HC Deb 07 April 1910 vol 16 cc596-7
Viscount CASTLEREAGH (on behalf of Mr. Harry Seymour Foster)

asked whether there was any, and, if so, what, duty imposed in Ceylon on imported rice, the staple food of the coolies; what proportion such duty bore to the cost of the rice; whether the rice so imported came largely from India; and whether there was any, and, if so, what, duty imposed in Malta on imported wheat?

Colonel SEELY

The duty on rice imported into Ceylon, the greater part of which comes from India and Burmah, is 50 cents (i.e. 8d.) a hundredweight. The price of imported rice varies according to the state of the market. I understand that Rs.3.50 a bushel would be considered a fair price. The duty on wheat imported into Malta is 10s. per quarter.


May I ask why these very heavy duties are retained?

Colonel SEELY

Certain duties survived all the great Free Trade Ministers—Sir R. Peel, Sir M. Hicks-Beach, and others. Of course, we lead the way in Free Trade, and the rest of the world cannot be expected to follow at once.


Will the Government take early steps to abolish the duties and give practical effect for once to their Free Trade opinions?

Colonel SEELY

It is always our hope to reduce food duties.


Who is the authority to lay these taxes upon Malta?

Colonel SEELY

In the last resort, the Secretary of State, and—it comes to this— this House. In practice we endeavour to give some measure of Home Rule to the Crown Colonies, and to consult their convenience. But this matter has been going on since 1835, I think.


Do these prices vary in accordance with the duty?

Colonel SEELY

No doubt they do; they do everywhere.