HC Deb 15 April 1929 vol 227 cc47-8

Of the group of new import duties, which together yield a revenue of £13,000,000, it is certainly true to say that they are far less burdensome to industry and to trade than the income tax which would be required to replace them. To pretend that they are a burden on the wage-earning classes is pure nonsense. To treat them as if they were on the same footing as sugar, or even on the same footing as beer, tobacco and popular entertainments, is also absurd. Foreign motor cars or motor tyres, foreign pianos, silk garments, or even betting, are not forms of expenditure which compare, at any rate, with tea and sugar as essentials in the cottage budget.

No doubt we shall very soon be arguing on public platforms about the effects of the McKenna, Key Industries and Safeguarding Duties, and certainly that is a contest about which we feel no anxiety. But there are some duties which are not the result of any Committee or any general statutory enactment, but for which I personally am responsible as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and about which I should like to say a word. I take first silk. We have had four years of the Silk Duties. Everyone can remember—if people nowadays remember anything—the long Parliamentary controversy which marked the passage of those duties. According to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs I was to be hanged in a silken halter. [An HON MEMBER: "Wait and see!"] I am quite ready to wait and see. At any rate, it will be a cheaper halter. Let us see what has happened. The import of foreign artificial silk yarn has shrunk to a quarter; the British export has increased by 50 per cent.; home production has risen from 26,000,000 pounds to 51,000,000 pounds; 21 new factories have been erected in this country, some of them by foreign firms.' The insured persons employed in the silk and artificial silk industry have risen from 46,500 when the duties were passed to over 70,000 in 1928. The home price of artificial silk yarn has fallen by 25 per cent., and the quantity available for home consumption has increased by 50 per cent. And as a final result we have an assured revenue of over £6,000,000 a year. It requires a very pedantic purist to frame an indictment against such a duty. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley has a little leisure, perhaps he will re-read the speeches he delivered against the Silk Duties during their passage, and will compare the assertions and the prophecies of which he is always so free with the facts and results as we know them today.

Very much the same story has revealed itself in respect of the protective or quasi-protective and revenue duty imposed upon foreign motor tyres. Six foreign factories have been established in this country, and increased employment has resulted, the export of British tyres has been fully maintained, the import has been diminished by more than a half, and the price of tyres has fallen 15 per cent. since April, 1927.


Due to the fall in rubber.


If such results were produced on any scientific question by laboratory experiments no one would say they were decisive, but no sensible or truth-seeking investigator would deny their profound significance and importance.

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