HC Deb 23 February 1932 vol 262 cc306-8

"(1) With a view to preventing undue interference with the entrepôt trade of the United Kingdom the Commissioners shall, subject to such conditions as are hereinafter mentioned, allow any goods, subject to duty under this Act, to be imported and to be retained otherwise than in warehouses duly approved for the warehousing of goods without payment on the importation thereof of any duty chargeable under this Act.

The conditions on which goods may be so imported under this section shall be such conditions as the Commissioners think fit to impose for securing that if and when the goods are removed for home consumption all duties which would but for this section have been chargeable under this Act on the importation of those goods shall be paid.

(2) In this section the term 'warehouse' has the same meaning as in the Customs Laws Consolidation Act, 1876."—[Sir W. Greaves-Lord.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The new Clause as originally drafted might be of far too general an application. Therefore, the form in which I move it is, in the third line of the Clause, after the word "goods," to insert the words "subject to duty under this Act." Subject to that alteration, I think the Clause might remain as it is on the Order Paper. I do not move the new Clause in any sense hostile to the Bill or to the purposes of the Bill, but merely in order to make quite sure that the great transhipment trade carried on by this country shall not be unduly interfered with. The idea of the Clause is merely to prevent the entrepot trade from suffering from undue interference. This turns very largely on the effect of Clause 13. That Clause is limited very strictly to goods which are imported solely with a view to the re-exportation thereof. The result of a strict reading of that Clause might be that a considerable amount of goods imported into this country, which are afterwards transshipped, might be subject to duty, with no chance of recovery of the same. The effect of my Clause would be to safeguard goods which are genuinely imported with a definite view of re-exportation. It. would also avoid—a matter of considerable importance—the excessive charges for handling.

It is impossible to deal with this matter by proposals for free areas in our ports such as are to be found in ports in foreign countries. In my view free areas would be entirely unsuitable to the transhipment trade as carried on in this country. One's knowledge of a number of ports in this country would convince one that any idea of free areas would be very difficult to carry out, where you have, for instance, ports where the large shipping lines have appropriated berths, and where the goods which are to be transhipped come in at one end of the port and go out at the other. Free areas would be entirely unsuitable for that class of trade, and this Clause would give to the Commissioners the full liberty to afford facilities to such goods without the necessity of providing free areas, and also without imposing the burden of putting the goods into the bonded warehouses.

It might be possible to carry out the idea in this way, that goods imported into this country that are going to be transhipped might be allowed to remain at the quay at which they are unloaded until such time as they must be loaded on to the ship by which they are to be re-exported, in which case they might be taken straight from one quay to the other and then loaded on to the ship for re-export or, on the other hand, where the loading quay is known they might be taken at once from the ship from which they have been unloaded to the quay which is appropriate to loading for re-export. In those circumstances we should save a great deal in the way of handling the goods and also a great deal of expense, and we should not put too great a burden upon the trade. If you take goods to a bonded warehouse and take them out again you have two handlings, and a consequent burden of expense upon the merchant who has imported the goods solely with a view to re-export. This is a matter which must be obvious to those at the Board of Trade, but I desire to move this new Clause in order that there shall be a clear understanding as to the position of the transhipment trade.


The hon. and learned Member has been good enough to say that he desires a declaration of the Government's intention with regard to the position of the entrepôt trade. I give him that declaration willingly, and I think he will find it completely satisfactory. The hon. and learned Member wishes goods to be stored in warehouses which are not recognised bonded warehouses. It is necessary for me to remind him of the legal definition of a bonded warehouse. A bonded warehouse is any place in which goods entered to be warehoused may be lodged, kept and secured. That is a definition of great latitude and leaves much to the discretion of the Customs authorities. I am in a position to tell the hon. and learned Member that they will have the greatest tenderness and regard for those engaged in the entrepôt trade and wherever reasonable will afford them every facility. In these circumstances I hope he will be satisfied that what he asks for is in fact being done. It is not possible, however, to follow literally the terms of this new Clause and remove entirely from the control of the Customs dutiable goods coming into this country, but provided the Commissioners are satisfied that the goods are properly dealt with they will continue as they do now to give every regard to the interest of the entrepôt trade.


Having regard to the very clear statement of the Parliamentary Secretary I do not propose to go any further with this new Clause. He has made it perfectly clear that every consideration will be given to avoid unnecessary handling and unnecessary expense. I ask leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.