§ Sub-section (1) of Section fifteen of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, as amended by Section 13 of the Finance Act, 1919, shall read as if for the words "three months" were substituted the words "one month."—[Sir A. Pownall.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Sir ASSHETON POWNALL
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
Perhaps a few words of explanation may be given in regard to the question with which this Clause deals. By the Finance Act of 1915 the Customs was given for the first time the power to restrict clearances for three months on dutiable goods from bond. That power was taken during the War, and for 12 months after the War, but it has been found that the liberties of the subject, once they have been curtailed, are not easy to win back, and in 1919 this power of restriction upon clearances of dutiable goods from bond was continued for all time in favour of the Customs. What happens is that any trader dealing in these particular commodities—it is mainly the wine trade which is concerned—is liable to find in the three months before the Budget that he cannot pay the duty on goods which he is getting forwarded in the ordinary way of business, because of the expansion of his business or because of a change in taste from the wines of Portugal to the wines of Spain. It leads to great inconvenience in the wine trade, and to great delay in finding out from the Customs what goods he can clear and what goods he cannot clear.
Generally, the rule is to go by the figures of the previous year. It is therefore suggested that instead of three months the period of one month should be put in, in which case the Customs would have the power to limit clearances from bond for one month before the Budget. They would not have this power of rationing, which was given them during the War and which should not have been continued after the War. This particular trade, the wine trade, has been a very good friend to the Customs in recent years. The duties were doubled in 1920, and were again increased last year. It has been a very fruitful milch cow, if I may use that 1221 expression in connection with an alcoholic beverage, and I think it deserves more consideration than it has received. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary, if they cannot see their way to accept the Clause, will give some assurance that the three months' power to restrict clearances will not be enforced except in very exceptional circumstances.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
Perhaps it will be convenient if I examine exactly what my hon. Friend means by his proposal. He seeks to limit the power of the Customs to restrict clearances from bond to one month, but he has, however, overlooked the fact that under the terms of the Section of the Act in question successive Treasury Orders may apparently be issued covering in the aggregate any duration of time during which it is considered that restrictions on deliveries may be thought to be necessary. Therefore, to limit the period to one month as proposed would still leave the discretion of the Treasury unfettered as to the total period covered by successive Orders. The proposal, therefore, would not carry out the intention in the hon. Member's mind. He has put the case in a very friendly spirit and has asked me to look into the matter. Without pledging myself I shall be happy to consult with him in order to see what the position really is.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.