HC Deb 18 July 1910 vol 19 cc954-6

Subject to the provisions of this Order and to any exemptions or rebates allowed by the Port of London Authority (in this Order referred to as "the Authority") under Section 13 of the Port of London Act, 1908, the Authority may demand and take in respect of all goods imported from parts beyond the seas or coastwise into the Port of London or exported to parts beyond the seas or coastwise from that Port port rates not exceeding the rates specified in the Schedule to this Order:

Provided that no port rates shall be charged by the Authority on fish caught in the open sea and brought in a fresh condition into the Port of London direct from the fishing grounds.


The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Pearce) and also in the name of the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. Morton) [to leave out the words "or exported to parts beyond the seas or coastwise from that port"] is out of order, because it proposes to take away the discretion of the Port Authority, given to it by Section 13 of the Act of 1908.


I move to add at the end of the paragraph the words, "or direct from the wharf where the fish has been landed for the sole purpose of sale, packing, and transhipment direct to London."

When this matter was before the House a strong opinion was expressed in all quarters with regard to the proposed tax upon fresh fish brought into London. It was pointed out that it was an entirely new tax, and so general was the opposition to it that in the Committee upstairs words were added providing that no port rate should be charged on fish caught in the open sea and brought in fresh condition into the Port of London direct from the fishing grounds. Those words will apply to a larger part of the fresh fish brought to London, but not to all. The opinion was strongly held that such fish should not be taxed, and I hope this Amendment will be accepted. A great deal of fish is caught in small boats and transferred to larger boats, which then come to London or to the ports where the fish is finally disposed of. The fish may be taken to Grimsby, Great Yarmouth, Penzance, or some other port, where it is transhipped into a steamer and sent to London. The objection to the original proposal was that it imposed a tax on the food of poor people, and when meat is at an extremely high price would be a very unfortunate time to impose a tax on fresh fish, as it would press more hardly upon the people than when meat was at a normal price. My point is that a considerable amount of fish is transferred from small ships to larger ships. It may be transferred over the side of the boats into the larger ship, or it may be landed or the wharf and put back into the other ship. The words in the Clause would probably cover fish transferred from the fishing boat into the steamer, but not fish landed on the wharf and afterwards put on the steamer. In order that the matter should be made quite clear, I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

9.0 P.M.


If the hon. Member attaches importance to the Amendment, why did he not put it on the Paper, so that I might have had an opportunity of considering it? It is quite impossible for me to say off-hand what its actual effect would be. Under these circumstances I do not think he can ask me to accept it. If he had given me longer notice I should have been very glad to consider it, and possibly to accept it, but that I cannot say definitely. I must ask the House to reject the Amendment on the sole ground for the moment that I have not had an opportunity of considering its bearings, and it would not be fair to the Port Authority to accept such an Amendment without consideration.


There is a great deal of force in what the President has said. At the same time, the Amendment appears to be a very reasonable one, and I would ask if the right hon. Gentleman could not promise to consider the Amendment, and, if he approves of it, have it accepted in another place?


I will certainly consider it, and if it is found to be in accordance with what the House of Commons agreed to I will accept it. That is on the understanding that my mind is an open one, and that I must consult the Port Authority. I will certainly consider the Amendment, and consider it as favourably as I can; but I must not be understood as giving a promise to accept it.


I understood that the Amendment had been handed in by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Sir Clifford Cory).


This question came before the Committee, and the evidence given was to the effect that fish caught in the open sea was brought to London direct from the fishing ground, and was not transhipped at other ports. If there had been evidence before the Committee on the point, I think we should have agreed to the principle suggested by the hon. Member, that all fish caught in the open sea and brought as fresh fish to London should be exempted from this provision.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.