§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the practice of the English proof houses, both in Birmingham and in London, of proof marking foreign-made barrels and firearms with the same proof marks as those put upon British made barrels and firearms; and to the fact that this practice is taken advantage of by importers and Continental makers to send their goods to the English proof houses instead of to the proof houses in the countries of origin for the purpose of obtaining English proof marks and thereby passing off the goods so marked as of British make; and, if so, what steps do His Majesty s Government propose to take to prevent the deception.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The question raised by my right hon. friend is one of considerable difficulty. A conference representing the various branches of the trade was recently held under the 996 presidency of my hon. friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to consider whether a remedy for the grievance referred to should be provided by a change in the regulations applying to British proof houses. No agreement, however, was reached, and the proposed new rule was ultimately withdrawn. I am afraid I cannot promise any further action at present.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
Arising out of that Question, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that there are two branches. The one branch, which is in favour of the present state of things, is composed of gun dealers, who do not care where the guns are made; the other is composed of working men who suffer from the competition.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of guns and barrels used by the Government themselves are made abroad?