HC Deb 22 February 1932 vol 262 cc79-81

I beg to move, in page 7, line 32, at the end, to insert the words: Provided that—

  1. (a) no such order shall be made before the fifteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and thirty-two, or such later date as may he fixed under the provisions of Sib-section (2) of Section four of this Act;
  2. (b) in the event of any order being made under Sub-section (3) of Section four of this Act no order Shall be made under 80 this section as regards the general ad valorem duty."
Assurances have been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Dominions Secretary that it is the intention of the Government to safeguard arrangements made with the Dominions. They have given an assurance that nothing prejudicial in respect of the Dominions shall be done by way of arrangement with any foreign countries. To make clear that position, which has only been covered by way of declaration—we see no reference to it in the Bill—we suggest our proposed new paragraph (a). We think that the new paragraph will give formal and literal effect to the declaration that has been made. With regard to the second part of the Amendment, we suggest that if an agreement is reached with the Dominions whereby their goods shall be exempt, or, if they are not exempt, shall have a lesser duty placed upon them, then any preferential treatment which may be given to a foreign country shall not affect the general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. but only the additional duty.


The first of the provisos in the Amendment seems to be quite unnecessary, because we have already stated in unmistakable terms, more than once, that we do not intend to conclude any negotiations with any foreign country before the date of the Ottawa Conference. That has been accepted 'as final by the Dominions and by foreign countries. To lay down a particular date might give rise to some awkward questions later on. For instance, the suggested first proviso mentions the 15th November, 1932: or such later date Os may lie fixed under the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section four of this Act. It is possible that a different date might be fixed by that Order in respect of different Dominions, and that might give rise to doubt as to whether one date or the other was intended. The hon. Member may rest assured that effect will be given to the declaration that has been made. In regard to the second proviso, I am afraid that that would do much to hamper our freedom of negotiation. It says, in effect, that if any preference is given on one single article coming from the Dominions, we are not to be allowed to give any concession to any foreign country below 10 per cent. That is going very far. It might be that in the interests of this country we might desire to give a concession below the 10 per cent. to some particular country, in return for substantial advantage. I could name one or two articles, and hon. Members opposite could also name articles, in which it might be desirable to do that. To deprive ourselves of that power the moment we have given a single preference on any single article from any one of our Dominions, would be going much too far.


The Amendment is a very striking one from the point of view that, for the first time, we have had it officially put forward from the Labour benches that they are accepting this Bill as it stands, and that they intend to use it whenever they get the chance. I welcome the Amendment from that point of view, in that they mean to make this policy permanent.


I, too, am surprised at this Amendment coming from the benches opposite. It is surprising that it should be suggested that, assuming we give a 10 per cent. preference on a particular article to the Dominions, say, on butter from Australia or New Zealand, under no circumstances shall we give a five per cent. preference to Denmark on Danish butter, in return for a big trade concession from that country. It is a most reactionary proposal from the benches opposite and is going far beyond the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. Am I to understand that if at any future time the party opposite are in office, they are going to say, 20, 30 or 40 years hence, that we are going to be tied to a 10 per cent. preference to the Dominions and that on no acount are we to give any reduced duty to foreign countries that are going to treat our goods favourably? If that is the new international, I am surprised.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 7, line 34, after the word "prescribing," insert the words: either generally or in relation to goods of any particular class or description."—[Mr. Hore-Belisha.]

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