HC Deb 30 November 1931 vol 260 cc782-6

Fresh Fruits. Cherries, currants, gooseberries, grapes (hothouse), plums, strawberries.

Fresh Vegetables. Asparagus, green beans, broccoli and cauliflowers, carrots, chicory (salad), cucumbers, endive, lettuce, mushrooms, peas (green), potatoes (new), tomatoes, turnips.

Flowers, etc. Cut flowers, plants in flower, flowers attached to bulbs, foliage, bulbs, rose trees.


I wish to protest very emphatically against the procedure adopted by the Government in reference to this alteration. I am not quite certain, because we have had no time to look at it, but If a Member desires to vary the terms of a Motion of which notice appears in the Notice Paper, he may do so by giving at the Table an amended notice. But if the amended notice materially departs from the terms of the notice originally set down, it will lose any precedence given to that notice. The amended notice must be given, at latest, during a Sitting of the House preceding the day appointed for the Motion. Now we have this Motion very materially changed without the slightest notice being given either to the Opposition or at the Table, or anywhere else, and I respectfully submit to you that that is out of order, and ought not to be proceeded with.

4.0 p.m.


The right hon. Gentleman will remember, when I remind him of what is known to the Committee generally, that these Resolutions in Ways and Means do not require any notice at all. Indeed, he will remember that it is the common practice that no notice is given of the Budget Resolutions when the Budget is brought in. I am aware, of course, of the Regulation to which the right hon. Gentleman drew attention, and if the additional words are considered by the Committee, I think they will find there is no substantial alteration in the Resolution. The additional words merely amount to a provision for a certain amount of what I may call machinery, which seems to be required in cases where the duty is to be charged otherwise than by reference to price, that is by reference to quantity or measure, in the manner referred to in the Resolution.


But we are not proceeding by Budgetary finance in the ordinary way. The Government have put their Motion on the Order Paper. When the Budget is to be discussed, you do not have a Motion on the Paper in reference to certain duties or certain articles until after the Budget statement has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this case, the Government have been obliged to put down a Motion on the Paper, and my submission to you is that the addition which you have read does materially alter the Resolution. It does what we think is quite unprece- dented: it gives the Minister power for the first time to determine the price of an article, and he has to determine as against the people who may be importing or the people who may be buying the goods from abroad, and I again ask you to reconsider the matter, and not allow this Amendment to be moved. You are the custodian of the liberties of the whole House, and on questions connected with finance and questions connected with the imposition of taxes, it has always been the most cherished privilege of the House not to allow Ministers to have any power except such power as the House of Commons itself has given, and in this instance the Minister is to have power, not over the actual value of the article, but over what he considers the value at a particular moment, and that is totally unprecedented.


I agree that the right hon. Gentleman in many things he said was quite correct, but he is wrong in saying that the Government were obliged to put this Motion on the Order Paper.


I did not say "obliged." I said that the Government did do so, and invited the House of Commons to-day in Committee to discuss that Motion. Having done so, my contention is that they have no right materially to alter that Motion without giving the House notice.


The right hon. Gentleman may have forgotten, or may not have intended to use, the exact words he did use, but he said that the Government had been obliged to put down a Motion on the Paper. The fact of the matter is that the Government are not obliged to put it down. The Committee of Ways and Means being open now, it is open to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, if he chooses, to move a totally different Motion, which has nothing whatever to do with the one on the Paper. Therefore, in those circumstances, it is quite impossible to rule this Resolution, or in fact any other Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman might choose to move, out of order. As to my being regarded as the custodian of the rights of the Committee, I quite recognise that, and I did my best to safeguard the rights of the Committee in every way by drawing their attention to the fact that they would have to consider a Resolution in the form in which it is read from the Table in the same way as Budget Resolutions are considered by Members who have not got them before them on the Paper, but in this case the Resolution was read from the Table in the form it appears on the Order Paper, with a certain addition, to which I drew special attention.


I am very much obliged to you, but allow me to say that, in my opinion, I still think it is unprecedented, and that the Government have treated this House with contempt.


I certainly accept your Ruling, Sir Dennis, but it seems to me that it does show something rather neglectful in the Government procedure that they should put down an Order on the Paper on Friday and have to alter it on Monday. I want to ask you if I would be in order in moving that the discussion be postponed until the end of the week, so that the Government can have made up their minds finally as to all the changes they desire to make?


If the hon. Member were to move such a Motion at the present time, I should find it my duty under the Standing Orders to decline to accept it.


While accepting your Ruling with regard to what you said as to the right of the Government to deal with any Motion without notice, in this case they waived that right, and tabled a Motion. Surely there must be something defective in the Rules if, having tabled a Motion, they can come today with a totally different Motion. It cannot be said that the new words they have added to the Resolution are in keeping with the original Resolution.


If the hon. Member had followed what I said, he would have noticed that I pointed out that it was open to the Minister, now that the Committee of Ways and Means has been opened, to move any Resolution which he chooses to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That—

  1. (1) There shall be charged, in accordance with the provisions of this Resolution, on the importation into the United 786 Kingdom of any articles to which this Resolution applies such duties of customs as are hereinafter provided;
  2. (2) The articles to which this Resolution applies are articles of any of the descriptions specified in the Table annexed to this Resolution to which the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has by order applied any Act of the present Session for giving effect to this Resolution;
  3. (3) The customs duties to be charged as aforesaid in respect of any articles—
    1. (a) shall be such duties as may be specified in an order made by the Minister under the said Act not exceeding one hundred per cent, of the value of the articles; Provided that in the case of articles to be charged to duty otherwise than by reference to value, the value thereof for the purpose of the foregoing limitation shall be taken to be the wholesale price as determined by the Minister, of articles of that description prevailing at the corresponding period in the preceding year; and
    2. (b) may be charged by reference to value, weight, measurement, or quantity, as may be provided in the order; and
    3. (c) shall be charged for such periods and may be charged at such different rates for such different parts of any period as may be so provided;
  4. (4) The Act aforesaid shall continue in force for a period of twelve mouths from the passing thereof and no longer;
  5. (5) Any order made by the said Minister as aforesaid shall cease to have effect at the expiration of twenty-eight days from the date on which it is made unless at some time before the expiration of that period it has been approved by a Resolution of this House;

Provided that in reckoning any such period as aforesaid no account shall he taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or during which this House is adjourned for more than four days; (6) The Act aforesaid may include such incidental and consequential provisions as may be necessary or expedient in relation to the matters aforesaid.
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