Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT-WARD
I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, after the word "oils," to insert the words "other than turpentine and white spirits."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed the first two Amendments together. The discussion would also cover later consequential Amendments.
Sir A. LAMBERT-WARD
The abject of this Amendment is to exclude from the operation of the Petrol Duty oils of the hydrocarbonate group known as turpentine and white spirits. This is not the first time this question has been discussed by the Committee. Several attempts have already been made to obtain the necessary relief from this tax, and deputations have waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary with the same object in view. The effect of the Amendment would be to relieve turpentine and white spirits from the operation of the tax, leaving petrol, which is the motive power of the modern combustion engine, subject to the tax. A few words as to how this tax came to be imposed may not be out of place. As every one is aware, when it became a question of de-rating, or relieving from rates, many of the industries of the country it became necessary to find a means of providing the money whereby that could be effected, and it seemed a very suitable thing that petrol should pay its fair proportion of the tax, especially as the price of petrol during recent years has fallen to such an extent that with the tax it was scarcely appreciably higher than it had been without the tax some months before.
There is no reason whatever for supposing that there can be any difficulty in differentiating between turpentine and petrol. It is possible that with regard to white spirits there is more difficulty in differentiating between the two substances, but with regard to turpentine there is not and cannot be any difficulty whatever. Any reason why white spirit should be subject to the tax is quite apart from any of the arguments that might be advanced for including turpentine. First of all with regard to the argument against the tax, it is undoubtedly a tax on one of the raw materials of industry and of an important industry. Unfortunately it is not an industry which employs a very large number of people; otherwise there is not the least doubt that such an outcry would have been aroused that the Chancellor of Exchequer would have been compelled to give way and relieve the manufacturers of the tax. Many people say that as the manufacturers themselves receive distinct benefits from the derating of their industries, it is not for them to grumble at being called upon to provide in some small way the funds 638 which are necessary for de-rating. But in many cases manufacturers in these industries find themselves called upon to pay more in tax than they are actually relieved of by the de-rating. In regard to a certain big manufacturing firm in my constituency it has been proved that, although they receive the benefit of something like £2,500 from de-rating of their industry, they are called upon to pay more than £4,000 in tax on this raw material. Before he occupied the position which he holds now the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke against this tax in very strong terms indeed. He said:This is a tax that I myself would never have thought of proposing unless all the other available sources of revenue had been completely exhausted.Although taxation is high in this country, it is surely impossible to say that we have arrived at a state of affairs such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer visualised when he made those remarks. If we read a little further, we find that the Chancellor said;It is a tax upon industry, and therefore, theoretically and to a large extent practically, that is a condemnation of the tax."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1930; col. 73; Vol. 241.]So we see that before the right hon. Gentleman occupied the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer he was himself opposed to the tax, and it was only reasonable to suppose that when he attained his present position some modification at any rate of the tax would be introduced. But instead of that we find that the tax is not only carried on in the burdensome form adopted by his predecessor, but that the Chancellor is in the present Budget actually increasing the burden to the extent of 2d. per gallon on this raw material of industry. During recent years several new industries in which this commodity is used have sprung up. For example, there is the manufacture of furniture polish, boot polish, and many other kinds of polish which are sold in small tins and which recently have been selling abroad in competition with articles produced there. Although a rebate is granted on the value of the materials which is included in the articles for export, it is a very complicated and costly business to obtain that rebate. Moreover, it is very difficult to decide the exact amount of dutiable material which is included, say, in a tin of boot polish.
639 The material is also used extensively in the manufacture of paint and varnish, both articles which up to a few years ago were exported largely from this country. Unfortunately increasing competition abroad is making it more and more difficult to maintain the sale of the British article in those markets, and this tax, by increasing the cost of the article abroad, is making the sale still more difficult. There is another article in which turpentine figures very largely, and that is linoleum. A few years ago English linoleum had practically a monopoly of sale all over the Continent. To-day competing articles of a similar kind are being extensively manufactured in Belgium and in Germany, and it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain the sale of English linoleum in those countries. The present time, with trade going against us, as it appears to be doing, surely is no time for imposing a fresh burden on this industry. What would the Chancellor of the Exchequer lose by accepting the Amendment? If he gave way in full and exempted turpentine and white spirit from the operation of the petrol tax, I gather from what he has told us that it would cost the Treasury approximately £500,000, but that if he gave way only in regard to turpentine the cost would be approximately £100,000.
§ Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
I am putting it at the highest figure. In view of the position of trade and industry in this country, in view of the depression in the trades which employ these articles as a raw material, it is not a great deal to ask that they shall be relieved to that extent. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to accept the Amendment dealing both with white spirits and turpentine, let him give us the concession on turpentine alone. Turpentine is a vegetable oil, whereas petrol is a mineral spirit. There is no difficulty at all in differentiating between the two. Turpentine cannot possibly be used in internal-combustion engines, and the concession would not open the way to an extensive evasion of the tax. On the other hand by meeting us and giving us the concession, the Chancellor would certainly do a great deal towards encouraging 640 these trades, many of which are new trades and are struggling with severe foreign competition. I ask the President of the Board of Trade, who represents the Treasury to-day, whether he cannot see his way to grant the concession.
§ 4.0 p.m
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I cannot let this subject pass even for the third time in this Budget without saying a word in support of the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Baronet. May I ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who, I presume, is going to reply, what am I to say to the workmen in Hull who are employed in the paint and colour industry after having had his support for this very Amendment in the Division Lobby, and the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a previous Budget of the Conservative Government, and having used this as one of the examples of the iniquities attempted by the last Government? I do ask my hon. Friend to get me out of the difficulty. What am I to say to them? It is not so much the manufacturers, but the working men who are hit by this tax, because as it decreases their employment, so the effect on wages is greater.
Having made that request, which I know my hon. Friend with his great adroitness will be able to meet, I want only to put to the Committee what I think is a comparatively new point. If you take the ladder which you get when you refine natural oil or petroleum, you have, first of all, the lightest spirit boiling below 200 degrees centigrade, and you call that petrol. That appears at the top of your ladder. That is taxed. The next product you get is paraffin or methylated spirits. That has been exempted because of the outcry from the agricultural Members of the House in the last Parliament. It was first of all taxed and then exempted. Then you get your white spirit, a heavier oil which has never been used in internal combustion engines. That is taxed. Below that you get the fourth commodity, or heavy crude oil, which is sold for bunkers in oil-burning steamers. That is exempt from tax. So that you have two taxed and two exempted. You have had the lighter spirit exempted in the case of paraffin and the heavier oil exempted in the case of crude oil. I do not know if 641 I have made this matter clear. I am not a chemist, and I do not attempt to explain the formulae with exactitude, but that is how the chart stands and that is how treatment of its component parts varies.
There is no reason at all why white spirit should be taxed and paraffin exempted. The tax is a very heavy one. It is a revenue import duty of about 100 per cent. on white spirit, and with regard to turpentine it is a revenue import duty of about 75 per cent. As the hon. and gallant Baronet has just told the Committee, turpentine is a vegetable oil which never ought to have been included in the tax, which is all the more onerous now, not only because it is increased from 4d. to 6d. a gallon, but because of the tremendous fall in commodity values throughout the world. White spirit and turpentine bought in bulk by the manufacturer have gone down tremendously in price. Therefore, the tax is all the more severely felt, and as competitors who are competing in the markets of the world, and, indeed, in our own markets, do not pay the tax, the manufacturers feel the weight of these duties all the more severely. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough to receive a deputation of Members of Parliament on this subject last week, and, in his usual kindly way, turned us down. I understand his view is that we must have the money. There are many other commodities brought into this country we could well do without that ought to be taxed; if you must have a revenue import duty—this wicked thing!—put it on real luxuries, and not on basic raw materials for important manufactures which give employment to British workmen and which, exported abroad, give employment to British ships and the sailors who man them.
Sir GEORGE HAMILTON
I understand from your Bailing, Sir Robert, that my Amendment, which stands next on the Order Paper, is to be discussed alongside this Amendment. My Amendment is a specific suggestion, not that the whole tax on turpentine and white spirit should be removed, but that a very small proportion of turpentine only, which is used in the manufacture of synthetic camphor shall be allowed relief from this tax. On 5th May, on the Report of the Financial Besolution, I referred to this matter. 642 After listening to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White), I was sufficiently misled to believe that turpentine was not a hydrocarbon oil. After the Debate, I looked it up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and found that it was a hydrocarbon oil; but it is a vegetable, and not a mineral oil. If, therefore, I caused the Treasury officials any moment of uneasiness by those remarks, I apologise and withdraw them. But although I made a mistake there I think the President of the Board of Trade in his reply, made another mistake because, in answering my specific point, he said:But I can say that it is true that this case of synthetic camphor is confined to one firm, with possibly a second, and I think it can also be shown that competition is not so much with an imported article of the same kind, as, perhaps, with the natural camphor from Japan. Inasmuch as no turpentine remains in the finished product here, I am inclined to agree that there is perhaps a case of a kind to be made, within limits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1931; col. 258, Vol. 252.]The President of the Board of Trade was very careful, and I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is unable to be present to-day, because again I have to appeal to the President of the Board of Trade, who says that "within limits" there is a case. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to settle this matter, and possibly by the Report stage something may be done. In that way we are put off each time. Really, the President of the Board of Trade was quite wrong when he said that the competition with this synthetic camphor was that of the natural camphor from Japan. It is not so. The competition comes from the synthetic camphor produced in Germany. The President, in his answer, referred to the fact that turpentine had dropped many shillings a hundredweight quite recently, and therefore he argued that it was much easier to produce artificial camphor to compete with the raw material coming from Japan. I interrupted with the remark that it was a drop in the world price, so that Germany benefited as well, and had not to pay a tax of 6d. a gallon on turpentine, the raw material used in the production of this important commodity.
Does the President of the Board of Trade realise that during the War this country could not get camphor from Japan, because the sea voyage was too 643 long, and, obviously, could not get it from Germany, which was an enemy country, and we could not produce it in this country. A company has spent no less than £60,000 in trying to discover how to produce this artificial camphor. There is an Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Major Church), and in the names of two of my hon. and gallant Friends, which is, I think, a better Amendment even than mine. It means exactly the same, but instead of using the words "synthetic camphor," it saysbut including oil of turpentine used in the manufacture of camphor.I am informed by experts, whom I have taken the liberty of consulting, that the expression "synthetic camphor" is, possibly, open to some doubt. It is not quite clear as to whether the actual artificial camphor produced by the use of oil of turpentine can be described technically as synthetic camphor, so that should the President of the Board of Trade listen to my eloquence, and that of my hon. Friends who are going to support this Amendment, I hope that he may adopt the actual words in the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth, who, I am sorry, does not appear to be in the Committee at the moment. This is, really, a very small matter. It does not mean giving up £100,000. If the tax were enforced at 6d. a gallon, it would, on the present production, mean only a loss of £1,300 a year to the Treasury. It would not be Protection, but only putting British industry on the same footing as the German industry. It would not be giving any protection to the home industry, but merely removing a most wicked tax, which, to my mind, was put on quite by accident. When the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) introduced this tax, I believe he had no intention whatever to tax turpentine. I think he must have asked his Treasury officials for a general description of what oils he should tax, and was told hydrocarbon oils, and, turpentine happening to be a hydrocarbon oil, it has come into this tax. This is a tax on a raw material, a direct impost on the raw material of a struggling new industry which is endeavouring 644 to compete with a prosperous German industry. £1,300 a year is not very much.
The particular company, the Xylonite Company, employs 2,000 hands, mostly in celluloid producing. Now the production of celluloid is dependent on the use of camphor as a raw material, and during the War it was found impossible to produce celluloid in this country, because they could not get camphor. After they had spent £60,000 in ascertaining how to produce this camphor artificially, the right hon. Member for Epping, I think entirely by accident, put a tax of 4d. on the raw material, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer increases that to 6d. That means 130s. a ton, and as two tons of turpentine are used to produce one ton of artificial camphor, that would mean 260s. a ton on artificial camphor. It is no use saying that that is a small tax. It is a very heavy tax. It represents, I am informed, 8 per cent. on the present market price of artificial camphor, and that is giving our German competitors a clear 8 per cent. in their favour.
