§ The following duties of Customs, imposed by Part I. of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, shall continue to be charged, levied, and, paid 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|
§ —[Mr. McKenna.]
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ Mr. LOUGH
I wish to ask you, Sir, on a point of Order, whether this Clause is in proper form. I called attention to the matter on the Second Beading, and I do not think the question was decided by Mr. Speaker yesterday. I submit that we are not bound in the Clause of the Bill to follow the form adopted in the Resolution, which is only an empowering Resolution, and the Clause in the Bill ought to be in the proper and usual form settled by precedent in this House. The answer of 771 Mr. Speaker, yesterday, was that the objection to the form of the Clause should have been raised in Committee. Now that the Clause is before us, I desire to ask, Sir, whether you think these Clauses are in the usual form sanctioned by long Parliamentary usage. We are accustomed to seeing in the Clause what the actual duty is, whether it is the Tea Duty, the Tobacco Duty, or other duty, the duties being actually set out in the Clause. But this Clause says, "the following duties," and when one looks one sees no duties mentioned; it is legislation by reference carried to an extreme. I ask you, Sir, whether the Clause is in order, and whether it should not be brought up in accordance with precedents?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, on which this Clause is founded, was submitted to me by the Government before it was brought before the Committee, and I then satisfied myself that it was in a form according to precedents. I therefore put it to the Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman, who has a critical eye, did not put to me a point of Order. I think the precedents show that this form of Clause is not new. If it had been proposed in the originating Resolution in the Committee of Ways and Means to bring in new taxes of widely different character in a single Resolution, I should have deemed it my duty to refuse; but here it is the case of a renewal of duties already existing, and there are two distinct precedents for the present procedure. Therefore, I see no I reason for departing from the course I have taken.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
Is not this Clause of great advantage to traders? I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was very anxious to extend the duties upon tea and sugar and other simple articles of food until next year, and not to bring in another Budget. Now this Clause simply declares these duties, which are enumerated as we all know in a former Act and do exist and will continue to exist until the 1st August, 1917. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) would have been in favour of that, because he objected to these Budgets being brought in so often; I should have thought that he would be delighted with this proposal. If he were to insist that we were to have here the whole of these Sections in the former Act of Parliament it would simply be duplicating work.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LOUGH
In regard to the procedure I desire to make a few observations. My hon. Friend has really misunderstood the point of my objection to this Clause. I do take the most serious objection to it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that I do not object in any way this year to the renewal of any of these duties, and I am indebted to him for the way he has done it, thus saving the country from another Budget this year. I am entirely in favour of that course. That ought not to blind the eyes of the Committee to an innovation which might be followed hereafter to the great prejudice of the proceedings of Parliament. My hon. Friend spoke as if everybody knew what the duties are. I doubt if he knows all the duties.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am thinking of the unhappy consumer, on whose back these burdens will fall, and I think it should be made clear and plain to those consumers as to the amount of any duty or tax they have to pay. This procedure conceals the amount of the tax and wraps up a number of taxes together. For instance, there are new Import Duties, but we do not know upon what articles they are, or the amount. We have not been able to ask questions or even to propose to amend the proposals in the way in which many Members might be inclined to do. On this occasion we do not suffer much by the innovation, I admit, because, as 773 everybody knows, we are in the stress of a great war, and we are all anxious to help in getting the money.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really ought to intervene to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I did satisfy myself carefully that it would be open to any hon. Member who wished to do so to move an Amendment on any specific point. I should not allow a proposal from the Government with regard to taxation to pass my eye in a way which would debar Members, if they chose, from moving Amendments.
