HC Deb 12 May 1932 vol 265 cc2297-305

[10th May.]

Resolution reported.


That—(1) As from the eleventh day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-two,—

  1. (a) in addition to the duties of customs chargeable under Section four of the Finance Act, 1925, as amended by the Finance Act, 1926, a customs duty equal to ten per cent. of the value of the articles shall be charged on yarns and tissues and other articles (not being articles of apparel) made wholly or partly of silk or artificial silk;
  2. (b) in the case of an article of apparel made wholly or partly of silk or artificial silk there shall, in lieu of the duty of customs chargeable under the enactments aforesaid be charged whichever is the higher of the two following duties, that is to say—
    1. (i) a customs duty equal to the aggregate amount of the customs duty chargeable under the enactments aforesaid, and of a duty equal to ten per cent. of the value of the article;
    2. (ii) a customs duty calculated at the rates shown in the following Table on the whole weight of the article: —

In the case of articles containing silk alone or containing both silk and artificial silk. In the case of articles containing artificial silk alone.
the lb. the lb.
s. a. a. d.
Where the article is made wholly of silk or artificial silk, or where the value of the silk or artificial silk component exceeds twenty per cent. of the aggregate of the values of all the components of the article. 12 0 5 0
Where the value of the silk or artificial silk component exceeds flve per cent. but does not exceed twenty per cent. of the aggregate of the values of all the components of the article. 4 0 1 8
Where the value of the Bilk or artificial silk component does not exceed five per cent. of the aggregate of the values of all the components of the article. 0 9 0 4

(2) Drawback of the duty paid under this Resolution in respect of any articles may be allowed—

  1. (a) if the articles (not being articles specified in paragraph 1 of Part II to the Schedule to the Finance Act, 1925) are shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to be in such form and state that the rate of duty which would be payable in respect thereof, if they were being imported, would be the same as that at which they or their components have already been charged; or
  2. (b) if the articles are made up articles exported in the form and state in which they are imported.
And it is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."— [Major Elliot.]


I desire to enter a formal protest against the taking of the Report stage of this Resolution at 4.35 a.m. The Committee stage of this Resolution was a rush performance. The House did not see the Resolution until the morning when the Committee stage was taken, and members did not have an opportunity of getting any information before the Debate on the Committee stage. Now, owing to the vast hordes which the right hon. Gentlemen opposite are able to control, they are going to force it through at 4.30 in the morning. I do not propose to take account of its merits, which are very small. One thing is quite certain—the Resolution cannot properly be discussed at this hour, and I protest most strongly against this procedure.


I would like to add my protest, and I go further and call it positively indecent. This is a document which contains 45 lines of a very complicated text. I am not questioning the point that silk should be protected as well as wool and cotton goods, for, if we are to have tariffs, there is no reason why silk should not have the same privileges as other materials. I would remind the House that we are embarking on an entirely new system of taxation. The policy in this case raises an issue affecting the industries and trades of the country, and it is essential for the proper working and success of this new policy that there should be discussion. I want to see discussion at a reasonable hour of the day, when the public can know exactly what is going on, and what are the rights and wrongs of this particular proposal. I quite appreciate the reason why the Government felt is necessary to rush it through the Committee stage. I protested at the hour it was rushed through, but it was done in order to enable the tax to come into operation at once. This tax is actually in operation now, and, therefore, there is no reason for the second stage to be passed at 20 minutes to five in the morning. The Government are embarking on a dangerous precedent that will be liable to serious abuse in the future.


Hear, hear.


I hear significant cheers from a very sinister figure looking for a time when he wishes to rob henroosts, and he will find it a very useful precedent to rush through (Similar, or even class, taxation, perhaps in the darkness of the night or the early hours of the morning. I would remind the House that, after all, the most ancient and important privilege of Parliament is to control taxation. Conservative friends of mine have often protested, with some reason, against one-chamber Government. Taxation cannot be interfered with in the House of Lords. We are the sole custodians of taxation, and we should be jealous of any Government using their powers autocratically to rush through taxee without adequate discussion. I agree that it is no use at this hour sitting up to discuss the merits or demerits of this formula. I have heard that the machinery for drawbacks will be clumsy and inequitable, will interfere with the export trade, and will also seriously interfere with the many industries in London that depend on cheap and abundant material. It would be a wise gesture on the part of the Government to postpone further discussion of the Report stage of these Resolutions till after Whitsuntide. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury should bear in mind that he is breaking away in a reactionary manner from the example set by his predecessors of protecting the rights of Parliament to control taxation.