In addition to the Xylonite Company which is mainly concerned, there is in my Division Messrs. Howards, a big firm of chemical manufacturers, who are very seriously interested, indirectly, in this matter. While the Xylonite Company employ 2,000 people in the production of various articles, they do not claim to employ many people in the actual process of producing synthetic camphor; but if they cannot get camphor, if there is some further trouble in Europe or some occurrence interfering with the supply of camphor, their business would be stopped. Is it not better to give them a chance to get this new industry on its feet and enable them to employ more people? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are plenty of people out of work who could be taken on immediately if the production of synthetic camphor in this country were increased. At present a great deal of the camphor used in this country is imported, but, given a chance, this concern which has spent so much money on research work may be able to produce the greater part of this country's requirements as far as camphor is concerned, and to set up a prosperous business employing many of our good English working people.
645 The right hon. Gentleman agreed previously that there was something in my argument, but judging from the rather severe way in which he is looking at me now I fear he is going to say that he has discussed the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot see his way to spare the money. Well, £1,300 a year out of the British Treasury, given in the interests of British industry, is surely not much. As I have said, this Duty was put on, originally, by a slip, and the right hon. Gentleman as President of the Board of Trade will be doing something in the interests of the trade of the country if he persuades the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept this small Amendment.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I wish to add my plea to those which have already been made to the right hon. Gentleman that he should meet this just grievance. The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) made an excellent speech in reference to one part of the problem but, as regards his suggestion that this duty was put on by accident, I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) cannot get away with that excuse. It was pointed out at the time that there was need for the modification of the duty and, in fact we moved Amendments to it in the last Parliament. I know the need for revenue and how hard up the Government is for money, but this only shows how wrong it is to put on a bad tax. It is easy to impose a duty but it is extraordinarily difficult to have it removed. Once the Treasury find a source of revenue they are reluctant to part with it. This duty has all the faults that can attach to any tax of the kind. It is undoubtedly a tax on the raw material of a great number of industries. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) referred to the paint industry. Paint, in turn, is a raw material of the building industry, and a tremendous number of people are at present unemployed in the painters' section of the building industry. The cost of painting is almost prohibitive.
I think it unfortunate that the President of the Board of Trade, who took such an active part, originally, in protesting against this duty, should be ready now not only to accept it but to 646 aggravate the grievance, because the duty is increased. It is a warning to our Tariff Reform friends of how dangerous it is to tamper with taxation of this kind. A duty may look very innocent in theory and may give protection to a particular industry, and then, in practice, upset a hundred and one other industries. We warned the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, at the time, of the effect of this duty, and many Members of the present Government joined in that warning but now they are prepared to accept the revenue and to refuse to listen to any plea for the modification of the duty. It is not a large source of revenue, and it has been modified in many respects, but, in this particular case of synthetic camphor for instance, the Xylonite Company I understand are going through a very difficult time. They are manufacturers, largely, of luxury articles, the trade in which is extremely depressed, and many of their markets—Australia for example-are closed. I understand that a number of their workers are on short time because of trade depression and now comes this additional duty. It is no use saying that the world price has gone down. That is an unsound argument, because the world price acts to the advantage as much of the German manufacturers as of the manufacturers in this country. If, during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, the Government could make some small concession in this matter, I am sure they would be doing the right thing.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I am sorry that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) should have twitted Members in this part of the Committee with their opposition to this duty and advanced it as an argument against the imposition of protective duties. There is one thing which this duty on white spirits and turpentine is not. It is not a protective duty. Some 90 per cent. of the white spirits used in this country is already produced in this country and therefore there would be no advantage in a protective duty to keep out foreign imports. As regards turpentine the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green should know that it is a vegetable oil which cannot possibly be produced in this country and therefore an import duty of 500 per cent. would not encourage 647 its production here. Thus, his argument about the inadvisability of protective duties and his warning to hon. Members on these benches, are peculiarly inappropriate to the subject under discussion.
This duty, certainly, was imposed, in the first place, partially for protective reasons. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) had not only in mind the urgent need of raising revenue from motor users but also the fact that if he could put a duty upon imported oils, he would thereby foster the home production of oils. I should not oppose this duty if I thought it was designed to have that effect, but, in this case, the duty does nothing to increase the home production of these particular oils. The argument which the President of the Board of Trade put up against this Amendment on the Report stage of the Budget Resolution was that he could not afford the loss of revenue, and, I think, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury argued that he could not possibly allow any interference with the integrity of the duties on oils. These arguments do not carry much weight because the duty upon turpentine and white spirits produced a revenue of something like £500,000 a year which as has already been pointed out, is exactly the amount which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has sacrificed by allowing the duty on wrapping paper to lapse. The argument that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at his wits end to know where to turn for money and that in order to raise the necessary revenue he must maintain this duty on an essential raw material for British industry is not one which will gain much support.
I think that the President of the Board of Trade must be alarmed by the support which this Amendment has received from Members of all three parties—including the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy)—who have spoken so strongly in its favour. Those Members are wondering how they can go to their constituencies and defend the imposition of this duty on British industry because it is a duty which will enter into the cost of production of many essential articles. It is notable, while the right hon. Gentleman 648 refuses to abolish this duty on home producers, that in Germany, the German manufacturer can obtain a permit for refund of duty paid upon the oils which he uses in the manufacture of his paints and varnishes. If the German manufacturer can be relieved in this way, it should not be outside the range of administrative possibility to arrange for a similar remission in the case of our own home industries.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to listen to the strong appeal which has been made from every part of the Committee on behalf of A not electorally important, but industrially important section of the community. I am particularly interested because among many industries in my constituency in Bristol the manufacture of paints and varnishes and wallpaper is not the least important. These industries are pleading with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the remission of a heavy burden upon their costs, a burden out of all proportion to the cost of the materials which they produce, a burden which in the case of white spirit, amounts to something like 70 per cent. of the selling cost, and in the case of turpentine to something like 20 per cent. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to seek elsewhere the revenue which he requires, to sacrifice this small sum in the interests of British industry, and to listen to the advice which has been given to him from all parts of the Committee.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
If any further argument were required in favour of the Amendment it is to be found in the fact that there is support for it from all sides of the Committee, and it must be clear to the President of the Board of Trade that if a free vote were taken on this Amendment, there would be no doubt about the result. The Amendment would be carried by an overwhelming majority. Indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman himself votes as he did on a previous occasion he will have to support this Amendment in the Lobby, and so will other prominent Members of the party opposite including the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I have no desire to traverse the ground already covered by the hon. Members who have already spoken in favour of the Amendment. I think that the Best statement of the case is probably to be found in the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for 649 Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) on a previous occasion, in Committee of Ways and Means.
A false impression, however, appears to be in the mind of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). The difference between this duty and the protective duties which we on these benches advocate is that we wish to put on those duties, in order to help our own people against foreign competition, whereas this duty is put on, apparently, in order to hinder our own people and help foreign competition. That is the difference between the duties proposed by hon. Members opposite and those advocated from this side of the Committee. This duty affords a tremendous help to foreign manufacturers of linoleums, paints and varnishes who are in competition with our own manufacturers of those articles. The sum involved is not very great, and therefore I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will not close the door to the proposal that this duty should be removed. I make no apology for asking the indulgence of the Committee while I remind hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite of what was said upon this subject on a previous occasion by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He said:The duties are unjust and injurious to trade and employment. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer taxes these light oils, it is his business, and not ours, to see that they can be put on without detriment to the interests of trade and industry. If he cannot do it, it is not an argument for allowing injustice to continue. It is an argument for removing them and imposing other taxation which is not open to the same objection,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1928; cols. 1022–3, Vol. 220.]I call upon the hon. Member to make good the opinion expressed in those words and to use his influence at any rate with his right hon. Friend to see that these duties are not proceeded with in this Budget.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I wish the right hon. Gentleman would give to the Committee some explanation, if not justification, of this extraordinary passion of the Government for taxing raw materials as against any other form of goods imported into this country. It seems a strange desire for so ardent a Free Trader as himself and as the Financial Secretary of the Treasury. The other explanation that I should like to have is why, in imposing 650 any form of revenue duty on goods coming into this country, the essential desire of the Government seems to be to assist our foreign competitors as against those of our people who are manufacturing goods in this country. It seems to me to be a very illogical proceeding to take away, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken away, every Safeguarding Duty upon industry, in this country, when the combined revenue of the Safeguarding Duties that have been removed—
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I think, at any rate, it is germane to point out that, had the Safeguarding Duties been retained, they would have produced a revenue which would have covered this particular remission.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
Having made my point, I will gladly withdraw it. This is primarily a tax upon petrol. That was the original intention of the right hon. Gentleman who imposed it. Despite denunciations hurled at him by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, by the President of the Board of Trade, and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when it was introduced, it has proved to be a very profitable tax, and on the whole I think it has been, in its more modified form, a justifiable tax, in view of the vast increase in motor transport and slow combustion transport generally in this country. The very fact that in the initial proposal crude oil was omitted from the tax and that subsequently the paraffin tax was cut out, proves that it was in essence intended to be a petrol tax. In its modified form it did not hit these industries so hard, but to increase this tax, as is now proposed, will hit the manufacturing industries of this country very hard. It will amount to something like 70 per cent. in the case of certain industries, and in the circumstances, and in view of the very small amount of revenue which the right hon. Gentleman is called upon to sacrifice, I cannot think that he will refuse to accept the opinion which has been levelled at the tax from every part of the Committee and to agree to the Amendment.
§ Mr. HANNON
The position of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is the most illogical position that has been occupied by any Member on the Front Bench opposite for a long time. He himself has been the most ardent advocate of the exemption of turpentine from this tax in past Debates on Finance Bills, and here to-day, apparently, he comes into the House defending the position that the tax should now be imposed. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, on a former occasion in this House, very strongly resisted the imposition of this duty. But the main consideration affecting us to-day on this side is as to whether or not it is right that a tax should be imposed on a commodity coming into this country which is an essential part of a product that is engaging people in British industrial enterprise. We have in Birmingham a very large number of persons employed in the production of paints and varnishes; and am I to be told by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that he, of all people, is to be a party to imposing a duty on a raw material coming into this country which is an essential part of a product from manufacturing which many men make their livelihood? That is an extraordinary position for the President of the Board of Trade to occupy. His main function in this House is to safeguard the progress and expansion of British enterprise in every possible way.
But when I think of the figure cut by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in defending this Bill, I begin to say that anything in the nature of logic in political argument has vanished from this House for all time, because on former occasions he has denounced, with all the vigour of his constructive intellect, a tax of this kind. Surely the arguments submitted by my hon. Friends on this side must appeal to the reason of the President of the Board of Trade. No more reasonable man exists. He is always amenable to sound, reasonable, cogent argument. I have never yet approached him on any subject and made an appeal to him with great reasoning power that he was not prepared to examine carefully and meticulously; and now, when he stands up at that Box, surely, realising how many people there are in this country whose future and position will be prejudiced by this tax, he will say: "No, I 652 shall be no party to the imposition of a duty which will imply the unemployment of vast numbers of workpeople." I sincerely hope that he will not make his position as President of the Board of Trade more liable to adverse criticism than it has been in the past, and that he will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. PHILIP OLIVER
I am glad that on this occasion all three sides are united in appeals to the Government. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) rightly protested against this proposed increase, not because it is a protective tariff—it is not—but because it is a tax on a raw material, and further because it shows singularly plainly the great danger of these little taxes, whether they be Excise or Customs, protective or free trade taxes. You put a little bit on, and then, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants a little bit more, you increase your 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. and your 20 per cent. to 30 per cent.; and, in the words of the old adage, Facilis descensus Averni.
I want to draw the attention of the Government to the position of the wallpaper industry, which is a very important industry and one which at present is somewhat hard pressed by foreign competition. It is an industry which has shown singular resource and is thoroughly efficient. This industry employs, during the course of a year, no fewer than 250,000 gallons of white spirit, and a further increase of the tax on this raw material of this industry is going to be a very considerable obstacle in their way. At this time they are undoubtedly faced with a considerable amount of foreign competition, and during the last seven years, from 1923 to 1930, the imports into this country of foreign manufactured wallpaper have increased by something like £100,000. I am not complaining about that. I am not complaining about any competition that comes to us from abroad, but I am complaining that when we are attempting, with efficiency, to meet that foreign competition, we should have this artificial handicap placed upon us by a duty imposed upon our raw material. As a free trader, desiring that free traders should have freedom and should also, with efficiency, be given a fair chance, I appeal to the Government not to place upon this industry a further handicap by increasing this tax on their raw material.
