HC Deb 18 July 1927 vol 209 cc124-33

I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, at the end to insert the words: Provided that notwithstanding any repeal effected by this Act the exemption given by section three of the Finance Act, 1925, shall continue to have effect in relation to motor tyres which are shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners to have been shipped on board the importing ship for import direct on or before the twelfth day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven. There was a time when, before the Finance Act became law, there was a period which elapsed, and it was possible for those who were to be taxed under the Finance Act to rush in very large quantities of goods. I remember that when first the McKenna Duties were imposed on motors, even the most Free Trade Member of the House was very much perturbed at seeing the barges coming up the Thames laden with hundreds and hundreds of imported foreign cars for which there was no warehouse accommodation, and which had to be stacked in the fields to avoid the duty. That was a hole in our legislation, and it was amended, and no particular dealer suffered heavy loss, but, as the matter now stands, I think the pendulum has swung rather to the opposite extreme. I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers on the immense secrecy which surrounded the present Budget. I do not think anybody had the slightest notion of what the new taxes were to be, and consequently I do not think there was anything in the nature of forestalling at all, with the result that the axe fell at the particular hour on innocent parties. To make it fall in that way is swinging to the opposite extreme of the old rule, and it involves cases of undesirable hardship. I am moving this Amendment to meet particular cases, and I have a precedent in my favour, because I find that when the duties on German imports into this country were imposed, on 16th March, 1921, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir Austen Chamberlain) moved a Clause to cover the same hardship as here involved. On that date, after a discussion which was raised on an Amendment by Lord Banbury, then Sir Frederick Banbury, on facts supplied to him, the Chancellor moved a new Clause in the following words: Provided that this Act shall not apply to goods imported before the 15th day of April, 1921, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioners that the goods wore imported in pursuance of a contract entered into before the 8th day of March, 1921.''—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1921; col. 1563, Vol. 139.] That was because this German Reparation Bill came down upon importers who had in some cases paid for the goods, and it was felt to be a terrible hardship that this sudden duty should be imposed upon them and that they should be so very much out of pocket.

The position to-day in regard to these motor tyres is exactly the same. There were certain people who imported tyres regularly. There were not enough tyre works in this country to supply the market. Fortunately, under these beneficent duties, which have now been imposed, factories are springing up, and very soon, owing to the beneficial effects of the duties imposed in this Budget, we shall be able to supply our own market with tyres produced by British workmen, which will be of immense benefit to the whole community and, above all, to the workers, and I expect, with the reduced cost caused by having a certain market—


The hon. and learned Member must not discuss the benefits of the duty. I have not selected an Amendment to leave out the Clause, because it has been discussed twice before. He must confine himself to this Amendment.


I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I was going to say that now that these duties are imposed, to come down suddenly, on a particular date, is going to penalise the individual trader who was bona fide importing, not dump- ing goods, who was taking his particular weekly consignment of tyres to supply the British market. Suddenly to impose a heavy duty, coming like a bolt from the blue upon him, means that there is no possibility of his passing it on to anybody. He has to bear the whole burden of it himself. It will not do to say that there are others who, fortunately, just got in an hour or two before the duty fell, and that between the two parties importing, one of them getting in a few hours late and the other a few hours early, the Treasury balances, losing on the one and gaining on the other. It is no satisfaction to "A" that "B" has got off, if "A" has to pay out of his own pocket, because he has no recourse whatever upon the person from whom he bought the commodity. If we are going to impose these duties—and I believe in them with all my heart—we should not do it cruelly or harshly.

I know of one particular instance of a man who is doing a great public service in a certain part of the country by opening up a very large area where the transport facilities are of the worst possible description. This man has imported a certain quantity of these commodities, working to some extent on borrowed capital, and suddenly this heavy duty comes on him when he had not the faintest suspicion that there was the slightest chance of his being landed in that way. He acquiesces in it in so far as the time to come is concerned, because for the future, he says, he can make the necessary arrangements, but in this particular instance it is impossible to do so. I have another instance. Only the other night, in connection with the Wine Duty, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury had the fairness to make an allowance; and if we can have it in that instance, I think we ought to have it here. If this duty is enforced absolutely on the stroke of the clock in the way in which it is being done in this Budget, it will inflict a very great hardship on a limited number of people, because it does not affect a large issue. I ask accordingly that the two precedents of the German Reparation Bill, when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer provided for just such cases, and of the instance in this very Budget, in connection with the Wine Duty, should be given effect to.

Lieut.-Commander BURNEY

I beg to second the Amendment.

8.0 p.m.