§ The CHAIRMAN
No; but I thought it was desirable in the interests of the Committee that my view should be on record.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I will go the length of saying that very well instructed lawyers, some of whom I see about me, would not have been able to devise how Amendments might have been proposed. My objection is far wider than that. I say that these taxes ought to be made so simple that the wayfaring man, though a fool, could not err with regard to them. Everybody should be made to realise what it was he was paying as extra taxation, and thus the horrors of war would be very usefully brought home to him. All that information is concealed, and very closely concealed, in this Clause. I spoke to one of my right hon. Friends who asked me what is the additional duty. I said there is no additional duty now. We used the words "additional duty" last September, and because we used those words then we repeat them to-day. I do think a protest ought to be made against this procedure, and that it would be in the interests of the country for other hon. Members to support that protest, and to ask that we should follow our old custom by which we would know in the Clause the nature of every tax which was being imposed. I agree with the course that the Chancellor has adopted in avoiding another Budget, and I think that that is a course of which hon, Members generally approve.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I desire to put a question. When this Bill was introduced these Clauses of course were not down, as it was understood to be the intention of the Government to deal with these matters in another Finance Bill, which was to come on some time later in the Session. 774 I have no objection at all to these matters being dealt with now, but in the new Finance Bill, which these Clauses obviate, it was contemplated that the Chancellor would consider the question of other taxes. When he was dealing with the tax on table waters, the Financial Secretary met a deputation of the trade and arrived at a decision in which the trade concurred, on the understanding that if the taxation, or the method of collection, which the Financial Secretary admitted was quite experimental, proved not to be satisfactory, that in the new Finance Bill he would put the matter right. Now that a new Finance Bill is obviated, I would ask the Chancellor to tell me what about that offer. If the Government are satisfied that the tax and its methods of collection is not satisfactory, will they, now that there is not to-be a new Finance Bill, alter the conditions by some Bill ad hoc? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that in the event of such a decision it would be unfair to deprive those concerned of the opportunity of securing alteration.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is only a question of dates. It was originally intended to introduce a third Finance Bill, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) knows. He strongly objected to such a proposal and desired us to introduce these Clauses in this Bill to avoid a third Finance Bill. We thought we would have been able to get this Bill at an earlier stage, which would have left ample time to introduce a third Finance Bill-before the end of July. We now find that the Committee and Report stages of this Bill will take us so far into July that it is not worth while to introduce a third Bill, and we will do in this Bill all that we promised to do in the third Bill. My hon. Friend will have a full opportunity on the Report stage to introduce any Amending Clause which he thinks desirable in the interests of the trade to which he has referred.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I think if the right hon. Gentleman consults his advisers, they will tell him that between now and the Report stage of this Bill they would not be ready to deal with these matters; and the Financial Secretary expressly stated that it would be impossible for him to deal with them in this Bill. What I am asking is this: If at the time when he would have introduced a third Finance Bill he is then satisfied that some change needs to be made in regard to this tax, he will deal with it at that time by some measure 775 ad hoc. It would be quite unfair to have arranged with the trade that in a proposed Finance Bill he would deal with difficulties if he were satisfied that they existed and that the trade at that time, if he were so satisfied, should be deprived of the benefit of the change. The Chancellor would be the judge as to whether any measure ad hoc was necessary. I think a pledge was given on this subject, and I am sure if the Chancellor looks into it between now and Report he will be prepared to carry it out.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Any pledge will be fulfilled up to the hilt. I do not know anything of any pledge. The hon. Gentleman says it was given by the Financial Secretary. Any pledge given by him will be kept.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
That pledge cannot be as it was to deal with the matter, if necessary, in the third Finance Bill, but these Clauses have been introduced to avoid the necessity for that Bill.
§ Sir J. JARDINE
I would like to support the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lough) in what he has said about the procedure. I think that this mode of procedure of introducing a Clause with so much reference to something in other Acts has seldom been used in taxation matter. The precedents for this procedure are, I think, few, and it is a procedure which strikes me as very inconvenient for Members of the House who might wish to move Amendments. I think those who pay duty on tea, tobacco, and other articles have the right to know exactly what it is they are paying. It may, of course, be said that this is done in stress of war, and that it is difficult to deal with these questions specifically. I do not think, however, that that is sufficient excuse.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.