§ Major LLEWELLIN
I want to add a few words, particularly with regard to the celluloid industry, because I happen to be in a position to know the full facts with regard to it. The facts of the case, some of which have been told to the Committee already by the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton), are that this tax of 6d. amounts to as much as 17 per cent. of the European price of oil of turpentine to-day, that two tons of oil of turpentine are needed to make one ton of camphor, and that the camphor itself forms 20 per cent. of the finished weight of the celluloid article. These works, which have been referred to already, of the British Xylonite Company, took great pains to make themselves independent of the foreign supply of this raw material, which was liable to fluctuate excessively during the time of the Russo-Japanese War, and otherwise they were dependent for the synthetic article upon their rivals in Germany, so they made this factory down in Suffolk at considerable cost, and the result of the addition of 2d. to the tax this year is to make it more expensive, probably, to produce the camphor in this country than the price at which it can be produced on the Continent.
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in this case. It may be difficult in all cases to exclude the oil of turpentine from this duty, because it may be difficult to differentiate and to see where it is really used as the raw material or where it is not, but that does not apply to the manufacture of camphor in this country, because at the present time there are daily in attendance at these works Inland Revenue officers, who can have the additional check of seeing that the oil which gets the exemption for which we ask in this Amendment gets to those works free of tax and, of course, is not used, as it would not be used by that firm, for anything other than the manufacture of this raw material. It will only make something like £1,300 difference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a year if the whole of the 6d. tax is taken off, but it makes a considerable difference in the price of camphor in the finished article—as much as £12 6s. 8d. per ton, or 8 per cent. of the whole price of the finished camphor—so that, with this high industrial competition that is now taking place between the rival manufacturers throughout the world, I ask the President of the 654 Board of Trade and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to see if they cannot do something to meet the case.
I only rise to instance this case of camphor as one where this particular firm, which I believe is the only celluloid manufacturing firm in this country, has taken such pains to make itself independent of the raw material that comes from abroad. It is a good case, as I am certain the right hon. Gentleman will realise. It is a case which he can quite easily check and upon which he can keep this check by means of the Inland Revenue officers who are already there, and I ask him to pay some consideration to this matter. After all, it cannot be said that it will upset the equilibrium of the Budget, because, as I understand, if the Land Tax proposals should go through, they themselves will severely upset the equilibrium of the Budget. I trust he will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. REMER
It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackley (Mr. P. Oliver), but I agree with him in the remarks which he has just made in which he made an appeal for the industries of this country. In my constituency there are probably some of the largest wallpaper manufacturers in the United Kingdom. I have had a letter from them informing me that so large a quantity as 230,000 gallons of this spirit are used annually by them, and that it is very serious to have to face this increased burden on their business. It is particularly hard on them—and here possibly I may join issue with the hon. Member for Blackley—for this efficient industry was built up under the protection afforded to it by the Wrapping-paper Duty. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise what a serious charge this duty will be upon many industries which have to face serious competition, and I appeal to him to see if there are not some means by which this great charge can be removed. I am sure that he has not realised that over 35,000,000 gallons of this spirit are used for industrial purposes—my authority is an answer given to me by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—and that it means an additional £1,000,000 charged upon industry in the current year. When these figures are put before him, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the matter, if not now, at any rate, between 655 now and Report stage, in order to find if there are some means by which the industries which use the spirit can be safeguarded from the increased charge which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put upon them.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I want to say a word about the effect of this tax on the linoleum industry. It is a very important industry in my constituency, and the mass of my constituents in Lancaster are dependent on it. The President of the Board of Trade will no doubt say that this is such a small tax that the burden upon the industries that use turpentine is infinitesimal. Last week I saw a director of one of these concerns and discussed it with him. I ascertained that his company use 1,000 gallons of spirit a week, and that the additional charge will be in the nature of £8 a week—or about £400 a year—the salary of a Member of Parliament. In cases where industries are trying their utmost to get their costs down, and, as in this industry, have to face a considerable and growing foreign competition, such an additional burden should be avoided by the Government if it be at all possible.
§ Captain Sir WILLIAM BRASS
There is one point which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to remember. I appreciate the difficulty in trying to separate petrol used for one purpose and petrol used for another, but white spirit and turpentine cannot possibly be used for motor cars. It is a different thing altogether, and you cannot get a substitution of turpentine or white spirit and use it in place of petrol.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. William Graham)
I have listened with very great care to all the speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite, and the Committee will perhaps permit me in approaching these Amendments, to say a word or two with regard to the general course of our Debate. This raises the question of the exemption for specific use, and perhaps it will be convenient, especially as we are working under a Guillotine system, if I try as briefly as possible to cover each Amendment and to make my reply comprehensive, because the Committee will agree that our opportunities are limited in this part of the Debate to 7.30. The duties on the hydrocarbon oils were 656 introduced two or three years ago for a purpose with which the Committee are familiar, and they were designed to produce a revenue of about £16,600,000 in 1931–32. On the present occasion, the object of this addition of two-pence per gallon on the imported article is to secure an additional revenue of £7,500,000 this year and about £8,300,000 in a full financial year. We have already been perfectly candid with the Committee that, so delicately is this Budget balanced, that we are unable to sacrifice revenue in any Department of our proposals.
When we come to the two Amendments which we are discussing, the facts are plain and clear. On the Report stage of the Budget Resolution, it was shown that, if turpentine and white spirit were exempted, the loss in revenue would be about £500,000. If we confined the exemption to the present increase of 2d., the loss would be £166,000. In any case, whatever the loss, it is not one which can be afforded by the Government in existing conditions. When we approach the arguments which have been used this afternoon, we find that there is not the least doubt that there must be a great deal of common ground among us. This is plainly a duty on an imported commodity which is the raw material of great industries in this country, and, if we were free to apply our economic faith, I suppose that very few of us would recommend a tax of this kind. I think I can say, for what the argument is worth—I do not push it too far—that we did not begin it. It is true that we rely upon it, and I am not surprised at being charged with having voted against it in the past by hon. Members who supported it in the Division Lobby and made no protest against the then Chancellor of the Exchequer who had introduced this device.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I am not going to rely on an argument of that kind, because it is plainly a duty on raw material, and one which in happier circumstances we should all try to avoid. If, however, we are to raise £7,500,000 of revenue at the present time, it must be conceded that, taking the general scope of this duty and the fact that the great bulk of it falls upon petrol which 657 is used for motor cars, there is probably hardly an industrial sphere in which in existing conditions it could be imposed with less damage to the national interest. The difficulty turns on the series of Amendments which are designed to secure relief for specific purposes. That, of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the past has always had to resist. An hon. Member who spoke on the other side was wrong in suggesting that the original intention was to confine this to a duty on petrol. It began and remained for all practical purposes a duty on hydrocarbon oils, and the only exemptions which have been made up to this point have been in regard to lifeboats and fishing vessels, both of which are exceptional in character and do not raise the administrative difficulties which would be raised in the concessions which are proposed this afternoon.
When we pass to the actual industries which are involved, I am bound to say that I hardly think a very strong case, taking them as a whole, can be established. Much of the argument which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) and the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward) and other hon. Members, related to the paint and varnish trades. Taking the general course of our industry in this country, it is undeniable that, while those trades may have suffered because of the general depression, they have probably suffered to a less extent than the great majority of other industries. In any event, when we pass to the influence of the cost of this duty on a gallon of paint, we find, even with the full weight of the 6d., that it does not amount to more than 2d. or 3d. on a gallon of paint selling at anything between 7s. 6d. and 20s. or more. I know that in a newspaper called the "Oil and Colour Trades Journal," there was a reference to a paint sold at a price as low as 3s. a gallon, but I am advised by what appears to be a competent authority that anything round about that price would not deserve the name of paint. So we may proceed on a rather higher figure, and it is clear that that addition to the cost is comparatively trifling, and cannot be seriously pleaded either, perhaps, in the national circumstances, or in the circumstances of this particular industry and 658 the other trades for which an appeal has been addressed this afternoon.
I cannot be moved, impressive as have been the speeches on the other side, so far as that industry is concerned, but I am willing to admit, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton), that there is a more impressive case where he is concerned. He addressed his arguments to me with great tenderness, and I only wish I could meet the point, but the difficulties are very great indeed. I am not sure that I can admit that I was in the wrong as regards the synthetic camphor which is imported and the competition with the natural camphor which comes from Japan. I do not think that there is any difference between my hon. Friend and myself as to the facts. Broadly speaking, I suggested on the last occasion that, while of course there was competition with imported synthetic camphor, as it is called, perhaps the bulk of the competition was with the imported natural camphor from Japan. I cannot vouch for these figures, because I am speaking from memory, but I can say that they are substantially correct; we import about £20,000 worth of synthetic camphor and about £80,000 worth of natural camphor; so that, taking the trade in bulk, the camphor which my hon. Friend has particularly in mind is perhaps about one-fifth of the whole.
If it be true, however, as seems likely, that the British product of synthetic camphor is about £20,000, it is unquestionable that there is strenuous competition. We made it perfectly clear that if it were possible to take outside this duty these industrial processes, and more particularly the industrial processes where competition is severe, we would be only too glad to do it. Since this Amendment was last moved, I have made very careful inquiry on this point. I ask the Committee to believe that the administrative difficulties are very considerable, and that it would be virtually impossible to draw a dividing line among the industrial uses, or, rather, the non-road uses, to which these imported oils are put in existing conditions. I admit that the revenue which would be lost by the concession in respect of making synthetic camphor might not be very considerable, but it would be much larger if other industrial processes 659 were taken into account, and the loss would speedily rise to £500,000. I must observe in passing that the case for other industries is even stronger, or at all events it is very strong, as compared with the one company, or virtually one company, which is interested in this synthetic camphor. And not only that, for the moment we embark upon relief in respect of non-road uses all the information at my disposal in those very impressive briefs which are available for the use of every Government shows that the cost of the concession would soon rise from £500,000 to £1,700,000—that is, if we were to take the non-road elements out of the scope of the tax. I am afraid that I must adhere to these arguments this afternoon. The case submitted by my hon. Friends opposite is in many particulars a strong one, but, on the other hand, there is the urgent call for revenue, which has dictated the reply by which I must now ask the Committee to abide.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
I cannot help thinking that the speech of the President of the Board of Trade is a rather bad omen for the future progress of this Debate, because in point of fact he really admits the justice of the case which has been made against him, and then proceeds to say that the Budget is so precariously balanced that he cannot give way in a single item, however small. That will invest the subsequent Debates on other parts of the Budget with a very considerable atmosphere of unreality. If we cannot get a small concession like this right at the beginning it is going to
§ be pretty hopeless later on. It is a criticism against the Budget as a whole if it be the fact that it has been balanced so exactly that the slightest pin-prick will be fatal to it; on the face of it that makes it a bad Budget. For that the Government have themselves to blame. If this is a tax which cannot be defended in principle, and the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to defend it in principle, there are other taxes which can be defended in principle, and it was surely not beyond the wit of man, and especially of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with all the technical and expert advice which he has behind him, to find some means of providing himself with a balance of revenue so that he would be in a position to consider urgent appeals such as have been addressed to him from every side of the Committee by Members who have had representations made to them from many different industries. I am not aware that my own constituency is particularly interested in any one of these industries, and I am not speaking from any particular industrial point of view. This is a point of principle affecting the taxation of the raw material of an industry, and it ought to have received very much greater consideration than has been shown by the Treasury Bench this afternoon, and as at present advised I cannot see any reason in justice which should prevent me from voting for the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 196.663
|Division No. 277.]||AYES.||[5.5 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Fielden, E. B.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Alien, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Chapman, Sir S.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Colfox, Major William Philip||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Colville, Major D. J.||Grace, John|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Cooper, A. Duff||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cranborne, Viscount||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Boyce, Leslie||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hanbury, C.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Buchan, John||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Ferguson, Sir John||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Somerset, Thomas|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||O'Neill, Sir H.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Ramsbotham, H.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Inksip, Sir Thomas||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Remer, John R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Llewellin, Major J. J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||White, H. G.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Salmon, Major I.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Marjoribanks, Edward||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Meller, R. J.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Womersley, W. J.|
|Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Simms, Major-General J.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)|
|Muirhead, A. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Smithers, Waldron||Captain Margesson and Sir George Penny.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Glassey, A. E.||McShane, John James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff Cannock)||Gossling, A. G.||Malone, C. L. Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||March, S.|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Gray, Milner||Marshall, Fred|
|Alpass, J. H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Mathers, George|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Grentell, D. R, (Glamorgan)||Matters, L. W.|
|Arnott, John||Groves, Thomas E.||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grundy, Thomas W.||Messer, Fred|
|Ayles, Walter||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Middleton, G.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Mills, J. E.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Montague, Frederick|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Morley, Ralph|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Haycock, A. W.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Benton, G.||Hayes, John Harvey||Mort, D. L.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr, (Cardiff, S.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Bromfield, William||Herriotts, J.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Brooke, W.||Hicks, Ernest George||Palin, John Henry|
|Brothers, M.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Perry, S. F.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hoffman, P. C.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hopkin, Daniel||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Caine, Hall-, Derwent||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Potts, John S.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Chater, Daniel||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rowson, Guy|
|Compton, Joseph||Kinley, J.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Knight, Holford||Sanders, W. S.|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Sandham, E.|
|Dallas, George||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Scurr, John|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lawrence, Susan||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leach, W.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Duncan, Charles||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Shield, George William|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lees, J.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Logan, David Gilbert||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Longbottom, A. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Egan, W. H.||Longden, F.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Freeman, Peter||Lunn, William||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||McElwee, A.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||MacLaren, Andrew||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Gill, T. H.||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gillett, George M.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Sorensen, R.|
|Stamford, Thomas W.||Viant, S. P.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Strauss, G. R.||Wallace, H. W.||Wilson C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Watkins, F. C.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wellock, Wilfred||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Welsh, James (Paisley)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||West, F. R.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Westwood, Joseph||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Tout, W. J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Townend, A. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Paling.|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Vaughan, David||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
§ Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
I beg to move in page 1, line 21, to leave out the word "sixpence," and to insert instead thereof the word "fivepence."
