§ 7.47 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I beg to move,That the Additional Import Duties (No. 11) Order, 1934, dated the twentieth day of April, 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 twentieth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It might perhaps be for the convenience of the House to discuss together all the Import Duties Orders which are on the Paper, and if a Division is demanded, as each Order is put from the Chair the House can then divide. Does that meet with the approval of the House?
§ Dr. BURGIN
In accordance with that arrangement, I may perhaps open Additional Import Duties Orders Nos. 11, 12, 13, and 14 and Substitution Order No. 1 together. Perhaps the best way to deal with the matter would be to give a short 1339 explanation to the House of what these five Orders do and what commodities they cover, and draw attention to the two which I apprehend are the most likely to occasion any demand for inquiry. The last Order which was approved by the House was Order No. 10 on the 16th April. Order No. 11 increases by five per cent. the duty on certain paper and boards. No. 12 removes zip fasteners from the 20 per cent. duty class and imposes a specific duty at a higher rate, and it also imposes specific duties on component parts of such goods. The effect of No. 13 is to impose a specific duty on typewriters in certain cases in place of the ad valorem duty of 20 per cent., and it increases the duty on imported machines at low prices, especially secondhand machines, and imposes specific duties on parts and on spools.
No. 14 imposes an additional duty of 15 per cent. on lead acetate of certain grades. Substitution Order No. 1 of 1934 replaces the existing ad valorem duty on eggs not in shell and on peppercorns, and is entirely for administrative convenience. The specific duty is designed to be equivalent in incidence as far as possible to the ad valorem rate, but, of course, it may in some circumstances, once you make a specific duty, mean an increase if the price falls, and in so far as it may possibly increase the duty it is necessary to bring the Order before the House for approval. Of those five Orders, I doubt very much whether the House will require any particular information about the last, the Substitution Order.
§ Dr. BURGIN
First of all, I will say that the first Order, dealing with paper and boards, may perhaps require a word or two. It might be of interest to know that 7,000,000 feet of zip fasteners are consumed in this country each year. The unit of sale for a zip fastener is a footage, and the consumption is roughly 7,000,000 feet a year.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The imports are trifling, and the large manufacture is entirely taken care of by manufacturers in this country. The duty on typewriters is 1340 necessary for reasons about which the House has heard a great deal at Question Time, namely, the cheaper machines that have come in from the United States. Some of the figures that I have are rather of interest in that connection, but I think I will pass rather lightly over some of those matters.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The zip fastener is merely removed from fasteners liable to an aggregate duty of 20 per cent., and a duty of a specific nature is imposed. It is a higher duty. The imports are about 2,000,000 feet, our exports are 3,000,000 feet, and the production at home is 8,000,000 feet, so that the consumption at home is 7,000,000 feet out of a total of 10,000,000 feet.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The imports are partly from Japan. The imports of the cheaper character have recently come in at abnormally low prices from Japan as an entirely unusual and new source. The Import Duties Advisory Committee are satisfied that to preserve the industry these specific duties should be imposed and that to obviate the possibility of the protection being overcome by component parts being imported for assembly here, the duty should be levied on the parts as well as on the whole. The duties only apply to a zip fastener as a whole or to a component part of a zip fastener separately. The Import Duties Advisory Committee are deferring for later consideration zip fasteners imported as parts of various other articles. These are mostly from four to sixteen inches in length, heavy weight, light weight and feather weight, and made of nickel silver or gilded metal.
I do not know whether there are any particulars needed with regard to typewriters, but I have the particulars of employment, unemployment, imports, and so on should the House want them. Lead acetate has recently been delivered in this country at prices far below British costs of production. The estimated consumption here is about 600 tons, chiefly used by paint and colour manufacturers, and 30 tons annually are used by the cotton industry.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The imports are described as Continental, but if the hon. and learned Member would like them subdivided, I may be able to obtain the details.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
It is quite impossible, as one has said before on these Import Duties Orders, to do anything very constructive or helpful, because it has no effect if one does it, and nobody has very much material upon which to do it, but I did ask the hon. Gentleman certain questions about zip fasteners, because this looks to me like a first-class ramp. Zip fasteners are, of course, a raw material, very largely, for the manufacture of bags, boots, shoes, and other articles, and the manufacture, which I believe to be carried on in this country by very efficient machinery—chiefly manufactured abroad, of which I saw an example a few days ago—is in the hands, I think, of Imperial Chemical Industries. The foreign manufacture is also very largely in the hands of Imperial Chemical Industries. The main other manufacture is in Canada, and the whole manufacture is controlled by the monopoly on the patent. I happen to know something about it, because I have just been fighting a case before the Privy Council concerned with the zip fasteners.
