HC Deb 26 June 1916 vol 83 cc559-62

1. "That the following duties of Customs, imposed by Part I. of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, until the nrst day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen, shall continue to be charged until the first day of August, nineteen hundred and seventeen, that is to say:—

Duty Section of Act.
Increased Duty on Tea 1
Additional Duties on Dried Fruit 8
Additional Duties on Tobacco 9 (1)
Additional Duty on Motor Spirit 10(1)
New Import Duties 12"

I desire, Mr. Speaker, to ask your ruling on a point of Order with regard to this Resolution. Perhaps I may explain to my right hon. Friend opposite that I do not do so in any hostile spirit to the Resolution itself I am very glad to see it brought forward, and I do not intend to obstruct it in any way. But I desire to take your ruling on the point, whether the Resolution is in the form in which the House can pass it? We were unable to raise the point in Committee because the Resolution was not before us, and we had not time to consider the form of it. I take these two points, that while the words of the Resolution say "the following duties," no duties are afterwards specified, and in a matter of taxation it is important that, in Resolutions sanctioning it, the House should have the duties carefully stated. The second point is that the universal precedent in the House has been that there shall be a separate Resolution for each particular tax, whereas here we have tea, dried fruit, tobacco, and something else all combined in one Resolution. Carrying out that plan would make it extremely difficult for this House to amend them if it were so disposed, and it also makes it difficult for the House to follow the Resolution. There is this point which is worse still with regard to the fifth item in the Resolution. It says simply "new import duties." The Resolution says the following duties shall be carried on, and then it adds "new import duties," but it does not specify any duties, and it is extremely difficult for the House to know, for instance, that motor cars, or films, are included in these duties. I suggest it is a bad example of legislation by reference, which we certainly ought not to introduce in taxation Resolutions. It is opposed to the ancient forms and privileges of this House, and it is not in accordance with the principle and practice universally followed in this House, which is that we should have a separate Resolution for each duty, and that the precise nature of the tax should be stated therein. I hope you will see your way to ruling that the Resolution should not be brought up in the form it, has been.


I did not know the right hon. Gentleman was going to raise this point, and I have not been able to look it up, but my recollection is—and on this I ask your ruling—that never—certainly during the time I have been in Parliament—have several duties been introduced in one Resolution. As far as my recollection goes, there has always been a separate Resolution for each duty.


The right hon. Gentleman's recollection is faulty. I can give him at once two occasions on which that has occurred—on the 25th April, 1901, and the 11th May, 1909. In both of those cases a number of duties were combined in one Resolution, and, therefore, we have two clear precedents. I cannot now intervene. Both the right hon. Gentlemen should have intervened when the Motion was first put from the Chair in Committee if they wished to raise the point. The House has received the Resolution as agreed to in Committee, and it is impossible for mo to divide the Report which the House has made. The House has ordered the Resolution to be reported. I quite agree, speaking on the general subject, that it would be extremely undesirable to put into a Resolution a combined number of new duties, but I would point out that this does not contain any new duties they are all old duties.


Will you not consider that the House was placed in a very difficult position when the Resolution was read? We had not the terms of it in our hands. It may be said we ought to have been quick to follow it. I pointed out, however, I did not want to delay or obstruct it in any way. I do ask, in the interests of the most ancient and valuable privileges of this House, if it cannot be altered now, you will give us some assistance to prevent this practice being pursued in the future.


What is the "ancient and valuable privilege" to which the right hon. Gentleman refers? I have already pointed out what was done when the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Government.


No, no!


I beg pardon I thought it was so. But there are these two clear cases, perfectly clear cases, which are exactly on all-fours with this Resolution. While I quite agree that it would be exceedingly undesirable to introduce a Resolution into Committee which combined a number of new duties, I would point out that this Resolution does not do so. It simply continues some of the old existing duties which have been already imposed.

4.0 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


Would anyone be able to express their dissent from one of these taxes without voting against the whole block? I would respectfully point out that the Petrol Tax is an increased tax for new purposes.




That is another Resolution altogether.


I beg your pardon, Sir.


The hon. Member should remember that this is only a preliminary step, and that if he objects to continuing any one of these taxes on tea, dried fruit, or tobacco, or whatever it may be, really the best time is when it is proposed to insert that duty in the Bill. Then he gets a clear issue upon which he can raise the matter, and then it can be discussed and decided.

Question put, and agreed to.