The effect of my Amendment, if carried, will be to increase the tax on motor spirit by one penny only instead of by 2d., as provided for in the Finance Bill. After the speech which has been made by the President of the Board of Trade I have not very great hopes that I shall succeed in my object. It seems extraordinary that both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade not only attacked the tax in unmeasured terms when it was first introduced, but also voted against it. Now that they find themselves in office, not only do they support the tax which they formerly condemned, but they propose actually to increase it. I think most hon. Members on this side are in favour of the principle of a tax on motor spirit, and the only thing we question is whether the tax is not getting too high. After all, it is a great mistake to make a tax so high that it decreases the productivity of that tax, and, although that point has not yet been reached, there seems to be a growing tendency in that direction. For some time past we have seen the number of motor cars registered increasing month by month, but the number last month was fewer than in the corresponding month of last year, and I think that is a distinct indication that this tax has become so high as to interfere with its productivity.
The tax on motor spirit is very high indeed. The cost is 1s. 3d. per gallon for motor spirit of a good quality, and 6d. of that cost is represented by the tax, and 9d. is the actual cost of the commodity. That represents a tax of nearly 75 per cent. on the price of the article. In former years a tax of that kind would have been looked upon as being absolutely prohibitive, and there is no imported article at the present time which bears a tax of anything like 75 per cent. No doubt the President of the Board of Trade 664 will tell us that the price of petrol today is lower than it actually was two or three years ago. That is perfectly true, but the low price of the article is entirely due to artificial over-production in many quarters of the globe. That over-production is not likely to go on at the same rate, and once consumption overtakes production there is a great danger that we may see a rise in the price of motor spirit, and the result of that would be very serious to this flourishing industry. For these reasons, I suggest that 6d. per gallon as a tax on motor spirit is much too high, and that we are running the risk of reducing the consumption of motor spirit.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
I hope the President of the Board of Trade will stick to his guns and make the duty 6d. No one has urged with greater eloquence than the President of the Board of Trade the absolute necessity of restoring the coal trade to increased prosperity, and very eminent individuals on all sides have told us that there is only one way to restore the coal trade, and that is to get all the by-products out of coal that are to be found in it and find a market for them. I am not going to deviate from the strict line of order, but I wish to say, here and now, is as few words as I possibly can, that I have a rather important pronouncement to make which I think will be of interest to hon. Members. My pronouncement is that there is a movement in Scotland to bring this great attempt to produce oil from coal to a successful issue.
How is it that all these important people, these great scientists, after spending during the last 10 years £1,000,000 in experiments, have not succeeded in their task? I propose to tell the Committee the reason. It is because they have devoted their scientific attention to one side of the problem only. It is an easy thing to get oil from coal. I do not say that any fool can do it. We have been told that there are 200 processes by which oil can be obtained from coal. But what is 665 the use of obtaining 30 or 40 gallons of crude oil from a ton of coal if the coal alone costs 15s.? These great scientists have never yet said to themselves: "We must obtain from a ton of coal on the spot and at the same time everything that is contained in that particular coal."
We can obtain oil successfully from coal so long as this 6d. duty remains, and I should like the President of the Board of Trade to say that so long as the present Government remain in office, and so long as he exercises any influence with the Labour party, he will always say that the 6d. duty shall remain. That is what those individuals want who are now carrying out this great experiment of getting oil from coal. As coal is burnt now, the gas from the coal goes up the chimney. We have to get the gas at the same time as we get the oil from the same coal, because you can obtain from a ton of coal 10,000 cubic feet of gas which you can sell at 8d. or 9d. per 1,000 feet. That can only be done by taking a very wide view of this question, and, if you have a market for the gas, you would have to buy up all the gasworks in the district, and lay down pipe lines to convey the gas to them.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member promised that he would not develop his argument too widely, but he is now going too wide.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I have been a Member of this House during four Parliaments, and I have never opened my mouth on this subject before because I thought that it looked like pushing a particular project in which I have an interest. I want to say here that that project has got beyond the stage of asking for money, and I want to tell hon. Members what I think will come into operation within the next two or three months. The abstraction of oil from coal is something which is likely to make the coal trade prosperous once more. We must do everything to see that this duty of 6d. is retained, and that is the whole point, because so long as it is there there is a revenue of 10s. which can be got out of a ton of coal. We can produce all the other by-products at the same time and in the same place and make the whole thing a great success.
You pulled me up, Mr. Chairman, when I began to talk about the gasworks, but that is only part of the scheme, and 666 with this protection, this certain market of 10s. per ton, we can smelt a cheap iron ore in Scotland—I am speaking of what I know—a low grade black bandstone which is to be found in millions of tons in Lanarkshire. That is ready to be smelted with the residue of this same coal, which is coke, in coke ovens, and turned into a cheap iron ore, which will be a cheaper product than can be imported from Belgium or Bombay. I have given hon. Members the outline of what is possible if this duty remains. The President of the Board of Trade is doing a thing to-day far better than he knows.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I would like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that he is now on a good thing; in fact, a better thing than Cameronian was the other day. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to stick to the duty which he has proposed, and I hope he will not allow himself to be deterred by the speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway. Let the right hon. Gentleman stick to his guns, and then we shall be able to say that two Members representing the City of Edinburgh have done something to put Scotland once more on its feet.
§ Major ELLIOT
The Opposition, of course, is in a certain amount of difficulty here, because, owing to the Motion which was recently carried by the House, and which, of course, I do not criticise in any way, we are compelled to discuss the Budget in one day. The subjects which we have to discuss to-day are the Budget; the revenue which we have to raise for the year's finance is covered by this day's proceedings. Thereafter we shall pass on to other Clauses, which it would be out of order to discuss. We owe this to the votes of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and I hope that they will justify it to themselves. This is, of course, a special interest of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and particularly of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean), whom I am glad to see in his place, because this is pure Protection. It is a revenue tariff, and a revenue tariff with 100 per cent. Protection; and this is the tax which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have gagged the House to push through before 7.30 to-night.
667 It is hardly for me to object to this. We put down this Amendment with the object of drawing the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, with the object of drawing the Secretary for Mines, and with the object of drawing Members of the Government generally. They needed very little drawing; they have tumbled forward to assure us that this is a Protective duty, imposed for that purpose, and that it is for that purpose that they are supporting it this afternoon. We challenge hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Will they divide the Committee against this piece of Protection this afternoon. or will they support this first step in a revenue tariff. This is not the last of the Protective Budgets. This is the first Protective Budget; this is the first step in the revenue tariff, and it is being put on by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, of course because they are looking for revenue; but it is put on, according to the description of the President of the Board of Trade, not in pursuance of his own theories, but of those of someone else. There is only one other party in the House, so that it must be in deference to the economic views of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. The patient oxen are not merely dragging the cart now, but they know that they are pulling it.
This raises a very large piece of the year's revenue. The only increase in the year's revenue comes from this tax. The tax is to raise over £24,000,000 in a single year, and it is to provide an increase from £15,900,000 to £24,100,000. It is, of course, the easiest thing in the world to twit hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite with inconsistency, but no one bothers about that nowadays; they have eaten so many of their words that a few more mean very little. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, was in the forefront of the accusers of this tax. He said:I have always been opposed to a tax on petrol,when it was imposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and he gave the true bureaucrat's reason, for he said:I know the Revenue do not approve of such a tax.668 Of course it was in opposition to the will of the permanent Department, and of course that seemed to the right hon. Gentleman, even in Opposition, to be a conclusive argument against putting on such a tax. He went on to justify his argument on principle. He said:What would be thought about putting a tax on coal, the raw material of every manufacturing industry?Of course, that does not appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. He thinks nothing of raising the price of coal. In fact, he brought in and carried through this House a Bill for that purpose. He is now putting a tax upon what the present Chancellor of the Exchequer then described as:The raw material essential—and increasingly so—for a vast number of industries in this country.We have now the authority of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite and below the Gangway for putting a tax upon a raw material which is increasingly essential for a vast number of industries in this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer further went on to say:Merely from the political point of view I would welcome this proposal."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 25th April, 1928; col. 935, Vol. 216.]We can repeat that declaration with redoubled force. When the Bill was before the House for Second Reading the present Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt with the question whether this petrol was used merely for pleasure cars or for the purpose of trade. He said:I should be very much surprised if less than one-half of the petrol consumed is not used for what we might call trade or commercial purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1928; col. 40, Vol. 218.]Every argument that can be brought against this protective tariff on a raw material has been stultified this afternoon in the mouths of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, by their own executive's action in bringing forward this duty. Of course, when this tax was attacked, there was some of the usual rhodomontade which is indulged in by Members of the Socialist party. One of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues said, on the Second Reading of the Bill:The taxation is to be levied upon the consumer, but it will be levied in the main on the working classes of the country. The Petrol Tax is going to be paid, and is being 669 paid by the working people, the poor people, and it is going into the pockets, not of the producers and capitalists, but into the pockets of the big financiers, who to-day have these depressed industries under their thumb."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1928; cols. 111–2, Vol. 218.]The Chancellor of the Exchequer now puts that tariff up by 50 per cent. So much for his honesty and consistency of purpose in the political sense. But he went further. He argued that he did not like this tax, and he went so far as to say that he would regard this addition of 2d. as having a claim for remission. It is true that he qualified that by the statement that that would Be when the Government were in a position to remit taxation, which puts it on to the Greek Kalends, or possibly a week after that.