I want to ask a formal question of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to whom I have given notice of the question. I should like him to tell the House what the procedure will be with regard to the further stages of the Finance Bill arising out of this Resolution. The last sentence tells us that it shall have effect under the provisions of the Bowles Act. That is in order that the taxes may be collected forthwith. The Act itself contains a proviso that a Bill embodying the taxes in question must be read a Second time within the next 20 days when the House is sitting. Does that mean that there is to be another Finance Bill embodying this Clause, or is the intention, as I gather the other day from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this Resolution will become a new Clause in the Finance Bill which has already been read a Second time? That would be a commonsense acceptance of what is intended, but I would like to know whether the best authorities at the disposal of the Government—the Law Officers and other—are sure that there is no possibility of the House being put in some difficulty at a later stage within the next two or three weeks? I would add that even if the interpretation of the Third Reading within 20 days is good enough to come within the meaning of the Act, the obvious intention was that if any new taxes were introduced in Committee of Ways and Means there should be a Finance Bill so as to give a chance of a Second Reading Debate. Of course, this particular tax is comparatively minor compared with others in the Finance Bill, but it is well that every time these changes occur the House should be warned of the novelty so that it may decide for itself whether it is a good or a bad thing.


I certainly do not complain either of the protest of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) or the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). But I have a little hesitation as to the protest of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), because when the Abnormal Importations Act was under discussion it was decided to sanction the imposition of duties after one debate in the House, and he went into the Lobby in support of that Act. These are the Resolutions on which a Clause which is the operative thing is to be founded. It is most desirable that we should have this Clause on the Order Paper as soon as possible in the interests of the commercial community so that they may see the form the Government proposals finally take. Therefore, I hope the House will find it possible to sanction the Report stage to-night.

As to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough, I must congratulate him on the acuteness with which he detected a possible difficulty in procedure. It is quite true that, technically, the procedure under the Bowles Act does not fully apply in the present instance, since the Second Beading of this Bill might technically be held not to apply to the Second Reading of the Clause, which is substantially founded on the Financial Resolution. If he will follow this argument, he will agree with me that the Resolution is one passed by this House having statutory force, and it will have that force, at any rate, for 20 days. If within that time the Bill passes through all its stages and receives the Royal Assent, it will then be an Act of Parliament, and will itself validate the things done under it. The Bowles Act applied to the stages when an Act which was passing through the House had not received the Royal Assent, and, therefore, was not an Act of Parliament, 'and merely validated an interim action taken under a Resolution of the House before the Bill to which the Resolution referred had become law. That means that the Royal Assent would need to be given to the Finance Bill round about 15th June, but we have reason to suppose that the two Houses will agree and that the Royal Assent will be given before that date. If it is not so, I agree that a difficulty arises, but if we adhere to that time table, then within 20 days Parliament itself will have sanctioned the imposition of this tax, and no anomaly or difficulty will arise. With that explanation, I hope it will be possible for the House to let us have the Report stage.


I should not have intervened but for a reference by the Financial Secretary to a vote purported to have been given by me on the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Bill. The only purpose of the right hon. Gentleman in mentioning the matter was that the House might understand that on the Reso- lution being placed before the House for the imposition of the duties immediately, the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and myself supported that suggestion. I knew quite well that the right hon. Gentleman had misled himself in making that statement, for on no occasion did I vote for any substantive Resolution in connection with the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Bill. Therefore, I knew it was a perfectly safe thing to ask him to hand me the OFFICIAL REPORT from which his reference was made. Let us see what was the date to which he was referring. I am sure he was entirely without any intention to mislead the House. He has handed me the OFFICIAL REPORT for 19th November, 1931, in which the names of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green and my own appear as having voted with the Government. What was the Question upon which that vote took place? It was, "That the word 'An' stand part of the Clause." Let me refer to the earlier proceedings to show the meaning of that. I find that on the Committee stage of the Bill itself—nothing to do with a taxing Resolution of any kind—an hon. Member on the Opposition benches moved, in page 2, line 6, to omit the word "An," and to insert instead thereof the words "A draft of any." It was upon that that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green and I voted. It bears no relation of any kind whatsoever to the matters on which the right hon. Gentleman suggested that my colleague and I had voted in connection with the Abnormal Importations Act.