It is always a regret to me to have to refuse anything to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), because he always makes his cases in such a reasonable and even seductive manner and usually enlivens them by happy flashes of humour. Nevertheless, I am afraid I must, on this occasion, remain an imitator of the deaf adder, and stop my ears to his charming. We all remember what a scandal it was when, during the long delays which formerly intervened between the introduction of a Budget and the passage into law of the Finance Bill, immense quantities of goods were hurried into this country, and the purposes of Parliament were to a very large extent defeated. Incidentally, not only were the purposes of Parliament defeated, but the home trade was dislocated by an altogether abnormal importation, which bore no relation to ordinary trade requirements or to the ebb and flow of demand and supply throughout the world. Then we had general assent to introduce a Regulation which enabled us to make the duties effective from the time when the Budget was introduced or when the Resolutions were first assented to by the Committee of Ways and Means. My hon. and learned Friend asks me to make an inroad upon this principle by practically laying down a rule that goods in transit, which have actually started from the country of origin, shall be franked and shall not be subject to this imposition.


The goods might be within sight of our shores.


If I entered upon that subject I might be drawn on to say they were approaching the harbour, that they were within the harbour, and so forth. It is much better to stick to the rule which has been made. No rule can be laid down without inflicting some hardship. There are always those cases which are just beyond where the line is drawn, and in regard to which there is a grievance; but, if we were to try to eliminate that form of grievance from the Bill, we would find that the Clauses would be so full of mitigations and reservations that they would be even more unintelligible and chaotic than they are at the present time. Therefore, I must keep to the rule. I do not refer to the case which the hon. Gentleman has in his mind, but, nevertheless, there is no doubt that there was a general expectation before the Budget was introduced that a duty on tyres might well form a part of our proposals. The secret on the whole, was extremely well kept, but there was a certain atmosphere of expectation, largely, I think, founded upon a reasonable acquaintance with the movements of Parliamentary opinion and of public opinion, that something of this kind would be attempted. At any rate, it reflected itself very markedly in the figures because the importation of motor covers during the period from the 1st to the 11th April was greater than in any of the three previous months of the year, and subsequently, after the 11th April, there was a sharp falling off. For instance, in January 119,000 outer covers were imported, in February 120,000, in March 176,000, while between the 1st and the 11th April, the figure was 193,000. From the 12th to the 30th April, only 36,000 were imported; during May the number was 75,000, and during June, 50,000. So we see this importation growing in volume as the Budget day approaches, reaching its full upward flow in the few days immediately before the duty became effective, and afterwards falling off in a very marked way.

I am satisfied that, however strong may be the case which the hon. and learned Gentleman was putting—that I do not question in any way—there was an attempt to place larger quantities of foreign motor-car tyres in this country before the imposition of the duty than was warranted by the actual trading circumstances, and I see no reason, after what happened in the last Session of Parliament, why we should mitigate the not very serious consequences which have befallen those who have attempted to evade a potential duty. I, therefore, regret that I am unable to meet my hon. and learned Friend and to break the rule which Parliament has laid down. Moreover, in doing so, we should sacrifice some revenue; I cannot say it is very large; it is indefinite in its extent, but it is certainly sufficient to be appreciable.


I think hon. Members on this side of the House will have followed with the keenest interest the proposal made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), and more particularly what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have always been informed that these duties fall upon the foreigner, and that they did not lead to any restriction of trade. Now it appears that there has been a considerable restriction in the volume of trade since this was introduced. But I do not want to dwell on these considerations, because the evidence is plain and clear; I want to try, rather, to see whether or not I can agree with the hon. and learned Member who has made this proposal. There was no doubt that, when we suddenly imposed this 33⅓ per cent. duty, it would fall very heavily and with great hardship upon a certain class of traders whose goods were actually in transit, and who had entered into a bargain on the basis of the price or the arrangement which they agreed upon with the overseas producer. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer frankly admits that there are hard cases which are just over the border-line, hut he said we could not make any inroad upon the principle laid down in this new Clause to which we on this side of the House generally take exception.

I do not think for a moment that you can go into the wide sphere of the contracts or arrangements which have been made, because that might cover a long period, but in such cases as my hon. and learned Friend has in mind, where the goods are practically here, and where it is perfectly plain that the duty alters the whole position, we on this side, quite apart from Free Trade altogether, would agree that you have established a real case of hardship. All that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer says in reply is that we must draw the line somewhere; but I would be inclined to suggest to him that it is by no means beyond the wit of the very capable officials in this country to identify the small, limited class of transactions that the Mover of this proposal has in mind. It is only fair to give these people the benefit of the law as it stood at the time when their arrangements were made, and when they had practically completed their transactions. I think that case is very strong, and I would advise the hon. and learned Member to go to a Division, and we on this side will whole-heartedly promise him our support.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 111; Noes, 229.

