HC Deb 18 February 1932 vol 261 cc1869-73

Considered in Committee.


[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]


I am going to ask you, Sir, for your Ruling as to whether it will be in order to move to omit items from the first Schedule of the Bill Having regard to the way in which the Bill is drawn and the terms of the Financial Resolution, I submit that it would be convenient that a Ruling should be given at this early stage. The effect of Amendments to omit items from the first Schedule of the Bill would be to remove those commodities from the free list and bring them under the taxation in the clauses of the Bill.


I am obliged to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for asking a question. I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I give a Ruling now. The Ways and Means Resolution provides for a charge of a Customs Duty on the value of all goods imported into the United Kingdom, except goods of any class or description which may be exempted by the contemplated Act. Therefore, under the Ways and Means Resolution, this House can pass legislation imposing this duty upon all goods imported into the United Kingdom, either without any exception or with such, or so many or so few, exceptions as Parliament may choose to decide. Consequently, any Amendment to the first Schedule either to add items to that Schedule or to remove items from that Schedule would be in order, as being within the Financial Resolution.

I think perhaps it will be convenient that I should add that in those circumstances, such an Amendment can be moved by any member of the Committee, and that it is not confined to Members of the Government to do that. The Government have exhausted their exclusive right of initiating taxation or of the imposing of a duty, by initiating and getting passed the Ways and Means Resolution, and therefore, within the terms of that Resolution, Members of the Government and other members of the Committee are all equal, the Govern- ment, having so to speak, exhausted any right of veto that might result from their exclusive right of initiating legislation. Of course if the Government had desired that certain items should not be removable from the Schedule they would have drawn the Resolution in such a form that those particular goods would not be exempted from the taxation.


May I ask on that same point, whether when we come to the Schedule it will be in order only to add to the Schedule certain individual goods, such as cork wood, cork shavings and so on, or will it also be in order to add to the Schedule a, whole class of manufactured goods?


Yes, I think it will be in order, if those classes are properly defined. I cannot give an exact Ruling until I know the exact form of such Amendments. I may say that there are certain Amendments down on the Order Paper by hon. Members which propose to exempt certain goods not by means of Amendments to the Schedule but by Amendments to Clause 1. When we come to those Amendments I intend to rule that they should not be taken on the Clause but should be taken as Amendments to the Schedule.


In view of the fact that we are not selecting those Amendments that raise broad questions of principle, I think the fact that we cannot move them here means that we shall be able to raise questions of principle on the Schedule.


A principle which is embodied in the Clause may of course be discussed on the question that the Clause stand part.


Does that mean that as the Ways and Means Resolution included iron goods, an Amendment to limit the class of goods to manufactured articles would, he out of order?


No, I say that any Amendment to exempt from the duty a class of goods would come as an Amendment to the Schedule instead of as an Amendment to Clause 1.


Would it not be more convenient to discuss it on the Clause rather than on the Schedule?


That perhaps is a matter of opinion. My opinion is the opinion I have just given to the Com- mittee, and the hon. Member will know that in this case it is my opinion which "goes."


I beg to move, in page 1, line 4, after the word "view," to insert the words: to the promoting of mutually beneficial trade with other parts of His Majesty's Dominions. It would be a pity—


It seems that these Amendments appear in a different order in the Blue Paper. On the White Paper there are three Amendments which come before the Amendments to Clause 1. I think hon. Members who have the Blue Paper will find them right at the end.


It would seem to be a pity if, in a recital of the objects of this Bill, we left out an object which, I think, is certainly not the least important from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of most Members of the House, and with which I think all Members, irrespective of their views as to method, would sympathise. We have laid down among the objects the making of an addition to public revenue, the restriction of importation, and the securing of better terms for British trade from foreign countries. Surely it would be a pity if we omitted from this recital of the objects of the Bill the greatest object of all, namely, the promotion of inter-Imperial trade. Moreover, I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can justly claim that this object is already fulfilled in large measure by a Bill which gives Empire trade the advantage of free entry, as against a 10 per cent charge on foreign goods, over so large a field of our whole importation, and we all hope that at the Ottawa Conference we shall see some more substantial structure of inter-Imperial trade built up on the foundations of this Bill. Therefore, I submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would meet the feeling of the House generally, and, I think, avoid any possible misunderstanding in the Empire outside, if the greatest of our objects were clearly stated in the recital. I attach no importance, of course, to the actual wording of my Amendment, and, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer prefers any alternative form of words expressing the same point, I would willingly accept it.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

May I say, in supporting the proposal of my right hon. Friend, that I am sure the whole Committee will desire to see these words inserted. In fact, the whole spirit of the Bill seems to be along those lines, and the Government themselves have founded their Bill on the principle which these words are intended to convey. Although we shall, naturally, be very much divided on subsequent Amendments, I hope that we may be unanimous on this one.

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)

I am afraid I am a little taken by surprise by this Amendment, for I had not been aware that it would be taken at this stage, and, really, I have only just seen it. Therefore, what I say in regard to it must be taken as coming from me without my having had adequate time for consideration. With the object and the spirit of the Amendment I have, of course, every sympathy, but I have some doubt as to whether it is quite proper to put it in the form in which it stands here. The Preamble states that we, His Majesty's dutiful and most loyal subjects, with a view to accomplishing certain objects, have freely and voluntarily resolved to give and grant unto His Majesty certain duties. I am not sure that it would he appropriate to say that one of our objects in giving and granting duties to His Majesty would be: the promoting of mutually beneficial trade with other parts of His Majesty's Dominions. Certainly that is an incidental advantage which will be derived from the giving and granting of duties to His Majesty, and one to which, as the Committee knows, we attach great importance, but I should not quite like to accept the Amendment at this stage without further consideration. If I might make the suggestion to my right hon. Friend, perhaps he would withdraw the Amendment now, in order that I might have time to look at it further and might consult with him before the Report stage.


Naturally, I am ready to fall in with my right hon. Friend's suggestion. In doing so I would only point out to him that in one case at least, namely, where foreigners discriminate against us, the provision of a remedy is contemplated in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in page 1, line 4, to leave out the words "in the national interest."

It might appear that everything that we propose to do would be in the national interest, but many of my friends believe quite sincerely that this Bill will not help the national interest, and therefore we consider it inadvisable to put in these words. One of the objects of these proposals, as stated in the Preamble, is the restriction of importation. That is a matter of opinion, but this Bill is for that purpose. I t seems to us, however, that to state that this is done in the national interest would be to convey the idea that it would help the national interest, that it would be an advantage to this country to have such a Measure. On the other hand, we believe that it would be detrimental to the national interest, and calculated to restrict trade and lower our credit, though no doubt there are many who do not agree with us.


On a point of Order. I should like to ask you, Sir Dennis, for the guidance of the Committee, whether it is your intention to exercise what I understand is your right, even when working under the Guillotine, of selecting Amendments? I would respectfully point out that there are on the Paper Amendments of great importance which will have to be discussed in a very short time, and, without in any way commenting upon your selection—which it would be most improper to do—I merely desire to raise the question, and to ask you whether, if I may put it in the most respectful way, you will exercise your judgment in choosing those Amendments which are of some importance?


I am afraid that I shall have to submit myself to the Noble Lord's judgment later on, after he has seen what course I shall take.


I am very much obliged.

Amendment negatived.