allowed, the taking off of the duty at once will cause great disturbance to trade. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having made a very useful remission, especially to the poorer classes, but I would suggest that he should allow a drawback upon stocks if the change is enforced at once, or that he should postpone the remission until, say, September 1st.
§ *MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
I was about to make the same suggestion. I have received letters pointing out that the currant trade is entirely a season trade, and that postponement to the 1st of August would be a convenience to allow dealers to dispose of last season's stock. If the right hon. Gentleman will consult the trade, I am assured he will find that there is a general view in favour of fixing the date as August or September 1st., but I merely give utterance to the views of correspondents, and profess no know-edge on the subject.
§ *CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N.)
I also have received communications from Co-operative Societies, strongly urging that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make this concession to the requirements of the trade.
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, there is one question I should like to put. He has told us that, as a compensation for this large concession, Greece has agreed to make reductions in the import duties upon cotton yarns and other productions of this country. I would ask, has not Greece commercial treaties with other countries in which the "most favoured nation clause" is operative, and under which those nations will claim similar reductions, unless the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in making the bargain, has provided that the reductions of import duties by Greece shall be given exclusively to this Kingdom?
§ (3.35.) MR. GOSCHEN
I have received a large number of communications asking for further time before the remission of the duty on currants shall come into force, and, on the other hand, I have received remonstrances against delay. My answer must be as before, that I am making inquiries through the officers of Customs, and I hope to be in a posi- 1100 tion in a day or two to declare the decision for the Government. Of course; as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have no objection to the slightly-increased receipts which a postponement of the remission would afford, but my desire is to meet the views of all classes engaged in the trade. Of course a drawback is out of the question, it is only a question of postponing the date. As to the question of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Craig) no doubt Greece has "most favoured nation clauses" in her commercial treaties, but providing we get the advantage of the importation of our manufactures into Greece upon a reduced tariff, I presume the hon. Gentleman, as a Free Trader, would not claim that we should have the protection of Greece against the imports of other countries. That would be a fair condition to make if we reduced a duty we otherwise had no inclination to reduce, but we reduce the Currant Duty quite as much upon its own merits as on the desire of the producing country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is put under pressure to postpone the relief from the Currant Duty in the interest of the traders, but I think we have primarily to think of the interest of the public generally. I do not think it is of any advantage to the public to postpone the remission until August or September. I should imagine that the public desire to have their currants cheap at the earliest moment. I hope that will be taken into consideration, as well as the interest of traders. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must not think himself under any pressure from this side of the House to continue the duty longer than he thinks right.
§ *MR. HOYLE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)
Is it not the fact that between August and September the importations are small in amount?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, that is so. It is not a question of cheapening the cost to consumers; it is a question whether those traders who have their stocks should lose the amount of the duty they have paid, and it is their contention that this will not be affected by importations until September. A great deal depends upon the amount of stock necessary to keep in the trade. In the tea trade, be it remembered, the amount of stock is 1101 much smaller than in other trades. But I am examining the whole question.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL) (York, E.R., Holderness
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if the traders who have stocks in hand have it not in their power to keep up the price until they resume importations under the reduced duty?
§ Question put, and agreed to.