HC Deb 22 February 1932 vol 262 cc76-9

I beg to move, in page 7, to leave out lines 13 to 19.

The provision here is that the Board of Trade may make regulations as regards Dominion imports as to the amount by which work has had to be done upon those imports in order that they may qualify to receive the Dominion or Colonial preference. Under Clause 4, the proper authority to deal with the question of Colonial preference is the Treasury upon the recommendation of the Secretary of State, presumably the Secretary of State for the Dominions. In our view, it is not advisable that the Board of Trade should be able to alter the whole effect of any Preference which may be given or intended to be given under Clause 4 by making some regulation under Clause 6, without consulting the Treasury or the Secretary of State for the Dominions, by saying, for instance, that only 25 per cent. or only 50 per cent. of the work and labour expended in manufacture need take place in the Dominions, or vice versa. If it had been the understanding that they were not manufactured goods as to which there was 50 per cent. of work and labour in the Dominions put into them—if it had been understood that they should come in as Dominion goods, the Board of Trade should not be allowed by some regulation to alter the whole incidence of this Preference.

It seems to be extremely desirable that the matter should be left entirely in the hands of the Treasury and the Secretary of State for the Dominions. It will merely lead to trouble and complexity constantly to introduce a new power, and will make the matter far more difficult from the point of view both of negotiation and regulation afterwards. Does not the right hon. Gentleman really think that it is more satisfactory to leave the whole matter as regards Dominion Preference under a single control than to leave the main matter under the control of the Treasury and the Secretary of State for the Dominions, and then to give this separate power quite independently to spoil the whole thing by the Board of Trade stepping in and making some regulation which may upset the agreed arrangement?


I am not sure that I agree with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I assumed when I read the Amendment that it had been put down in order that the interests of industry in this country should be safeguarded. There is a danger, in the desire to give Preference to the Empire, that some very vital industry might be interfered with apropos of their raw material. I assume that this is put in in order to safeguard the manufacturers in this country who freely import raw material from all parts of the world.

5.30 p.m.


The hon. paid learned Gentleman is always so clear in his mind about the points he raises, that I am a little surprised at his raising the paint upon the proviso to Clause 6. The point he is raising is whether the President of the Board of Trade is the proper person to make regulations as to the amount of labour which was to be expended in the country of origin in order that the goods might claim the Preference. That matter is dealt with in the Third Schedule. If the hon. and learned Member will turn to the Schedule he will see, if he wishes to raise that point, that that is the place at which to raise it. The present proviso is merely to say that the Board of Trade may by regulation modify the provisions of the said Schedule as far as they deem it to he necessary to meet the circumstances of the case. The circumstances of the case are these. The Schedule is so drafted as to deal solely with the case of goods coming into this country free of duty from any part of the Empire. If, however, as a result of the Conference at Ottawa there is any change in regard to certain goods coming from the Dominions, under which they would have the benefit of the preferential duty instead of coming in free, it is obvious that this paragraph in the Schedule must be modified to suit those circumstances. What the proviso does is to give the President of the Board of Trade power, by regulation, to make the alterations, but only in so far as they are necessary to meet the circumstances of the ease.


I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but surely the proviso empowers such an alteration in the Schedule that the President of the Board of Trade could alter the conditions, as regards the goods which come in under the conditions laid down in the proviso, compared with the conditions which would apply in the Third Schedule as unaltered. As I read it, the President of the Board of Trade could, for instance, alter Sub-section (2) as regards the pro, portion of the value as is prescribed by regulation, and he could say that there need be no proportion of the value. That would be a material alteration of Subsection (2).


Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not see that he could do that under paragraph 2 of the Schedule? Under that Schedule, the President of the Board of Trade can make regulations which shall lay down the proportion of labour which must have been expended upon an article before it comes in free of duty. We want to modify that, so that the proportion laid down may apply not only to goods coming in free but to goods coming in under the preferential duty.


I was trying to point out that he might make a different proportion for the two, and I am anxious that he should not. I am anxious that he should not have the special power to alter the proportion in respect of the goods which do not come in free of duty. As at present 'arranged he can make one proportion for the goods that come in free and another proportion for the goods which come in under the Order. I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see that the President of the Board of Trade has not the power to do that. That ought not to be done, because it might interfere with the arrangements made by the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in regard to the preference.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 7, line 14, leave out the word "and," and insert instead thereof the word "or."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.