It was upon the Debate which had arisen on the question of whether these Orders should be taken late at night or not.




I will read the passage from the OFFICIAL REPORT if the hon. and gallant Member desires. [Interruption.] I simply wish to say it was not merely on the technical question of "An" or "A draft of any" that I ventured to suggest that my hon. Friend had supported the procedure by which an Order could be taken after eleven o'clock at night. I was referring to the Debate which arose and which, as we all know, may arise even on a small word such as "An" in substitution for another. That is not to say that a Debate on an important principle may not be decided upon what appears to be a relatively trivial Amendment. Let me quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT. An hon. Member had raised the question of the procedure in regard to the Orders in Council. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and others spoke. The President of the Board of Trade, in dealing with the hour at which this Order would have to be proceeded with, went so far as to say that he could not promise that it would come on early in the day and that it might have to be taken late at night. The point was taken up by the Leader of the Opposition, who said: All that we ask is that the right hon. Gentleman should tell us that, so far as he is concerned, he will see that we get proper time, so that the public may hear about these Orders, and so that the dis-

Division No. 184.] AYES. [4.59 a.m.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Pearson, William G.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Petherick, M.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Hornby, Frank Procter, Major Henry Adam
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Horobin, Ian M. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Horsbrugh, Florence Rankin, Robert
Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Ray, Sir William
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romt'd) Reed, Arthur c. (Exeter)
Blindell, James Ker, J. Campbell Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Bossom, A. C. Kimball, Lawrence Remer, John R.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Knebworth, Viscount Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Host Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Leckie, J. A. Runge, Norah Cecil
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Levy, Thomas Salt, Edward W.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Lindsay, Noel Ker Scone, Lord
Chalmers, John Rutherford Llewellin, Major John J. Selley, Harry R.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Lloyd, Geoffrey Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Cooke, Douglas Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Craven-Ellis, William Lyons, Abraham Montagu Slater, John
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro) MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Soper, Richard
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Stones, James
Drewe, Cedric McKie, John Hamilton Stourton, Hon. John J.
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Maitland, Adam Strickland. Captain W. F.
Duggan, Hubert John Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Marsden, Commander Arthur Sutcliffe, Harold
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Martin, Thomas B. Tate, Mavis Constance
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Fox, Sir Gifford Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Moreing, Adrian C Weymouth, Viscount
Goff, Sir Park Morrison, William Shephard Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Goldie, Noel B. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Womersley, Walter James
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. North, Captain Edward T. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Nunn, William
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. O'Donovan, Dr. William James TELLERS FOR THE AYES -
Hanley, Dennis A. Palmer, Francis Noel Major George Davies and Lord
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Patrick, Colin M. Erskine.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Daggar, George Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Edwards, Charles Harris, Sir Percy
Cripps, Sir Stafford Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)

cussions upon them will not be so negligible as is the case after eleven o'clock at night.

The President of the Board of Trade replied: I do desire that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its view. It may have to be taken late at night; that depends upon the course of public business; and, if that be so, I am afraid that I can offer nothing else."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1931; cols. 1093–94, Vol. 259.]

It was on that specific assurance by the President of the Board of Trade, given in response to the specific statement of the Leader of the Opposition, that the House went to a. Division, and it was in that Division that my two hon. Friends voted with the Government.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 122; Noes 17.

Kirkwood, David McGovern, John
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Maxton, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Logan, David Gilbert Nathan, Major H. L. Tinker and Mr. Price.
McEntee, Valentine L. Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)

Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Finance Bill that they have power to make provision therein pursuant to the said Resolution.