HC Deb 28 April 1925 vol 183 cc83-4

I have now reached the agreeable and comparatively easy task of distributing the surplus of nearly £37,000,000. I have weighed all the different alternatives, and I have done my best to make the proposals and to submit to my colleagues in the Cabinet, the recommendations which I thought would be most effective and most helpful to the country at the present time. First of all there is the policy of Imperial preference. It is our policy to give effect to the proposals of the British Government at the Imperial Economic Conference of 1923 in so far as those recommendations do not involve any new or additional duties upon food of any sort or kind. Accordingly, I now submit, to the Committee proposals for the removal of the existing duties on Empire dried fruits, and for an increase in the preference on Empire tobacco from one-sixth to one-fourth of the full duty. I may say that I have received assurances from some of the great tobacco firms that this preference will lead to the wholly Empire tobacco being placed on the market at ½d an ounce less retail than at the present time. I propose an increase of the preference on heavy wines from one-third to two-thirds; an increase in the preference on the surtax on sparkling wines from 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. So far as sugar is concerned we propose to restore the preference to the level it was before the reduction of duty last year—namely, 4s. 31-d. per cwt., and also to provide that the preference shall remain at that level for 10 years or so long as the full duty does not fall below that level. This is the second time I have proposed a ten year's guarantee on sugar preference to Parliament. I announced such a guarantee in 1922. It was reprobated and repudiated —in my absence—by the right hon. Gentleman in 1924, but nothing has occurred to alter our view, as to the importance and need of giving a sense of security to the producers of empire sugar, so that it will enable them to make further plans with something definite to look forward to in the future. We propose to give the sugar producers that security and to invest the undertaking with statutory sanction.

July 1st, 1925, will be the date when these Imperial preferences come into operation. The loss to the Revenue will be £1,470,000 in the first year, and £1,720,000 in the full year. We have thus carried out in the fullest and most precise manner every pledge given at the Imperial Economic Conference subject, of course, to those other pledges given at the General Election in regard to the taxation of the necessary foods of the people.