The Secretary for Mines, whose electoral position is concerned in the matter, had no such scruples. He went down to West Lothian, and had an interview with a newspaper representative. I do not know whether it was purely by accident, or whether there had been some collusion in the matter, but they happened to meet. This was before the Budget, and the Secretary for Mines was able to adumbrate some of the Budget proposals. No doubt it was done in perfect solemnity and good faith, but still it is an odd thing to happen to meet a newspaper representative and to be able to adumbrate these proposals. It was he who claimed the credit for this increase of duty, and in Scotland the case made by the Secretary for Mines is not that of a revenue tariff, but that of the protective side of the revenue tariff. He said:I cannot say what the proposals are which have been placed before the Government, but they are well known to those in the industry. I am hopeful that the proposals will be acceptable. If they are, it will be possible for the industry to carry on until world prices rise, thus enabling the industry to maintain itself.Cannot that argument be used for wheat? Cannot that argument be used for iron and steel? Cannot that argument be used for a hundred other depressed industries in this country? They do not happen to be represented in this House by a Cabinet Minister, and, consequently, proposals acceptable to them cannot be placed before the Chancellor of the Exchequer and communicated to the Press some weeks beforehand with the same authority as might otherwise have 670 been the case. The Secretary for Mines, when the Budget proposals had been disclosed, went back to his constituency, and in Broxburn he said:Having learned their opinion, he made certain representations to the Government, and last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer increased the Petrol Tax from 4d. to 6d.That is rather an interesting declaration to have from a member of the Cabinet. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is not a member of the Cabinet!"] He seems to be better. He is a member of the Government, and he got his proposals accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which not all members of the-Cabinet can do. It may be said that he is merely a member of the Government fighting a difficult constituency, and fighting hard for his seat. Not at all. This argument is now brought forward by the Government Press. I have here a sheet from the current issue of "Forward," which, no doubt, the President of the Board of Trade will recognise as the leading, and I might say the only, Government Press in Scotland-When it learned of the proposal to suggest a reduction of this duty, it got quite tearful and hysterical about it. The Scottish shale oil industry, it said, was threatened with extinction. Threatened by what? A reduced tax on imported oil. There is nothing about the Government's threat to reduce the tax on imported glass; there is nothing about the Government's threat to reduce the tax on imported lace. Not at all. Members of the Government do not represent those constituencies. But imported oil must be a very serious matter.It is at a time like this, and on such a struggling industry, that the Tory party proposes to reduce the tax upon foreign competition, and make that competition easier, and collapse prices and ruin the industry.Nothing stronger has ever been printed by the "Morning Poet"; nothing more vigorous has ever been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). Here is the gospel, the pure milk of the word, printed—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, oil!"] I used the Scriptural reference, which is not so familiar to hon. Members opposite as it is to the President of the Board of Trade. "Forward" says:If foreign produced natural oil comes in here at a lower tax, then Scottish prices must further fall, and the industry be finally 671 ruined. Strange, is it not, that it is the Labour Government and the Free Trade party which is for keeping on the tax on imported oils—although as a means of raising revenue—while the Tariff Tory Protectionist party is moving to allow easier and cheaper import terms to foreign oil and ruin the home product? We will remember this one!We shall remember it also, and we shall bring it to the notice of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway as well as of those on the Government Benches, and let the House know that the Liberal party gagged the House in order to put through the whole Budget on one day, and the advantage that the Government are taking to put through a piece of perfectly straightforward Protection, justified by Protectionist arguments, and backed by the Secretary for Mines as a proposal which he has been able to get accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to save the Scottish shale oil industry. On these proposals we do not propose to comment further. Naturally, we are not going into the Division Lobby to divide against this proposal. Not at all. If anyone challenges the Government, we shall be only too pleased to reinforce them, and we should welcome, and more than welcome, a declaration of the Government, not merely from the mouths of its Ministers, but in the Division Lobby. This is a proposal which they bring before the House, and if any hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway like to challenge it we shall, at least respect them for having for once stuck up for their principles; and it will be perfectly safe for them to do so, because, as we are going to support the Government, they may vote against it with a perfectly easy mind.
§ Major COLVILLE
I should like to make quite clear the Protective value of this tax, because I am familiar with the manufacturing position. This is an oil age, when the increasing use of oil for the Navy, for the Mercantile Marine, for road transport, and many other purposes, is becoming evident. My hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) has dealt with the future developments which I feel confident will take place in the distillation of oil from coal, but I am going to deal with the actual oil industry of this country which is in existence now. There is only one part of Great Britain, namely, 672 the Lothians of Scotland, where oil is produced in large quantities. The industry was started 80 years ago. It is the mother of all oil industries. The first refineries that were put down in the United States were copied from our Scottish ones many years ago. At the present time, approximately 6,000 men are employed in that industry. They live in about 25 villages, the inhabitants of some of those villages consisting entirely of oil workers and their families. The wages bill amounts to something in the neighbourhood of £17,000 a week, and the production of crude oil is 42,000,000 gallons in the year.
That crude oil, when refined, yields certain products. The most important of them from our point of view to-day, and, indeed, a very important one from the point of view of the country generally, is motor spirit. That industry has been through very hard and difficult times. Its position in 1928 was critical. In 1929, the Budget contained a tax of 4d. a gallon on imported petrol, from which the home product was exempt, and that enabled the industry to carry on. New plant was laid down for the purpose of taking advantage of this duty and of carrying on the process known as cracking the heavier oils for motor spirit. Some of that plant is just coming into operation now, and some is already in operation. That tax prevented thousands of men from losing their employment. Since that time, there has been a heavy fall in world prices of oil. From Russia we are faced with very fierce competition, I believe due to the deliberate policy of that Government. Foreign oil products coming into the country have placed the industry in very grave danger again. The Government now come forward with the proposal of a further tax of 2d. Even that will not remove the danger. Only last week, the chairman of the company announced that a further group of refineries would be affected, and would possibly be closed down. None the less, it eased the position to some extent.
Other steps will have to be taken. I believe that, not only in the interests of employment, but of national defence, the one part of the British Islands that can produce oil on a large scale should be safeguarded, and I intend to fight for it. On this issue we must recollect that that 2d. is of some assistance. My hon. and 673 gallant Friend has said it is not intended to take a Division on the subject. If it had been, I should have found myself along with those other Casabiancas of Free Trade, the President of the Board of Trade, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and many others that I could name in the protectionist Lobby. In spite of all their previous utterances, I should have welcomed their conversion to what is a cardinal point in Conservative policy. The time will come when the Government will recognise that our national industries must be protected and employment maintained. We shall not go about that in the same haphazard way that the right hon. Gentleman does, choosing the thing that will yield him the most revenue without considering its effects. On this occasion I am satisfied that it is necessary that this industry should have protection, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will come out boldly like a man and defend it on good, sound protectionist grounds.
§ Sir W. BRASS
After the speech that we had from the right hon. Gentleman recently, we on this side may feel safe that the Government have no intention of doing what is suggested in this Amendment. As we have had no word from the Liberal Free Traders, I, as an old Free Trader myself, now converted to Protection, should like to say a few words from the Free Trade point of view. I think we should look into this matter and balance it up very carefully, and see where the advantage lies. We have two points to remember. We have the great coal industry, which we on this side are naturally anxious to protect, and we welcome the increase in the duty, because it gives an increased protection to the manufacturers of benzol motor spirit. But we must also remember that we have other industries as well, and this, as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, is a tax on their raw material, because petrol is used to a very large extent in the transportation of commodities from one place to another. I want to make a proposal to the right hon. Gentleman. If we could split it up, if we could have our protection for petrol for pleasure purposes only, the ordinary transport trade would be fairly treated by having a reduction of the tax, and we should get our added protection for the manufacturers of benzol.
674 There is another point I should like to make. We import a very large amount of oil from Russia. We were told at the last Election that, if only we voted Socialist, our unemployment would be reduced very considerably, because a very large extra trade would be done with Russia. We do a very large amount of trade in oil with Russia at present, but it is the wrong way round. What happens is that oil from Russia comes into the country, and the balance of trade is all on the wrong side. If the Government would consider some form of barter between Russia and this country—
§ Sir W. BRASS
I thought that, in talking about petrol, we might possibly suggest something which would help the trade of the country. I have balanced this out very carefully in my own mind, both from my old views as a Free Trader and from my new views as a Protectionist, and I have come definitely to the conclusion that, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot split it up as I have suggested between industry and pleasure motoring, I shall support the 6d. because it gives increased protection for our own people in the manufacture of benzol.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
When the hon. and gallant Gentleman moved the Amendment, I was innocent enough to believe that it was seriously intended but, as the Debate developed, it become quite clear that hon. Members opposite were engaged in a little healthy propaganda and that in due course the Amendment would not be pressed to a Division. There was, of course, the very dramatic speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and the very kindly words of my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman). My instructions are not to become involved in these apparent differences between hon. Members opposite but, first of all, to resist the Amendment and, in the second place, to stick to the facts. That on this occasion is easy. What is proposed is, of course, a modification of the increase of 2d. in this duty, which increase was designed to yield £7,500,000 of additional revenue in the present financial year and £8,300,000 in a full financial year. Obviously the 675 effect of the Amendment, if it had been seriously intended, would have been to reduce the yield of that revenue in the current year by £3,750,000 and the Budget would have been in deficit to that extent. So that on revenue grounds right away it would be quite impossible to entertain this Amendment. Then, also, I thought that hon. Members opposite, having failed in wiping out certain parts of this duty intended to modify the duty as a whole, because that is really the proposal to the extent of a penny, on the ground that there would be rather less increase in the price of petrol which, after all, is 97 per cent. of the oil taxed, than was likely to be the case under a duty of this kind. But, on the question of price, there is no argument in existing conditions because I believe, even with the increase in the duty, the price has fallen by a penny in recent times, and is lower than at any point since April, 1928, with the exception of certain weeks just before the Budget was introduced. So that on price there is no very strong argument in existing conditions.
I must invade the other controversy which hon. Members have raised. They have said to the Government, "Here you are engaged in increasing the protective duty which we introduced in 1928." But it was not defended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1928 on that ground. I have frequently to remind the House that this was a general duty on hydro-carbon oils for the express purpose of providing the wherewithal to recover the rating relief. It was defended as a tax on one form of enterprise in order to assist, to the extent of 75 per cent., the relief to hard-pressed productive industry. At that time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was not to the same extent the tariffist that he is at present. He held very strongly by what purported to be Free Trade faith, so that the memories of hon. Members opposite must be very short when they invade this discussion with an argument of that kind.
There is one point to which I must refer. It is better always to be perfectly candid with the House in these matters. This is undeniably a tax on certain forms of industrial enterprise, and one which we should like to see disappear if that were financially 676 practical politics. But inasmuch as it is a duty on imported oil at the rate of 6d. a gallon, it will give a form of protection—that is undeniable—to such enterprise in the manufacture of oils as exists in this country. We are hardly at the stage of regarding that as a very large Protectionist proposition because, out of 1,000,000,000 gallons, only about 4 per cent. is our own production. I think the smaller part of that is shale oil, and the great bulk is the benzol production. But there is, of course, a great deal of enterprise and research into the production of oil from coal by a variety of processes, right down to hydrogenation itself, which is now under review. So far not all these processes have succeeded in attaining a commercial basis. Whether that will be done in future is not for me now to say, but there will be a certain stimulus to research, and perhaps a certain encouragement to existing enterprise, while the duty remains at 6d. a gallon. Beyond that, I think, I am not expected to go. We cannot, of course, sacrifice the revenue, and I think that in taking an attitude of this kind, I am able on this occasion not only to defend the position of the Government, but to reconcile the warring forces of the Opposition.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman comes to me as a very great disappointment. It is not that he has not put his point very clearly, because he certainly always does that, but he has gone a very long way this afternoon towards destroying my faith in human nature. I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as one of the most honest politicians we have in this country, and I feel that it is a deplorable thing that we should see the dropping away of this very fine character. He has made a series of very persistent speeches in the past in favour of Free Trade, but he has never been one of the supporters of the more rigid forms of that theory which has always been professed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no doubt that there have been signs hitherto of a certain amount of the infection which he got from other quarters on the Coal Bill which he produced last year. It is one of the most glaring aspects of Protection in existence in any country of the 677 world to-day. That was, so to speak, a primary lapse. He might have been excused upon that ground as a first offender, but now we find that the virus which is infecting his blood is producing an epidemic as far as he is concerned, and we should have liked a much better explanation than that which he has given this afternoon as to the change of view he is expecting in the House.
None of the arguments he has put forward justifies the line he has taken up. It is true that the Revenue requires the amount of money which he seeks to derive from this particular duty, but as a theoretical Free Trader there was a very easy way for him to get out of the difficulty into which he was placed, because he had only to do what other Free Traders have done in the past, namely, put an excise duty on the home product. But, apparently, he has not had the courage to do that. He has explained that the home product has been, up to now, very small, but does he indicate that if the hydrogenation proposition, to which he has referred, succeeds and the production becomes large, then the duty would be taken off or an excise duty put upon the home product? Are we to understand that? The right hon. Gentleman indicates dissent. Accordingly, perhaps, we may hope that in the course of time the Government benches will give vocal support to explaining this theory of Protection which seems to have affected them with regard to some of our products at least. It is very difficult to understand why this duty should be put on to-day and an excise duty not levied, while at the same time duties which were producing a revenue on such things as cutlery, lace and home-made gloves should be taken off. There can be no consistent ground at all for taking off the duties from those particular articles, especially when you consider that every time a duty has been taken off, an increase has been created in unemployment in this country and people who otherwise would be able to work at their particular jobs have been driven on to the streets.
