§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
May I ask a question of the Minister as regards the meaning of this Clause, in order that we may be clear about it? The Clause lays down the value of any imported articles which are to be charged to duty by reference to the value as fixed by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. We do not quite appreciate how that works in with the provision in Clause 2 which says that the value shall be determined by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. As far as we can appreciate the position, two persons cannot determine the same value. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to explain how the value is to be fixed in one way under Clause 3 (1) and in another under Clause 2 (2, c).
§ Mr. HARRIS
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. Sub-section (2) of the Clause requires the production of books such as the Commissioners may require for a proper valuation of the article, and also the production of documents. I may be wrong, but this seems to be an unprecedented policy, introducing into our system of collecting taxes an inquisitorial method which is quite foreign to our country. I do not think that there is any case of taxes levied where the Customs House official goes down to a man's private office and examines books and papers in order to 1760 arrive at the right figure. The general custom is for a declaration to be made by the person passing any particular article through the Customs on the basis of the invoice and on a statement by the importer. I do not think that there is any precedent for a Customs House official having the right to go into a counting-house to look at ledgers and other books in order to arrive at a value upon which a tax is to be levied. It is a new principle, rather Russian in spirit. It is the kind of thing one expects from Russia of officials going into warehouses, offices, banks and counting-houses and examining books. This Measure may be difficult to work and it may be considered necessary to make this new departure, but it requires some explanation. We want to know how far the Minister's officials are going to delve into the affairs of private people in their own offices.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
As I understand the question, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) asked me why the Commissioners of Customs and Excise should be mentioned and have certain powers under this Clause. I think that it is clear that this is an administrative action, and that they are the people who handle the goods and know the methods by which the Customs deal with the problems, and they will, in fact, work upon the Order which will have been issued and which will be their guide. They will, of course, eventually have to carry out the machinery. A good deal of the work which they are going to do is not, in fact, connected with a direct 1761 ad valorem tax; some of it is by weight and some by measure. It will be their duty to deal with that side of the matter. This provision is identical with a similar Section in the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act dealing with the precedent to which the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) called attention.
§ Mr. HARRIS
There is a fundamental difference. The Abnormal Importations Act imposed an ad valorem duty on an ordinary Customs basis. These duties are to be levied at the discretion of the Minister, which is quite a different thing.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
After all, we are taking no other powers in this Clause. The hon. Member talked about inspecting books and so on, but these powers, I understand, are exactly similar to those contained in the Abnormal Importations Act. In reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I should add that Clause 3 refers to the ad valorem, duty, whereas Clause 2 (2) deals with duties not based upon value. This Clause is limited to an ad valorem duty.
§ Mr. JOHN JONES
I have heard a lot of talk about duties and the methods of collecting taxes. It is most extraordinary that some of the people who are advertising themselves as experts have not yet explained to us how they can make things better by taxing everything. I have heard this afternoon a good deal of talk about the taxation of various articles necessary for the people's consumption. The right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Front Bench has pointed out the legal difficulties in the situation. How are you going to collect the taxes? My question is, who is going to pay them? I am not an ex- pert, but simply one of the representatives of the common people, and I should like to know, when you have done all your collecting of taxes, who is going to foot the bill Poor old Phil Garlick, the man who always pays The right hon. Gentleman opposite, studying his Bill as best he can, with his Scottish logic and his English ignorance, is telling us now how we are going to get over it. The more we get over it, the more we get under it. There is trouble for us everywhere we go. I have been trying this week to study my Income Tax papers. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can tell 1762 me what is going to happen to me after 1st January.
§ Mr. JONES
I am an importation from Ireland, but I am not a foreign product, I hope. Who is going to pay for the goods which come into this country? Who brings them in? I would like to ask hon. Members opposite and around me—we are surrounded by them; we are an island of Socialism surrounded by an ocean of Toryism—if they can tell us who brings those goods into the country? I live in the East End of London where the importers are great supporters of the National Government. They are always waving the Union Jack in front of the union jackasses. They are always telling us that the Empire must be saved by buying British goods, and then they go and buy foreign motor cars. Most of the motor cars in Palace Yard to day—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
No question of motor cars arises under this Clause. It deals solely with the value of certain imported articles.
§ Mr. JONES
Thank you, Captain Bourne, for correcting me. Motor cars are not in question, but carrots are. If they are Spanish carrots, of course, they are different. People who do not want Spanish carrots do not buy them. Who buys them? Hon. Members opposite, because they want them in season—the season that suits them. Our carrots are generally dangled in front of our noses, as they were in the General Election. The people swallowed them, and now they have got the result of swallowing the carrots. Hon. Members opposite do not understand what carrots are; they know what 18 carat is. They do not understand the ordinary carrots which the common people are expected to consume. I ask the Committee to remember the fact that we have got here a collection, an accumulation of heterogenous units, units most of them, forming the Government, and they cannot govern. They were out to save the pound, and they lost the quid.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is out of order; the question of the composition of the Government does not arise on this Clause.
§ Mr. JONES
No, Captain Bourne, I am sure that it does not. It could not arise on any Clause. The composition of this Government cannot be described by anything in the English language. It is a conglomeration of people who do not know where they are. Even their Prime Minister does not know where he is, because he is surrounded by people who do not believe in his principles, and he has surrounded himself by the inconclusiveness of his own conclusions. I do not care whether it is parsnips, turnips, carrots or savoys, you can tax everything everywhere, but you will never solve the economic problem of the working classes of this country by mere taxation. You can protect as much as you like, but the only people who want protecting are the workers who require protecting against the classes who have exploited them all through the centuries.