Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 20 Order, 1934, dated the fifth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said fifth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved."—[Dr. Burgin.]
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I thought the Minister would have given some explanation of this extraordinary proposal by the Government. This is a proposal to put a duty on artificial teeth. The Government, having been two or three years in power, are at long last beginning to get their teeth into things. But before we pass this Order I wish to know who made the demand to the Import Duties Advisory Committee for this duty? Further, I should like to know what is 1754 the total value of the trade, how many of these teeth are manufactured in this country and how many are imported from abroad. I am sure the House also wishes to know where they come from. It would be a terrible thing if all the Ministers on the Front Bench who have artificial teeth were found to be wearing teeth of foreign manufacture. I should like to know whether the dentists have applied for this duty or whether the application has come from the manufacturers of teeth. I imagine the trade in these teeth is very large. I should also like to know whether the dental council in connection with National Health Insurance benefit has had anything to say as to this duty. I understand that the duty will amount to about 1½d. per tooth. I think that teeth are bought by the gross from abroad, and are 4d. each. The hon. Gentleman will probably say that, as the duty will not be more than 1½d. per tooth, that is the amount which will be added to the price of these dentures but one has heard long ago in connection with these matters that an 1755 increase of 1d. on the price of an article at the source generally means an increase of perhaps 1s. or 2s. in the price of the article as sold at the counter. I think we are entitled to some information from the hon. Gentleman on the points I have raised before we allow this Motion to pass.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
There are some 30,000,000 artificial teeth per year used in this country, and of these 10,000,000 are manufactured at home and 20,000,000 are imported. The British industry is in a position to meet the whole of the requirements of modern dentistry and to supply all United Kingdom users with teeth of home manufacture. These teeth are not separately enumerated in the official trade returns. They come from the United States, Palestine, Germany, France and recently from Japan. The hon. Gentleman's inquiries were couched in rather general terms. He did not distinguish between "pin" teeth and of "diatoric" teeth and consequently he must expect my answers to be equally general. The highest duty payable on a single tooth is just under 1¼d. Under the National Health Insurance Dental Benefit Regulations the lowest price for an operation which involves the supply of a single tooth. is 5s., and I have the best grounds for thinking that the duty which could not in any circumstances amount to more than 1¼d. per tooth, will not increase the cost to the user by a single fraction. The home industry was 1756 penalised by the War because during the War the foreign industry in these articles was able to expand while we were busy making other fireclay products. The industry has therefore made this application, and I hope that the House will agree to it.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
When the Parliamentary Secretary says that the cost of teeth will not be increased, has he an agreement with the dentists to that effect?
§ Dr. BURGIN
We are not discussing the dentists on this Order. The Committee which has looked into this matter and studied the figures state that in their opinion the increased duties will not affect the price paid by the public.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 25) Order, 1934, dated the fifth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said fifth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.