HC Deb 30 May 1916 vol 82 cc2668-71

1. The description "port" applied to wine the produce of Portugal, imported into the United Kingdom after the commencement of this Act, shall be deemed to be a false trade description within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, if the wine on importation into the United Kingdom was not accompanied by a certificate issued by the competent Portugese authorities to the effect that it was a wine to which by the law of Portugal the description "port" may be applied, and that Act shall have effect accordingly:

Provided that it shall be a good defence to any proceedings under that Act in respect of such a description as aforesaid if it is proved that the wine to which the description is applied is intended solely for exportaton from the United Kingdom.

(2) This provision is in addition to and not in derogation of any of the provisions contained in the principal Act.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


Last night I ventured to put various objections to the passing of this Bill, and my objections to this Bill, or rather what is involved, have been by no means removed. I think that it would be most unfortunate at this time if we took the course which we shall take if this Bill were passed in the present financial position. As my hon. Friend (Mr. Pretyman) knows perfectly well, I have not the least desire or intention of making myself a nuisance to the Government. But the points raised by this Bill are of international importance. One is under grave disability in discussing them. I do not think that we should discuss these international points in the Houe. If I felt myself at liberty to go fully into the case I am quite certain that I should be able to advance arguments which would make a very wide appeal to the Government. I think that my hon. Friend appreciates the force of that objection which I raised to this particular Bill last night. We have to look at what we are getting for the stipulation which we are making. I have seen no evidence that we are getting what we have a right to look for, and no evidence that the Government have made a systematic attempt to sum up in a concrete way what they actually do get. It simply provides for the ordinary most-favoured-nation treatment of the old type. My hon. Friend knows that the President of the Board of Trade made an important speech in January admitting the great disadvantages which have followed to the position of England from the old most-favoured-nation Clause. When we remember that in entering upon this course we bind ourselves to a certain line of action for ten years it is a very serious matter. If you can carry your mind back to the period before the War, I have no very strong objection to the Bill, but looking forward and taking existing conditions, and considering the significance that must necessarily be attached to immediate ratification of this Treaty, I take objection. I do not feel that we have had the satisfaction that we are entitled to look for from the Government on these different points. I feel very strongly that the points which I have urged ought to be reconsidered before we let this matter pass entirely out of our hands. I do not want to oppose the Committee stage of the Bill, but I would ask my hon. Friend to postpone the Report and Third Reading stages, and not to take those to-night. No one can imagine any harm being done—no trade is going on at the present time. A very important article which comes into this scheme is motor cars. Nobody is exporting motor cars from this country. Nobody is going to just now. In a great many other articles there is no trade at the moment. If my hon. Friend consents to the course which I suggest, it will give us time to go into the matter and see what the advantages are.

9.0 P.M.


I recognise the great authority with which my hon. Friend speaks on this question, to which he has given such great study. I feel I cannot resist the appeal which he has made, particularly as this Bill was only introduced and read a second time yesterday, and there really has not been time for the points which he desires to raise—and very properly raises—to be discussed freely in present conditions. But I think that I may just clear up one misapprehension. My hon. Friend suggested that the Treaty should not be ratified, but the Treaty has been ratified both here and in Porugal.


Does not this Bill say that it has not been ratified?


It has been ratified, subject to not coming into force until this Bill is passed. The last words of Clause 2 are that the Treaty shall come into force one month after the passing of the Bill.


This Bill states that the Treaty has not been ratified.


I have hot been personally engaged in these negotiations, but the information which I have is that the Treaty has been ratified in both countries, subject only to coming into force a month after the passing of this Bill. I do not think that the point is one of enormous importance, but that is the information given to me. The main advantage that we were to get under this Treaty was the most favoured nation treatment which we have not hitherto had. France, Italy, and the United States have all the most favoured nation treatment from Portugal which England has not had. Germany had it before the War. Our traders are very anxious to get it as soon as possible, and as far as Portugal is concerned the concession which we make in return which is contained in this Bill affects only one article—port wine—which is Portugal's chief export and as to which there is a very strong feeling in Portugal. In fact I understand that there was rioting with actual loss of life, very much on the same lines as occurred in the Champagne district, owing to the question whether a particular brand of wine was to be allowed to be exported under a certain name. Therefore, from the point of view of our traders, and from the point of view of the internal affairs of Portugal, it is very desirable that this Bill should pass. But I am entirely in my hon. Friend's hands, and if he is willing to take the responsibility of delaying this Bill until after the Recess—I do not say that it is a very heavy responsibility—I have no right whatever to insist upon taking the Third Reading now—there will be no Report stage if the Committee passes this Bill without amendment—and I will certainly defer the Third Reading stage until after the Recess. Meantime my hon. Friend will be able to satisfy himself as to the conditions of the Treaty.


I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend.


In the conditions in which the Committee is at present it is obviously impossible that my hon. Friend should be able to bring the support to bear which he would be able to do on an ordinary occasion. This Bill, which is really to ratify the confirmation of the Treaty, really goes very much further, and I regret very greatly that it is not considered advisable to discuss the bearings of this question. Parliament does not very often have an opportunity of considering treaties before they are settled, and this Treaty is practically launched forth into a concealed future. My hon. Friend was perfectly right in drawing attention to this matter, especially in view of the fact that we are about to engage with our Allies in dealing with a whole series of questions, and a Treaty with the Portuguese must be a question for consideration, if it prejudices the forthcoming conference. That is a reason which appeals very strongly to me, and therefore I am very gratified that the hon. Gentleman opposite has seen his way to meet the objection of my hon. Friend by postponing the discussion and consideration of the further stage.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time to-morrow (Wednesday).