Division No. 269.] AYES. [8.12 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Davies, Evan(Ebbw Vale) Kennedy, T.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, George
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield. Hillsbro') Day, Colonel Harry Lawrence, Susan
Ammon, Charles George Dennison, R. Lawson, John James
Attlee, Clement Richard Duncan, C. Lee, F.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Dunnico, H. Lowth, T.
Baker, Walter Evans, Capt. Ernest (Walsh Univer.) Lunn, William
Barker, G. (Monmouth. Abertillery) Gardner, J. P. Mackinder, W.
Barnes, A. Gillett, George M. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Batey, Joseph Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Macquisten, F. A.
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Greenall, T. Mosley, Oswald
Bondfield, Margaret Grenfell, D. R. (Glam[...]n) Murnin, H.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Groves, T. Naylor, T. E.
Broad, F. A. Grundy, T. W. Oliver, George Harold
Bromley, J. Hall, F. (York, W. R., Norm[...]nton) Paling, W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Hall, G. H. (Merthr Tydvil) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Ponsonby, Arthur
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Harris, Percy A. Potts, John S.
Cape, Thomas Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Purcell, A. A.
Charleton, H. C. Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Rees, Sir Beddoe
Cluse, W. S. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Hirst, G. H. Ritson, J.
Compton, Joseph Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Connolly, M. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Scurr, John
Cove, W. G. John, William (Rhondda, West) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Crawfurd, H. E. Jones, Morgan(Caerphilly) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Dalton, Hugh Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Sitch, Charles H.
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) Kelly, W. T. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Smillie, Robert Taylor, R. A. Whiteley, W.
Smith, Ben(Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow) Wiggins, William Martin
Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Townend, A. E. Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Snell, Harry Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Varley, Frank B. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Stamford, T. W. Viant, S. P. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Wallhead, Richard C.
Sullivan, J. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sutton, J. E. Westwood, J. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Fermoy, Lord Meller, R. J.
Albery, Irving James Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Merriman, F. B.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Foster, Sir Harry S. Meyer, Sir Frank
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Fraser, Captain Ian Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E. Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Galbraith, J. F. W. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred
Balniel, Lord Goff, Sir Park Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Moreing, Captain A. H.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph
Barrett, Major Sir Richard Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Neville, Sir Reginald J.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Greene, W. P. Crawford Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Bennett, A. J. Grotrian, H. Brent Nuttall, Ellis
Betterton, Henry B. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.) Oakley, T.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Gunston, Captain D. W. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)
Boothby, R. J. G. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Brass, Captain W. Hanbury, C. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Brassey, Sir Leonard Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Perring, Sir William George
Briggs, J. Harold Harland, A. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Brittain, Sir Harry Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Harrison, G. J. C. Pilcher, G.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Hartington, Marquess of Pilditch, Sir Philip
Buchan, John Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Buckingham, Sir H. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Price, Major C. W. M.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Henn, Sir Sydney H. Radford, E. A.
Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Raine, Sir Walter
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hills, Major John Waller Rawson, Sir Cooper
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Campbell, E. T. Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Remer, J. R.
Cassels, J. D. Holt, Captain H. P. Remnant, Sir James
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Hope, Sir Harry (Forfor) Rice, Sir Frederick
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hopkins, J. W. W. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., stretford)
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Ropner, Major L.
Clarry, Reginald George Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whlteh'n) Russell, Alexander West(Tynemouth)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Rye, F. G.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Huntingfield, Lord Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Hurd, Percy A. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hurst, Gerald B. Sandeman, N. Stewart
Cooper, A. Duff Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Cope, Major William Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Couper, J. B. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Courtauld, Major J. S. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Skelton, A. N.
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) King, Commodore Henry Douglas Somerville A. A. (Windsor)
Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Knox, Sir Alfred Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend) Lamb, J. O. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Leigh, Sir John(Clapham) Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Lister, Cunliffe-,Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Loder, J. de V. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Curzon, Captain Viscount Long, Major Eric Storry-Deans, R.
Dalkeith, Earl of Looker, Herbert William Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Lougher, Lewis Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Davies, Maj- Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere styles, Captain H. W.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Lumley, L. R. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Tasker, R Inigo.
Dawson, Sir Philip Macintyre, Ian Templeton, W. P.
Dean, Arthur Wellesley McLean, Major A. Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Dixey, A. C. Macmillan, Captain H. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Drewe, C. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Eden, Captain Anthony MacRobert, Alexander M. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Edmondson, Major A. J. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Elliot, Major Walter E. Malone, Major P. B. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Ellis, R. G. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston. on-Hull)
Everard, W. Lindsay Margesson, Captain D. Warrender, Sir Victor
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle) Winby, Colonel L. P. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich W.)
Wells, S. R. Wise, Sir Fredric Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern) Withers, John James Wragg, Herbert
Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay) Wolmer, Viscount Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central) Womersley, W. J.
Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. F. C. Thomson and Mr. Penny.