HC Deb 30 July 1912 vol 41 cc1989-92

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


I wish to ask the Government in reference to this Bill, and I think the House is entitled to know, how far this Parliament can either confirm such legislation as this or initiate it. It has an exceedingly important bearing in this way. If a Tariff Reform ministry came into power, and if Protectionist legislation was introduced, the question would arise whether it would be lawful for this House to over-ride the wishes of the Isle of Man, which has no representative in this House. Under Tariff Reform and a Protectionist administration Lancashire would be in danger of ruin, and no doubt the larger part of the cotton employers would consider whether they could remove their industry to the Isle of Man, so as to escape the operations of a hostile government. I think they are entitled to know whether a Resolution by this House imposing duties could be made effective in the Isle of Man, or whether the Isle of Man would be left as a safe refuge to those who wished to proceed with their business without interference by amateur politicians, who do not understand the effect of their own proposals. Last year, when we were discussing the Insurance Act, I was anxious to submit an Amendment extending the operations of the Act to the Isle of Man, because the approved societies are established there as well as in this country, but I understood that as the Isle of Man had no representative in this House my Amendment was not considered in order. If that be a correct interpretation I cannot see how this Bill makes its appearance in Parliament, and I therefore appeal to the Government to explain the constitutional position as between this Parliament and the subordinate Parliament of the Isle of Man.


The academical question put by the hon. Member is exceedingly interesting, but the question is whether the Bill shall be read a second time. The point I wish to put is that this Bill proposes to make legal certain additional duties in the Isle of Man, but how is it that the duties to which these additions are made are not included in the Bill? If it is necessary for the Imperial Parliament to pass an Act to make legal the collection during the current year of certain additional duties it would certainly appear to be necessary to pass an Act making it the duty to collect the original imports, whatever they are. It certainly is a very curious form in which the Bill is now brought forward, and I think we are entitled to some explanation.


I need hardly point out that this is exactly similar to the Isle of Man (Customs) Act which has been passed by the House for the last few years. Under the law of 1887, the Resolution of the Tynwald, the three Houses in the Isle of Man, must be confirmed by the Imperial Parliament during the current Session of Parliament. If it is not so confirmed the Resolution falls to the ground; and if the House rejected this Bill they would cause chaos in the finances of the Isle of Man, which I am sure is not the desire of anyone in the House. The population of the Isle of Man is very law abiding and peaceable, and the Island is part of the Crown if not of the realm of England. In answer to ray hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), I may state that the Tynwald has complete liberty to impose what duties it pleases, and they make duties very nearly resembling the duties we impose in this country. The Tea Duty is the same, but I think the duties on beer and spirits are somewhat less than the duties in this country. The Isle of Man carries on its ordinary financial apparatus, including the necessities of modern social government, less the cost of collection which is paid to the Customs, £10,000, which is paid to the general resources of the Isle of Man. The only duties which are levied as annual duties are the duties covered by the Resolution of the Tynwald, and, therefore, they are the only duties which are required to be confirmed at the present moment by the Imperial Parliament.


The attitude of the Opposition with regard to the three proposals contained in this Bill is rather interesting in the passive obedience to the suggestion that this Bill should become law. The very first line in the Bill is that there shall be additional duties on tea. We had a most furious debate a few days ago against the regular duties on tea and a declaration that they were too high, and yet the Opposition, because I suppose there are no Tory or Liberal constituents in the Isle of Man and therefore no chance of doing a bit of tub-thumping on Tariff Reform lines, are going to accept a Bill which imposes additional tea duties on a certain section of the community merely because they do not happen to be a necessary part of the political propaganda of the Tory party. So far as I am concerned if there is anyone prepared to protest against these additional duties I will go into the Lobby with them, and I suppose we shall get all the friends opposite to assist us in opposing this measure. Then in this Bill there are spirit duties. We were told that the trade as a matter of fact in this country could not possibly survive under the duties which are regularly imposed by the Finance Act, and yet here is a proposal that there shall be additional duties in the case of this small community. Take also tobacco and how injurious it is supposed to be that the working men of the country should have to pay extra duty even though it was to find money for old age pensions, and yet this Bill includes higher duties on tobacco. As a matter of fact the -whole policy of the Tory party is involved in this Bill and I am sure we shall be very interested indeed to see what is the attitude of the party.