Perhaps this Debate will give a great chance to the Liberal party. In view of the theories which they advocate, I anticipate that they will go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment this afternoon. It is a great opportunity for 678 them. It is an occasion on which they can be assured that they cannot possibly carry the Amendment, and therefore they will be entirely safe. At any rate, this Debate, whatever else it may do, will have a very educative effect in the country, and I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman, fertile as he is in argument, has been able to find no good reason by which he can reconcile his Free Trade theories with the action he has taken at the present time.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was a complete vindication of the Petrol Duty. He justified it, and the Committee see how justified it is from the revenue and from the Protection point of view. Six years' experience of this House has been more than sufficient to remove all the illusions and most of the enthusiasms which I cherished when I first entered politics as a young man. Therefore I was not a bit surprised when the President of the Board of Trade used arguments exactly contrary to all those used by himself, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for five years when my right hon. Friend was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that he must have forgotten some of the things which they said about the duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was an iniquitous duty and that you might as well tax coal as oil. There were most bitter assaults made upon the duty from all quarters of the Opposition. I do not know of any taxation proposal which aroused greater animosity from the Socialist party than the Petrol Duty.
Since assuming office, the Government have in effect put a duty upon coal and increased the duty upon oil which was imposed by my right hon. Friend. It is an ironical fact that the Socialist party should, to my personal knolwedge in Scotland, be making the very most of the protective arguments produced in favour of this particular duty. The right hon. Gentleman has given no explanation of the extraordinary performances of the Minister of Mines in his own constituency. He goes there weeks before the Budget and gives more than a hint that they find from the protective point of view one proposal of the Budget particularly satisfactory, and 679 after the Budget is introduced, he says to them, "What did I tell you? You should be thankful that I am your Member of Parliament and that I have such a powerful influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I simply tell him to increase the Petrol Duty by 2d., and therefore give an additional protection in favour of your industry, and he does it." Every argument which he used in that speech, which was fully reported in the local Press, was a protective argument. The right hon. Gentleman is bound to accept responsibility for the public statement of a member of his own Government. The right hon. Gentleman, in the two speeches which he has delivered this afternoon, has given no explanation as to the extraordinary action of the Government in taxing raw material as against manufactured goods. We all know that they are becoming converted to Protection. We understand that it is an inevitable process which is going on throughout the country and in every political party, but it is strange to begin by increasing the taxation upon raw material. Why has the right hon. Gentleman gone out of his way to increase this tax on raw material and at the same time to remove all duties on manufactured goods? The right hon. Gentleman has made no attempt to define this astonishing action and this amazing preference for a raw material, nevertheless, we on this side of the Committee welcome the increasing conversion of the Government to the general principle of Protection. I am encouraged by the additional increase of 2d. on the Petrol Duty in the hope that the President of the Board of Trade will still press forward and inform the Soviet Government, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) suggested, that unless they "buy my herring" in larger quantities, he will put such a duty upon petrol, that they will not be able to send it here.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, after the word "oils," to insert the words:but including light oils used for agricultural purposes.The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade told us that his instructions, or, as I would prefer to call 680 it, the advice which had been given to him was that he should not become involved too much in the Free Trade-Protectionist arguments, which might go on here this afternoon. I think that he will agree that the Amendment which I am putting before the Committee is, at any rate, a very simple and straightforward one, and one which will meet with a great deal of sympathy from all sides. The condition of agriculture is too well known to need any wide elaboration. Members on all sides of the Committee have spoken from time to time of the depressed condition of agriculture, and they know that any further burden which is placed upon the farmer at the present time is bound to react, and to react very seriously, upon one of the most depressed industries in this country. The farmer is struggling because he hopes that there will be a change in future fiscal policy which will enable him to make a living and to carry on his business. He is struggling not only very often at a loss, but under an intolerable burden of competition and under conditions which producers of agricultural products in other countries have no experience. Certain Members of the party opposite have on previous occasions supported this Amendment in previous Finance Bill discussions and I hope therefore that it will appeal to them to-day.
It is not possible to give a definite statement, from this side of the Committee at any rate, of what the cost of this concession would be. I have done my utmost to try to get even approximate figures, but they are not available I fancy, outside the records of Government Departments. I think that it will be realised however that in comparison with the large number of millions to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred in replying to a previous Amendment upon the Paper, this concession, at any rate, is a very small matter. The farmers really are unfairly treated. As far as agricultural tractors are concerned, there is really no use of the roads at all. They pass from field to field only upon the road, otherwise their work is entirely in the field. As far as lorries and trailers are concerned—and a good many of the latter are used by farmers—a certain amount of the work is not carried on upon the road. When it is remembered that in the first place this tax was put on for the purpose largely of assisting 681 in road development, it will be realised that the farmer in paying the same tax as anybody else is really being rather unfairly treated. It has been said in this House from time to time that the farmer gets a benefit in connection with the licencing duty upon his vehicle, but I would point out that as far as the lighter vehicles are concerned, the concession amounts to very little, if anything at all. It does not in any way compare with the extra burden he will have to bear as a result of the 2d. extra on the petrol used for agricultural purposes. There are not only tractors, but stationary engines and lorries to be taken into consideration. It will be realised that the farmer has no option, in these days when the use of horses on the roads is more and more difficult, but to extend the use of motor vehicles and therefore to extend the burden which he is required to bear.
I do not wish to deal with the depressed condition of agriculture as a result of the importation of foreign goods, because it would not be in order here, but it is fair to remind the Committee that the Government allow millions of pounds worth of bacon, eggs and other agricultural produce to come from abroad and flood this country, and it is unjust that in those circumstances the farmer should be forced to bear an additional burden at a time when he is doing his level best to secure new trade and to retain the small portion of the home market which he has so far been able to keep in his own hands. I noticed in the "Times," I think it was, not long ago, a statement by the general secretary of the Commercial Motor Users' Association to the effect that the combined motor vehicle and petrol tax meant 15 per cent. on the operating cost of a vehicle, 60 per cent. on the wages and 12½ per cent. on the total cost of the business. That has reference to the whole range of running commercial motor vehicles, and not only vehicles for agriculture, but it shows the heavy cost to the trade of these tax burdens. While it might be impossible to give the concession that has been asked for to-day in regard to agriculture to the payers of the Petrol Duty as a whole, surely it is possible for the Government to take into consideration the special plight of agriculture and do something to enable the farmer to fight the competition which exists in his very depressed industry.
682 I would like to give a concrete illustration of the way that the Petrol Duty operates in connection with the agricultural industry, and I give it because it has been sent definitely and directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from my constituency. In that constituency there is a concern which trades in corn, seed and manures, and delivers these commodities by motor vehicles to the agriculturists in the neighbourhood. This case is no doubt typical of many other firms in a similar line of business. On 1st January, this comparatively small firm had to pay £80 insurance on their vehicles and £141 for motor licences. During the year they use on an average 9,000 gallons of petrol, and as the tax is 50 per cent., 6½d. a gallon, it cost them £234. Therefore, that firm pays, directly or indirectly, in motor taxation £455 in one year. The total rating of the premises of the firm is £147. Compare that case with the position of tradesmen whose shops are in the main street of the same town. The central shopping street, I am told, is assessed at £4,855. There are only two motor lorries used by the tradespeople in the whole of the street, on which vehicles £60 a year, it is estimated, is paid for petrol and licences. Therefore, in a street rated at £4,384 the tradesmen pay £60 a year in taxation for transport facilities, while one small firm, rated at £145, because it deals in agricultural produce, pays £455.
It is clear to anyone who has studied this question that the Petrol Duty falls specially heavily upon those connected with agriculture, upon the farmer, and upon the market gardener and those who deal in materials which are sold to the farmer. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this is a very real grievance. It cannot be a very large amount, comparatively speaking, which the Treasury would lose by making the concession, but it would remove a very real grievance from the farmers, who feel that this further burden ought not to be put upon them at the present time, especially when the whole, country and every party in the House are anxious to do everything they can for agriculture. Surely, this is not the moment to put an extra tax of 2d. per gallon on petrol used by tractors, many of which do not go upon the roads, upon lorries, a great deal of the work of which is done within the area of 683 the farm, and upon those whose misfortune it is to have to engage in delivering agricultural produce, or delivering goods to the farmer. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some indication that this matter, which has been raised on several previous occasions and has received sympathetic support from all quarters, will meet with recognition at the hands of the Government.
§ Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
May I add my appeal to the appeal that I made when the Financial Resolution was before the House, that the oil used for agricultural purposes should be exempt from taxation? I have listened with amazement to the references to the advantages of taxation. I believe in no taxes. I hate taxes. There is a kind of feeling going about that taxes are good. If they are good they may be good for the shale oil industry and other industries, but they are no good for the agricultural industry. I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that he should give agriculture the exemption that is asked for, which would not cost much. At the moment, oil prices are low and the full effect of the tax has not been felt, but who can say when oil prices will rise again? The big oil companies will not go on cutting each other's throats, and it is quite likely that in the near future we may see an increase in petrol prices. The Government have occupied the time of the House with Measures dealing with agriculture, and here they are stultifying their own action. Take the case of the Consumers' Council. The farmers have to pay more to take their produce to the market. I hope that I am in order—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not very conversant with the details of the Consumers' Council Bill, and therefore I cannot controvert the hon. Member, but the point before the Committee is an Amendment regarding the Oil Duty.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
As I understand it, the Government wish to enable the farmer to market his produce cheaply, but he cannot do that if the petrol by means of which he takes his produce to market is taxed, and also the mechanised part of his farm. I understand that the concession would cost £150,000 to £200,000 a year. Surely, it is worth while to give 684 that boon to agriculture. It is the duty of the Treasury to aid industry. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will say that he will exempt agriculture from this tax. It is a serious matter. Farmers are practically denied the use of the roads. At the present time it is almost impossible to drive cattle along the roads. They must be taken by motor vehicle. That is inflicting a hardship on the agricultural community, and that community deserves consideration. Something like 1,000,000 acres have gone out of cultivation, agricultural labourers' wages are going down and they will continue to go down if these taxes are imposed. Therefore I do appeal to the Government to give us this slight concession. Agriculture is in a most depressed state, especially the corn-growing part of the industry. They are on their beam ends and many are going bankrupt. It is now proposed to add a further burden to this depressed industry, which is one of the most important in the country. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will exempt agriculture from the imposition of this tax.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I should like to add my voice in support of the exemption. The last speaker has stated the case admirably, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to resist the pressure from below the Gangway. Does he realise that by this tax he is really attacking modern invention? The Minister of Agriculture and hon. Members opposite have invited farmers to go in for new methods. There are no new methods so available to the farmer as the use of petrol machinery. Electricity is not available, and it is doubtful whether it can be made available at a sufficiently cheap price, but petrol can be made available to the farmer at a very cheap price. There is an idea in the mind of the Government that the farmers can use other hydro-carbon oils, such as paraffin, and that it is not necessary to give them a chance of using petrol. For most operations in farming petrol is better adapted than other oils.
Before the last General Election, hon. Members opposite were continually going to the farmers and saying that the tax on oil had upset their rating relief. That being the opinion of hon. and right hon. Members opposite before the Election, 685 what has caused them to alter their view and to impose a double burden on the agricultural industry? The right hon. Gentleman has a case to answer there. We are told by the Government that if they granted the concession there would be difficulty in collecting the tax. That was said about the original Petrol Duty, but I suggest that with the right hon. Gentleman's intelligence and the intelligence of those in his Department he can arrange so that the agriculturists can get a drawback. The farmer is well known as such, and has to sign any amount of official documents. The small-holder is also well known. If the drawback were allowed to the agricultural community, they would owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the Government. Even if it cost the Treasury £250,000 a year, the assistance that it would give to agriculture would be well worth it.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
I support the Amendment and should like to comment on the great interest which Members of the party opposite seem to take in their Budget. One can only thank the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Captain Hudson) for going over and sitting on the benches opposite. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will accept the Amendment. The fiscal view which he enunciated on the previous Amendment was that when the price of a commodity is low you may tax it, but when the price rises the tax is not good and should not be imposed. The tax now proposed is on a commodity the price of which is low, but it may well be that when the oil industry develops there may be a world shortage of oil within a few years or within the next 10 or 15 years, In that case this tax would become very burdensome on the agricultural industry.
