§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Before the Committee lose control of this Clause I want to draw attention to page 84, Schedule D, where myrabolams and other articles are mentioned. I understand that this particular commodity, myrabolams, is not produced except in India. At the moment there is a duty of 10 per cent. on any myrabolams of foreign origin, under the Import Duties Act, or rather on any myrabolams which are consigned to this country from a foreign country. The Government of India made a very curious request, which is embodied in Schedule D of the agreement with India. They ask us to put on the Free List a number of articles such as shellac, jute, myrabolams, broken rice, mica slabs and splittings and crotalaria juncea. Myrabolams, I understand, is a commodity used in tanning. The presumption is that all 1696 these articles are produced in India alone. But not all of them reach this country by direct consignment from India. The established principle, in respect of Imperial preference, is that we grant it for goods produced and consigned from an Empire country. Here is a case where the principle has broken down, because a lot of these things, though produced in India, are not consigned to this country from India.
In order to get these things effectively preferred on entry into this country we are putting them on the Free List from all destinations, and therefore we are by inference making a breath in the principle that Imperial preference is granted only in respect of goods produced in and consigned from Empire countries. I think that that principle has been overdone, and I rejoice in the Government's breach of it. Last night the Government were resisting any such breach on the importation of wheat from Canada to United States ports. I ask the Minister for some explanation. In one case a preference has been given by 1697 putting things on the Free List, and in another case it is given in another way. How do the Government justify the differential treatment between wheats from Canada and myrabolams from India? The principle is the same. I am by no means satisfied with the explanation given to the Committee last night with regard to Canadian wheat that may be shipped from American ports. When I say I am by no means satisfied I mean that I am speaking on behalf of a very large number of hon. Members with whom I have discussed the matter to-day.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
A large number, nearly as many as the party to which the hon. and gallant Member belongs.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think we are entitled to rather fuller consideration of the point I have raised, and I hope the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs will be able to give us some explanation as to the curious difference of treatment between one commodity which comes from India and another which comes from Canada.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
My hon. Friend gave me no notice whatever that he was going to raise the question of myrabolams, and I am not able to correct any statement he has made with regard to that particular article, or whatever it is. But the reason why these commodities appear in the Schedule is that India asked the British Government to put them on the Free List. Nobody, and least of all my hon. Friends opposite, would object to that because it relieves the consumer in this country, according to them, of any burden whatever. I fail to understand the argument about consignment. If an article enjoys a preference it must be produced in and consigned from the Dominion concerned direct to this country. These articles will appear on the Free List and therefore no question of consignment arises, but, as India thinks it in her own interest to have the price of these commodities kept as cheap as possible, lest substitutes should be used, we have met their request.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I am sorry that I did not give the Financial Secretary notice that I was going to raise this point, but I thought it was one which would naturally occur to his mind. The reason why India asks that these things should be put on the Free List is that they come into this country consigned from a foreign country. Imperial Preference in respect of these commodities was breaking down because of the too rigid application of the consignment doctrine, which the hon. Gentleman preached last night in respect of Canadian wheat. If it is considered good enough to have a breach of that principle in the case of these Indian products, I suggest that it would be equally good to make a breach of that principle in the case of Canadian wheat, where the matter could be easily handled.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) ought to take a little trouble and study the facts. He surely must know that India has a monopoly in the case of myrabolams. There is no question of preferring the Indian imports to any other imports. As far as this country is concerned it is a monopoly product of India and the only question is the question of alternatives. Obviously India has thought it preferable that these articles should be imported into this country at as low a price as possible, in order to undercut alternatives which might come in from abroad, and therefore they are to be put on the Free List. Had the hon. Member for South Croydon studied the question, he would have known these facts.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I should not have sought to trespass on the Committee again had it not been for the suggestion that I was not aware of the facts. We are told that these articles are an Indian monopoly, that they are only produced in India which is a part of the British Empire, and, therefore, when they are consigned direct from India, they are duty free whether on the Free List or not. That is the logical consequence of the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement—whether you put them on the Free List or not makes no difference, provided they are consigned from a part of the British Empire. But why is it desired to put them on the Free List? Because, in fact, they are not consigned 1699 from the British Empire. That is the only point. The hon. and learned Member says that the purpose in view is to make them cheaper. But there is no duty at all on them if they come from India and are consigned from India. There is only a duty when they are consigned from foreign countries. The trouble is that the hon. and learned Gentleman himself has not thought out the process of transportation involved in this case. It is the hon. and learned Gentleman who is wrong in regard to the matter. The whole purport of my argument, which the hon. and learned Gentleman did not understand because he did not take the trouble to understand it, was entirely on the question of consignment.