§ 47. Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many applications for alteration in the rate of duty have been made to the Import Duties Advisory Committee?
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which was given on the 15th December to a similar question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Caporn).
§ 48 and 49. Sir H. CROFT
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many decisions by the Import Duties Advisory Committee have been announced to the industries concerned; and what length of time is taken in reaching a decision in each case;
(2) whether he is aware that delay in dealing with applications submitted to the Import Duties Advisory Committee is causing discontent in the industries making the application; and if he is prepared to take steps to accelerate the present procedure?
In April last a comprehensive report was made by the Committee recommending the imposition of additional duties above the general 895 ad valorem rate on a wide range of commodities, including the great bulk of manufactured goods as well as some foodstuffs. In July a further omnibus report recommended additional duties upon an extensive range of horticultural products. Besides these reports, separate recommendations have been made for the variation of the duties on 42 items, and the Committee have announced that as a result of their inquiries they do not propose at present to make any recommendation in regard to 11 other items in respect of which applications had been advertised.
I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that one of the declared objects of the committee in making their first general recommendations was to afford at once to industries generally a measure of protection which though not adjusted with nicety to all individual cases would be broadly effective. That this object has been achieved is, I think, evidenced by the fact that the imports of manufactured goods in the seven months from May to November have fallen by one-half as compared with those in the corresponding periods of the two preceding years.
The committee indicated that they were ready to deal promptly with cases in which a variation of the general rate might prove to be a matter of special urgency. Adjudication upon other cases in which application is made from time to time for variation of duty, requiring as all such work does thorough examination and a careful weighing of considerations, can only be done gradually if it is to be done properly. This fact has, I think, been generally recognised by the industries concerned as well as by this House, and the figures which I have given indicate that substantial progress has already been made by the committee in their difficult task.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Without in any way criticising the Advisory Committee, may I ask whether some of the industries which received the benefit of the 50 per cent. duty, with great advantage to themselves, did not find that there was a very great decline in their production when the duties were removed? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider if it is not desirable to use the utmost speed in 896 coming to a decision in regard to any possible revision of the duty?
In regard to the first part of the supplementary question, the duties of 50 per cent. were put on for the special purpose of stopping forestalling. They were not intended to set the general level of duty. In regard to the second part, I agree that all speed should be, if possible, aimed at, but I think it must also be taken into account that this work requires very careful consideration.
§ Mr. MANDER
Is not the Import Duties Advisory Committee wholly detached from any Government control or influence?
§ Mr. CAPORN
Will it not be possible to appoint two additional commissioners so that, they can sit on sub-committees and deal with. important applications quickly and with the care that they are now showing?
I think the committee has considered whether it would be helpful to appoint further members and sub-divide, but up to the present they remain of the opinion that that would not really assist.