I protest against the hypocrisy of the method of taxation imposed by the Socialist party. Whenever anybody mentions a word about the taxation of food, they are up in arms and the Liberal party are pleased to make whatever political capital they can out of such a suggestion. It seems to be the view of the Government that when a tax is obvious and direct it must not be imposed, but when it is indirect and hidden—and usually it is on some raw material 686 —then indeed it can be slipped in, and economic and fiscal theories can go by the board. The Socialist party complain of the low wages of agricultural workers, but the Government Front Bench makes it very difficult for high wages to be paid. I hope this burden will not be placed upon the land, and that the balance between urban and rural communities is made somewhat fairer by this Amendment, a balance which needs redressing in this case as in many other instances.
§ Viscount LYMINGTON
I rise to support the Amendment. I believe the Government would accept it if they had been able to have had a couple of years' work on the large-scale demonstration farm which they proposed to set up under the Land Utilisation Bill, but which has been mercifully put to rest in another place. They might have found out how important are implements and cultivation with respect to the land itself. I do not want to stress the difficulty in which the farmer is placed in the question of road transport when he does not live near a railway, but I do want to stress the importance of this Amendment in respect to the actual working of the farm itself. It is generally accepted that a paraffin engine is satisfactory and efficient, but that is by no means the case. Other things being equal the efficiency of a petrol-driven tractor is far greater than that of a paraffin-driven tractor. A petrol-driven tractor in the course of a day will plough up from two to four acres, and will use about 12 gallons of petrol, and as this tax will mean an extra cost of 1s. 6d. to 2s. per acre on the cost of one ploughing which will bring the total cost of arable cultivation up to about 10s. per acre. That is a serious matter. It must be remembered that at most only two out of every period of four years are selling crop years, and you therefore have anything from £1 to £2 as an extra tax per acre on the farmer by this proposed increase. Sooner or later, however, implement makers will develop the Diesel engine for working a tractor, and in that case the whole of this revenue would disappear. Last year there was an advertisement on the Post Office Guide in large letters, and in rather questionable taste. It was "R.O.P. That is the spirit." I am the last to wish to exempt R.O.P., or indeed any 687 other spirit coming to this country from the tax, but if you are going to tax R.O.P. or any other petrol spirit which the farmer wants to use for his tractor, then at least you should similarly tax the other competing things which come from the same place as R.O.P.
§ Captain GUNSTON
Let me say at the outset that it is impossible to debate this important Amendment adequately under the Guillotine. I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to accept this proposal. He has an opportunity here of doing more for agriculture in five minutes than the Minister of Agriculture will do in 50 years. May I impress upon him the difficult position of the farmer in regard to the movement of stock to-day? The whole policy of the Minister of Transport is to make the roads impossible for anybody but a motorist who wants to go 60 miles an hour, and in our rural areas and country lanes the roads are being sprayed with tarmac which makes it impossible to drive cattle or horses along them. They have to be transported in lorries or in trailers and, indeed, the trailer method is the best. If the farmer has a car he can put his stock into the trailer, but he uses considerably more petrol in doing so. The Amendment, if it were accepted, would help the farmer to get over the difficulty of transporting his stock. Surely the right hon. Gentleman can make this small concession. Those of us who live in agricultural districts have done our best to get farmers to adopt modern methods, but how can we ask them to improve their marketing and get organisation and co-operation between local farmers when we put on a tax which makes it much more difficult for him to carry on his business? The right hon. Gentleman has a chance here of doing something for the farmers. If he accepts the Amendment the farmers will feel that they have a friend in him.
§ Mr. TURTON
If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade came down to the cereal growing areas he would agree with this Amendment, and would find an opportunity of accepting it. There is one observation I want to make, and that is the absence of the Minister of Agriculture when we are discussing an Amendment of paramount importance to the industry. The question must arise why the right hon. Gentleman 688 the Minister of Agriculture is not present. Is he in agreement with the Amendment? He has advocated the mechanisation of farming, but this extra burden of 2d. per gallon on petrol will hit hard the man who has put down a, plant for tractors and for other operations of agriculture. If we were allowed the privilege of a long discussion, I could show how important this Amendment is, but I do not want to shut out other important Amendments. Agriculture to-day is urging the President of the Board of Trade to relax this tax and to allow the farm labourer to have a decent wage.
§ Mr. R. J. RUSSELL
I desire to urge two points in support of the Amendment, and both are urgent at the present moment. The farmer has had put upon him a very heavy tax due entirely, to the development of our road system and modern transport on the road. He has been compelled to carry his stock by motor instead of driving it, as formerly, on the roads. For that reason I think the farmer deserves this relief. The second point, which is just as urgent, is that the place where the relief will come is the point where agriculture needs relief most, and that is in the arable counties. For these reasons, I hope that the Government will be able to meet agriculture in this small matter. It would be a great thing for the industry, and it is a very small thing for the Treasury. I join with other hon. Members in urging the Government to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I have listened with great care to the speeches in which hon. Members have pressed this exemption-The Amendment seeks to exclude from the tax petrol used for agricultural purposes, and there is a later Amendment which defines these purposes. But the broad effect of the proposal would be that there would be exemption for tractors, stationary engines and lorries which are used for the haulage of agricultural crops, and also for the farmer's motor car as well. Plainly, a proposal of that kind makes it difficult to say what the loss to the revenue would be, but in any event it is clear that, as regards tractors and stationary engines the loss might be about £75,000 per annum, and if the other items are included, the loss would be at least £200,000 per annum. While we admit the undeniably difficult circumstances 689 of agriculture at the moment, there are one or two cases which we can plead with particular force this afternoon, and more especially when we compare what has been done for agriculture with what has been done for certain other industries. The Agricultural Rates Act has completely de-rated agricultural land, with certain reservations as regards dwelling-houses. So that all that land is completely de-rated.
It is not unfair to remember also the advantages which farmers enjoy under Schedule B, compared with other classes of industrialists in this country. They have the right, as hon. Members are aware, of a conventional valuation for the purpose of Income Tax. If in fact their profits are less than the annual valuation, they may claim to be assessed under Schedule D on the actual profit which they earn, and if there is no profit at all they are not liable for any Income Tax. Moreover they have the right of transfer to Schedule B and can exercise that option, but the State has no right under the law to exercise an option the other way. Then all kinds of subsidies and grants have been given in recent years. It would be irrelevant to enlarge upon that subject, but it must be remembered by the Committee that an application is made for a concession which is applicable to the whole range of industrial effort in this country. When we come to the administrative difficulties of the proposal, of course they are undeniably considerable. There is no real difference between the use of these stationary engines and the use of machinery in many other industrial processes which, though perhaps not so badly pressed as agriculture, are nevertheless in difficulties. It would be quite impossible to take outside of this tax these tractors and the other machinery without a similar concession being pressed with irresistible force by other industries.
Those are really the considerations before us. Throughout the Debates, both on the Budget Resolutions and again this afternoon, I have been perfectly candid with hon. Members. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I do not like these taxes, and we have made that clear. But we have to raise a revenue, and while the tax remains the only possible course is to keep it as near as may be on a 690 uniform basis. I felt considerable sympathy with the speech of the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) when he said that he was against all taxes. No doubt it would be delightful if we lived under an economic system where that was possible. I might again quote a passage from an old pamphlet which shows that 2,000 years ago the tax collector was just as unpopular as he is to-day, but the fact remains that we have to raise this revenue. I take into account the many other concessions that have been made to agriculture, and I think we can establish a case for maintaining this part of the duty.
I have already said that as regards two classes the burden is really only £75,000, and as regards all classes £200,000. But it is fair to add the consideration of the general level of the price of petrol for this and other purposes. It should be remembered that many of these processes are conducted by agriculture on kerosene and that petrol is used only for starting engines. Hon. Members have in mind a kind of additional charge on the agricultural industry. That is so far covered by what I have already told the Committee regarding the price of petrol. Notwithstanding this increase of the duty, the price is lower to-day than at any time since April, 1928, except for a short period before the Budget was introduced. Accordingly there is an advantage in the very low price level. I cannot take the view advanced by hon. Members that the price of imported petrol is likely to increase. Without in any way attempting to speak finally I can say that all the information at my disposal suggests that the price may go even lower and even much lower than it is to-day. If that be so, of course the case for any special concession to agriculture would be less. The Committee is aware that I do not like to stonewall the bowling in this way, but as far as the revenue goes it is my painful duty to ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
What does the refusal of the President of the Board of Trade mean? It points quite clearly to the difference between the promises and the performances of the Government. It was quite easy some time ago to make the promise in six 691 quite clear words, "Farming must be made to pay," but this afternoon, when it comes to a new impost, we have a comparatively long explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to why he cannot give one small concession to farming so as to prevent it from suffering greater loss.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Under the system adopted for these Debates it is quite impossible to review the Amendment in anything like the way in which it ought to be reviewed. We have listened with the greatest possible regret to the stonewalling speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He said, in effect, "We have done nothing for agriculture, but you did; you gave de-rating, and because you have given de-rating we shall not make this very modest concession to assist the farmer." I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to read some of the speeches of his right hon. Friend in relation to the Silk Duties. The argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that the right hon. Member for
§ Epping (Mr. Churchill) was talking nonsense when he said that silk had fallen in price since the duties were put on. He said that the duties prevented a still further fall. If that argument was good regarding silk, the same argument is good regarding petrol to-day. When the right hon. Gentleman says that the revenue cannot tolerate this extremely modest loss, amounting on his own showing to £75,000, or £200,000 at the most, I hope he will remember that that is less than half the yield from one of the most modest Safeguarding Duties, that on lace, which his Government abolished. It might go forward to the farmers of this country that they are being deprived of this modification of the Petrol Duty, to which on equitable grounds they are entitled, in order to pay for the Free Trade fads and whims of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 251.695
|Division No. 278.]||AYES.||[6.55 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Colfox, Major William Philip||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Albery, Irving James||Colman, N. C. D.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Cooper, A. Duff||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cranborne, Viscount||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Atkinson, C.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hanbury, C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Beamish, Roar-Admiral T. P. H.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Dixey, A. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Boyce, Leslie||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Inskip, Sir Thomas|
|Briscoe, Richard George||England, Colonel A.||[...]|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Ferguson, Sir John||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Fermoy, Lord||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fielden, E. B.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Butler, R. A.||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Ford, Sir P. J.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Ganzonl, Sir John||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Llewellin, Major J. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Lymington, Viscount|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Grattan- Doyle, Sir N.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Christie, J. A.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Margesson, Captain H. D.|
|Marjoribanks, Edward||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Meller, R. J.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Richardson, Sir P W. (Sur'y, Ch'te'y)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Rothschild, J. de||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R, (Ayr)||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thomson, Mitchell., Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Muirhead, A. J.||Russell, Richard John (Eddlsbury)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Salmon, Major I.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|O'Connor, T. J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|O'Neill, Sir H.||Savery, S. S.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Penny, Sir George||Simms, Major-General J.||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst.)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Smithers, Waldron||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Pybus, Percy John||Somerset, Thomas||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Captain Wallace and Sir Victor Warrender.|
|Remer, John R.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Duncan, Charles||Knight, Holford|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Ede, James Chuter||Lang, Gordon|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Edmunds, J. E.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Law, Albert (Bolton)|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Law, A. (Rossendale)|
|Arnott, John||Egan, W. H.||Lawrence, Susan|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Eimley, Viscount||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Freeman, Peter||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Ayles, Walter||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Leach, W.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Gibbins, Joseph||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Lees, J.|
|Barr, James||Gill, T. H.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Batey, Joseph||Gillett, George M.||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Glassey, A. E.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Gossling, A. G.||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Gould, F.||Longden, F.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Benson, G.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lunn, William|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Gray, Milner||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||McElwee, A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||McEntee, V. L.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McKinlay, A.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Groves, Thomas E.||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Bromfield, William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)|
|Bromley, J.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Brooke, W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Brothers, M.||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth. C.)||McShane, John James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Mansfield, W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hardie, G. D, (Springburn)||March, S.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Harris, Percy A.||Marcus, M.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Marlay, J.|
|Caine, Hall-, Derwent||Hayes, John Henry||Marshall, Fred|
|Cameron, A. G.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mathers, George|
|Cape, Thomas||Henderson, Arthur, Junr, (Cardiff, S.)||Matters, L. W.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Maxton, James|
|Charieton, H. C.||Herriotts, J.||Messer, Fred|
|Chater, Daniel||Hicks, Ernest George||Middleton, G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Mills, J. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Milner, Major J.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hoffman, P. C.||Montague, Frederick|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hopkin, Daniel||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Compton, Joseph||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Morley, Ralph|
|Cove, William G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Mort, D. L.|
|Dallas, George||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Muff, G.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Murnin, Hugh|
|Davies, Rhys John (Wetthoughton)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Day, Harry||Kelly, W. T.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Scurr, John||Townend, A. E.|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Sexton, Sir James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Vaughan, David|
|Oldfield, J. R.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Viant, S. P.|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Sherwood, G. H.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Shield, George William||Walker, J.|
|Palin, John Henry.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wallace, H. W.|
|Palmer, E. T.||Shillaker, J. F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Simmons, C. J.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Perry, S. F.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sinkinson, George||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Phillips, Dr. Marlon||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||West, F. R.|
|Pole, Major D. G.||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Potts, John S.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||White, H. G.|
|Price, M. P.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Raynes, W. R.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Sorensen, R.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Stamford, Thomas W.||Wilson C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Stephen, Campbell||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Ritson, J||Strauss, G. R.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Romeril, H. G.||Sullivan, J.||Winterton, G. E. (Lelcester, Loughb'gh)|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Wise, E. F.|
|Rowson, Guy||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Sanders, W. S.||Thurtle, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Sandham, E.||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. Paling and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Tout, W. J.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
In speaking to this question, I wish to point out again the position in which we find ourselves. We are unable to discuss a large number of important matters which come under this Clause. In the short time the Committee has had to discuss this Clause we have only dealt with three matters out of a very large number, which hon. Members desire to raise in connection with the exclusion from this Petrol Duty of members of various professions, who use petrol for purposes which cannot be called either commercial purposes or purposes of pleasure. There were a number of Amendments put down dealing with those who use petrol as medical practitioners or as veterinary surgeons or in hospital work, ambulance work, research work in connection with aviation, with lighting, heating, cooking, and many other purposes. All those concerned were entitled to have their case put forward and, in the ordinary way, we would have been able to do so and the Government would have given way where they thought it was possible but as it—
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
The Committee is bound by the Resolution of the House, and therefore we cannot criticise that decision. The House has decided that.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Am I not in order in pointing out that these are matters all of which would have been raised if time had permitted? I am not in the least questioning the decision of the House to curtail the time, but, surely, I am in order in pointing out the disabilities under which we work owing to the fact that there are a large number of Amendments which will not be properly dealt with owing to want of time.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Within reasonable limits I should not call any hon. Member to order, but the Committee must bear in mind that the limitations have been imposed by the House. Very long criticism of those limitations is a reflection on the decision of the House.
