HC Deb 11 November 1920 vol 134 cc1362-5
45. Mr. DOYLE

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a prospectus issued by the British Dyestuffs Corporation, Limited, of 18th July, 1919, contained Government guarantees protecting the British dye industry for a period of years; what was the nature of such guarantees; whether the prospectus also contained a proclamation of the Government in regard to the dye industry; whether this proclamation is still in force; if not, why it has been repealed; whether the industry is now subjected to unrestricted foreign competition in regard to which imports show a progressive increase; and whether shareholders of the British Dyestuffs Corporation, Limited, will receive compensation for losses sustained if, and as the terms of the prospectus are not or cannot be carried out or, in the alternative, an agreed and non-contentious Bill will be introduced to ratify the solemn engagements entered into by the Government?


The prospectus issued by the British Dyestuffs Corporation in July, 1919, quoted a statement made by the President of the Board of Trade in this House on 15th May, 1918, to the effect that the importation of foreign dyestuffs would be controlled by a system of licences for a period of not less than ten years after the War, and stated that effect had been given to this guarantee by a Proclamation dated 24th February, 1919, prohibiting the import of dyestuffs except under licence. This Proclamation, however, in common with others purporting to be made under Section 43 of the Customs Consolidated Act, 1876, was rendered void by the decision of Mr. Justice Sankey in December, 1919, in the case of the Attorney-General v. Brown. There is therefore at present no restriction on the import of dyestuffs, and the importation has increased in the course of the present year. The Government, however, fully recognises its obligations in this matter, and it is our intention to introduce legislation dealing with the subject at the earliest possible moment.


In view of the national and military importance of this industry, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will not reconsider his decision in regard to the introduction of an agreed, non-contentious measure?


Well, if my hon. Friend could give a guarantee, after consulting the various sections of the House, that such a measure will be non-contentious, that might alter the view of the Government.


Will the right hon. Gentleman also kindly remember that the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire are dependent upon having dyes at a reasonable price to carry on their business?


Will the legislation be introduced during this Session?


My hon. Friend has already had an indication of the differences that will arise at the moment the Bill is introduced. I am afraid that it would be rather too sanguine if we anticipated the measure would be a non-contentious one; that is why it is quite impossible for me, between now and the Christmas Adjournment, to guarantee the introduction of a measure of this kind.


Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly give some indication of what now is, or is to be, the position of the shareholders who subscribed the money to these concerns?


Are not these dwindling quantities?

Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

Is it not the fact that the Government has an overwhelming majority, and rather than see thousands of men thrown out of employment in this country in the coming winter could we not sit on Saturdays and carry this legislation?


I do not think Saturday sittings would quite achieve the object the hon. and gallant Gentleman has in view. We propose to deal with this matter at the earliest possible moment next Session, but it would be a mistake to give an undertaking which I do not believe could be carried out to deal with this matter in the present Session.


Seeing the time is so short, could not the right hon. Gentleman substitute this legislation for—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Irish Bill!"]— the Ministry of Health Bill against the Second Reading of which many of his own followers voted?


Will the right hon. Gentleman substitute it for the Irish Bill, for which no Irish Member voted?