HC Deb 18 June 1901 vol 95 cc712-3
MR. M'KENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)

I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the difficulty which has arisen in construing the Customs House rules in relation to the coal duty, he can state if it has been definitely determined upon whom the liability to pay coal duty rests in the case where the seller has sold coal free on board at a British port, and the purchaser has resold the coal for delivery, cost, freight, and insurance at a foreign port; also, in the case in which the first seller has sold the coal free on board at a British port and the purchaser has resold the coal to a second purchaser free on board at the same or another British port, and this purchaser has in turn resold the coal for delivery c.i.f. at a foreign port; whether a uniform practice with regard to charging the liability to pay coal duty in the cases named has been adopted at the Customs Offices at all British ports; and whether, in the event of there existing such a uniform practice, he can state what it is for the information of those engaged in the export coal trade.

MR. CHARLES M'ARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)

was about to put a question on a cognate subject, but was ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker.


Under Section 139 of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876, and by analogy with the provisions of that Act respecting the importation of dutiable goods and the exportation of drawback goods, the exporter of the coal free on board must pass the entry for it and pay, or give bond for, the export duty. The exporter need not do this in person, but may employ for the purpose any agent he likes, be it the middleman to whom he has sold the coal or anyone else. Whom he employs is a matter for arrangement between vendor and vendee, not for the decision of the Customs. It is immaterial, from the point of view of the Customs, how often coal once placed free on board changes ownership before it leaves this country, or before it is landed in another. The person responsible for placing the coal free on board is also responsible for passing the entry and paying the duty at the time of its being so placed free on board. The difficulty to which the hon. Member refers has arisen, not between the Customs and exporters of coal, but between vendors and vendees or their agents.

MR. RENWICK (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now prepared to make any statement of the intention of the Government to reduce the export upon small coal to 6d. per ton.

MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydfil)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, having regard to the fact that very strong opposition has been expressed by patent fuel manufacturers, and also that notice of Amendments has been given on the Committee stage of the Bill, he will defer coming to any decision until he has heard all the pros and cons of the question.


That is exactly my position. I have no statement to make on this subject, except that the report, which I understand appeared in the press, to the effect that I intended to propose the reduction suggested, is quite inaccurate. All I have ever said was that if the trade asked me for such a reduction and proposed a reasonable and workable definition of small coal, I would consider it; but I see great difficulty in arriving at such a definition.