§ Sir THOMAS INSKIP
Is it not possible to argue that this Clause has been so little discussed in consequence of the Resolution of the House that it is quite impossible to pass it into law?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It would be highly improper for the Committee to criticise any decision of the House and, by implication, such a form of criticism would amount to a reflection on the decision of the House.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I shall endeavour to bring my remarks strictly within your Ruling, and confine myself to stating that we have not been able to raise these various matters. I would 697 not like the Committee to go to a Division on this Clause without it being clearly known that Members of the Conservative party were anxious to put before the Committee the point of view of those who are engaged in these various occupations, who are entitled to certain exceptions from the ordinary law in the matter of Petrol Duty, and who would be entitled to special consideration from the House in ordinary circumstances. Does this not really, in effect, mean that the Clause has not been sufficiently discussed and that we should therefore not pass it as it stands? We have made an appeal to the Government to-day in connection with agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman who replied told us the appeal met with his personal sympathy, but he could not agree to it because it would cost £75,000. Surely it is preposterous, with a tax bringing in £7,000,000 or more, that, on a concession to one of the hardest hit industries in the country, a concession which will cost only £75,000, the Government should say they cannot accept it in view of the fact that by their action they are putting additional burdens on the farmer every day and making it impossible for him to earn a living. They are bringing in millions of pounds worth of foreign goods into this country and thus making it impossible for the farmer to earn a living, and yet the President of the Board of Trade says that because it costs £75,000 it is impossible to make this concession to agriculture. I hope that the Clause will be resisted.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
This very small concession, which we have asked for and which has been refused on the grounds of expense, must cause us seriously to ponder the sacrifice of revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made by the four duties which he has allowed to lapse during the past year, duties which were doing no harm but were, in fact, a great benefit. He is imposing a great burden upon the industry and transport of this country. I do not doubt your Ruling, but I submit that it is possible for a Committee of this House to discover that a grave mistake has been made on a previous occasion, and that it is in accordance with precedent that such 698 facts should be pointed out. When we consider to-day's proceedings and that these matters have been rushed through here in three and a half hours, the Committee will realise that this is not the way to carry on the finances of the country.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I have listened to almost the whole of this Debate, and it is very suitable that the Minister of Transport should come in at the end of the Debate on this Petrol Duty which places a great burden on a developing industry. Only a few years ago the Socialist party were raging against it; to-day they add 50 per cent. to it and bring it up to 6d. I do not say it is a bad tax—there are far worse taxes—but it is sheer hypocrisy for any Free Trader to say it is a good tax, or to go into the Lobby and vote for it. In the first place, it is a tax on raw material, the raw material of production. It is a tax on every form of industry and of transport. It is a tax on many very hard-hit people with comparatively small incomes, such as doctors and nurses and many other professions of that kind. There is not a single man who has a little car who is not hit in some way or other. In that way, it is a singularly bad tax to increase at the present time. The only defence which has been made by the President of the Board of Trade was the good old defence, which has been used on Protectionist platforms on a good many occasions ever since the tax has been put on, namely, that the price has gone down, and therefore a little more tax does not matter. That is a very excellent argument and one which can be used on a great many other occasions if necessary. It is somewhat strange that one should have this convert from one of the most extreme forms of Free Trade, that has afflicted the mind of the President of the Board of Trade, and that he should come down and use all the arguments in favour of this tax which have been used by Protectionists from time immemorial.
I think I know the real reason why he is supporting it. The right hon. Gentleman has a most amazing and photographic memory. One has only to turn up certain arguments, take away the name from the top of them and place them before the right hon. Gentleman, as the Treasury can do, and he can then 699 transfer them all to his memory just as to a screen or a gramophone record, and pour them all out to the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has had various speeches placed before him—I refer to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He has cut out all the vivid and interesting parts of those speeches, put together all the dull and uninteresting parts, made a nice record of them, and has then come down here and repeated it all to the Committee. There has been no imagination, nothing new or fresh in his presentation of the case.
I think it monstrous that this tax should be put on in the crude way proposed by this Clause. There is no attempt in this Clause to utilise the duty in a scientific or proper way. The Clause is simply the clapping on of a purely financial tax, without any consideration as to the way in which it is to be applied. If we are going to impose taxation at least we ought to do something by way of graduation or by some other means, to apply that taxation in the best interests of the industry concerned, and of the country as a whole. But we cannot hope to get good or scientific legislation from the crude and immature minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen such as we have on the Treasury Bench at the present time. We cannot hope to get scientific Protection from individuals of the type of those who have recently been converted to this particular taxation merely because it is expedient. A system of Protection to be effective will have to be drawn up by careful minds, by people who know how it will work and in the interests of -every single industry. It is monstrous that we should be asked to deal with a matter of this sort in a few short hours and it is utterly impossible in the time at our disposal to give fair consideration to a tax which will bear heavily on many of the country's industries.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Under the Guillotine Resolution we are compelled to pass over a number of Amendments to this Clause which are of definite importance and as an illustration I mention two in which I am particularly interested. They are the Amendments which suggest exemption, 700 first, in the case of ambulances attached to hospitals, and, secondly, in the case of medical and veterinary practitioners. There are precedents for these proposals and I only speak of them as illustrating the damage which can be done by imposing a general duty of this sort, without giving any time for the consideration of exemptions. In the Finance Act of 1910 which originally imposed the Motor Spirit Duty, medical men were given a rebate of one-half of the duty in respect of motor cars owned and worked by them in carrying out the duties of their practice. As regards the ambulances there is also a definite precedent. At present lifeboats are exempt. Why then should the ambulances of hospitals be taxed? They are required more than ever to-day because of the increasing number of read accidents.
I should say that the cost of attending to those accidents is not borne by the Government and is not, to any large extent, borne even by the people who suffer, but is to a large extent borne by the voluntary hospitals, the ambulance services and the St. John Ambulance Association. A very small proportion is paid by the people who have the benefit of those services. I know that, in theory, the Government propose to their Socialist supporters that there should be Socialistic services of this kind and that all these things should be run by the State, but on the other hand they often come to the House of Commons and say, "We have to take things as they are." Then they put even greater burdens upon the people who already have to bear the incubus of the.3e services. They say that they are compelled to do so, pending the nationalisation of those services. We may one day have the nationalised medical service proposed by the hon. Member for Reading (Dr. Somerville Hastings), but I think it will be a long time before we have it. It will be the acid test of the theory, because people will then have the opportunity of realising the rights and wrongs, the advantages and the disadvantages of a mechanical system.
§ This Clause is going to add considerably to the cost of running ambulances, and to the expenses of the country doctor. I reckon that to the ordinary country doctor who covers 20,000 miles 701 in a year, and whose car does 20 miles to the gallon, the extra 2d. will mean an extra £ 10 a year. Therefore by this Clause we are placing an additional burden of £10 a year on the country doctor who uses his car in order that he may get more quickly about his district and attend the people under his care. There is a definite case which the Government ought to face. As I have said, they are getting these services largely free and they are imposing an extra burden on the philanthropic community of the country. I dare say I should appeal to deaf ears in appealing for many of these purposes—even to our own party if they were in power—but as long as we are dependent to a large extent on voluntary institutions for such essential public services, then I would say to any Government that those institutions ought to be relieved as far as possible of fresh taxation in so far as it applies to their work in the service of the community.
§ Captain CAZALET
I wish to endorse the protest already made at the manner in which the Committee is being treated in connection with this Clause. In the 15 Amendments which we have not had an opportunity of discussing, at least four points of substance are raised. There is the question of medical and veterinary practitioners, the question of hospital ambulances, the question of civil aviation and the question of agriculture. Upon these points many of us have received strong representations from people who are vitally interested, asking that their case should be put to the Government. I have no wish to criticise a decision already taken by the House of Commons but I hope that the Government realise what a real disadvantage it is that a Clause of this importance should be discussed under present conditions. The only satisfaction which we can derive from these proceedings is that the protectionist arguments, and the common-sense point of view which we have put forward for many years from these benches, have at last had some effect upon some Members of the Government. It is perhaps a small satisfaction, but it is some satisfaction to find the President of the Board of Trade—supported by that arch-priest of Free Trade, the Secretary of State for India—advocating a Clause 702 which is as purely protectionist, as any proposal ever introduced by the Conservative party.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
If the Committee pass this Clause, they will impose £8,000,000 per annum of additional taxation upon the people of this country. A few days ago the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) in a moving speech pointed out that having lost control of expenditure the House of Commons was losing control of taxation. There is only one way by which the House of Commons can vindicate its control over taxation and that is by refusing to allow this Clause to stand part of the Finance Bill under this farcical procedure. Until a few minutes ago, when the approach of the witching hour of half-past seven and the prospect of a Division under the Guillotine brought Government supporters here, we had only four representatives of the Government party in the Committee, although the discussion was of vital importance to all users of petrol in the community. Was ever any general tax—for such this tax is—imposed with such scant discussion, and with so little scrutiny of the elements which deserve exemption? There might be something to be said for a tax of £8,000,000 so restricted and modified after discussion as not to inflict hardship, but here we have a tax which bears equally upon hospitals and ambulances, upon agriculture, upon aviation, upon lighting and cooking arrangements—in which the poorest class of the community are concerned—and it is not possible to have a word of discussion on any of the exemptions proposed by us. In these circumstances, discussion of the Clause is a pure farce and I hope that the Committee will divide against the Clause.