Therefore, this increase in taxation is something which it seems to me is an increase on the raw material for the benefit of a monopoly trade in this country, and there does not seem to be any particular reason why that increase should be made. If Japanese goods are coming in at abnormally low prices, this will be no good. It will not be sufficiently large to defeat the abnormally low prices. It will be sufficiently large to keep out ordinary competitive articles, but not to keep out articles at abnormally low prices from Japan. If it is sufficiently large to keep those out, it must mean that it is going to be of a prohibitive type, and a prohibitive type duty on a raw material is not something which even the hon. Gentleman, I imagine, would very strongly approve.
As regards the paper and boards, I should like to know, for the information 1342 of the House and the country, whether the last sentence in the report,not including paper or boards which form part of another article,means not including packing material, paper and boards which come in as packing material, or whether it means paper and boards which form part of another article in the sense of a manufactured part of another article. It would obviously be very inconvenient if paper and boards which formed part of another article, that is to say, which were used to wrap up some other goods, should be subject to taxation under this provision, and I assume that those words are inserted in order to cover that case. I should like to know whether that is the exact position.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I can only reply by leave of the House. With regard to the two matters that the hon. and learned Gentleman has put to me, I cannot agree that the zip fastener is anything in the nature of a raw material at all. It is a very highly skilled manufactured article which has caught on with amazing rapidity, and its consumption has gone up tremendously. The zip fastener has been subject to a duty of 20 per cent. for a considerable length of time. These fasteners now have come into very large-scale use for clothing, boots, bags, and an extensive range of other articles, and the industry has been built up and has a capacity of more than twice the existing home consumption. You are dealing with a first-class British industry highly efficient and built up expressly for the manufacture of this particular type of goods. We find competition has been experienced at home and abroad, not only from continental rivals but at abnormally low rates from Japan. The Committee, with all their evidence before them, have advised a scale of specific duties which, contrary to what the hon. and learned Member says, will be adequate in their judgment to deal with these Japanese and other imports, and the House will notice the great variation in the conditions and rates of specific duty according to the length and type of the zip fastener in question. I do not propose to elaborate the matter but to state the fact. With regard to paper, I do not think the words "not including paper or board 1343 which forms part of any article" have any reference to packing. The containers in which goods come in are normally dealt with by the Customs in a regular practice that is quite well known, and it would not be necessary to put in an Import Duty Order words to exclude packing. This proposal merely increases by 5 per cent. an Import Duty which has been imposed for a long time.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I rise only for a moment to comment on an observation of the hon. Gentleman. It seems to me quite fantastic to say that a zip fastener is not a raw material. No one is interested in zip fasteners per se or buys them for their own sake. It is perfectly obvious that they are purchased only in order to fasten something, and I should have thought that was obvious even to the Parliamentary Secretary. I should have liked to hear the kind of comment he would have made on an observation of that kind three years ago, and the fact that he now holds up this obvious raw material as a finished article is another piece of evidence of how far he has travelled since the time, three years ago, when he went through the country advocating with so much eloquence the theory and practice of Free Trade.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 11) Order, 1934, dated the twentieth day of April, 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 twentieth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 12) Order, 1934, dated the twenty-fourth day of April, 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 twenty-fourth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 13) Order, 1934, dated the second day of May, 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 second day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 14) Order, 1934, dated the fourth day of May, 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 fourth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved.
That the Import Duties (Substitution) (No. 1) Order, 1934, dated the fourth day of May, 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 fourth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be approved."—[Dr. Burgin.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.