HC Deb 18 July 1935 vol 304 cc1375-82

11.16 p.m.


I beg to move, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 20) Order, 1935, dated the twenty-fifth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said twenty-fifth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-five be approved. The Orders referred to in the three Motions which stand on the Order Paper involve, in two cases, the imposition of a specific duty as an alternative to the present ad valorem duty, and, in the third case, a revision of duties, the majority downwards and one upwards. Order No. 20 relates to certain nuts and citrus fruit juices. Order No. 21 imposes a specific duty on laces; and Order No. 22 imposes a specific duty to meet imports of pearl barley at low prices. I have particulars available should any hon. Member desire information, but I thought that, in accordance with the ordinary practice, it would be better that I should briefly move the Motions and await questions, rather than make a long speech.

11.18 p.m.


I think the hon. Gentleman might go into this matter in a little more detail. Here again is an interference by the Advisory Committee with trade, and we have these Orders coming on after Eleven o'clock, as is very frequently the case. I would like the hon. Gentleman to give the quantities of these fruit juices, so that we may know how far we are involved in this matter, seeing that it is of sufficient importance for the Advisory Committee to make a recommendation, and for the Treasury to approve of it, with regard to olives in brine, and to laces, from corset laces to boot laces. Moreover, Order No. 22, while the hon. Gentleman simply referred to pearl barley, also applies to other kinds of barley—block barley, flaked barley, and puffed barley, but not to barley meal or flour. All this must have some meaning, and we would like the hon. Gentleman to give the quantities and values of these articles which have been considered of sufficient importance to receive the attention of the Advisory Committee and the approval of the Treasury.

11.20 p.m.


I also rise in the hope of getting further particulars on points which are in some cases rather important. Sometimes these orders appear on the face of them to be dealing with matters which are not of such considerable importance to Members of the House or to others outside, but there are occasions when these mean practically the livelihood of very large numbers of people and those who depend on them to such an extent that they may be put entirely out of the possibility of obtaining any assistance at all. I should like to refer my hon. Friend to one of the items on which I have some knowledge and that is with regard to citrus fruit juices. I should like to know what the quantities of these juices are and why it has become necessary for the Advisory Committee to suggest these impositions. There is one country that depends almost entirely upon its citrus products. Palestine is growing larger quantities of citrus fruits. The amount that is being produced will be increased very soon and the markets which that fruit will have to obtain is something of concern not only to that country but to ourselves. We export to that country considerably more than we import and there would be great hardship if the future products are not able to be sold either in their ordinary form or in the form of preserves or juices. I would therefore ask why a duty of five per cent. is being put on unsweetened juice, which is in fact a raw product which cannot be made here and cannot interfere with anything that is made in this country. With regard to sweetened citrus fruit juices, there is an enormous duty being put on.

I believe the result of the Order will be that there will be something in the nature of a 40 per cent. duty on sweetened juice. It may be, of course, that the Exchequer will benefit by imposing these duties, but, after all, is that the correct way of looking upon the interchange of trade between this country and the one I have mentioned in particular? Palestine is a mandated territory. We have much to gain from good trade relationships with Palestine and much to lose if there are any bars put in the way. I have seen the potentialities with regard to trade with Palestine, and I am satisfied that if good relationships are encouraged and if commercial people here will go to Palestine and see what markets are open, they will find that a considerable amount of trade can be done in excess of the large sales which we are making there already. I hope we shall not do anything that will interfere with the advancement of such good relationships with that country.

11.25 p.m.


It may be noticed that we have not divided on these smaller Orders, not that we have changed our attitude to the policy of taxing these various lines, but that we accept them as part of the policy of the country, and common sense suggests to us, as I know it does to hon. Members above the Gangway, that we should concentrate upon matters of major importance. There is one criticism which affects the whole of the House whatever the attitude of hon. Members may be towards these Orders, and that is the very sparse explanation and information given—this gets less almost every month—by the Committee as to the reason for imposing these duties. There was a time when the Committee was very much occupied. Orders were coming out week after week by the score, but now, owing to the tariff policy being more or less stabilised, their labours are very much lighter, and, as their labours are lightened, their energy seems to get less. We used to have full and elaborate information, statistics and explanations given concerning the reasons for imposing a new duty, so that the House should be in a position to arrive at a conclusion.

No figures are given in the trade returns in respect to pearl barley. Barley is lumped together with other commodities in the total of £1,250,000 imports for the first six months of the year, and there is a considerable decline in the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of last year. No information is given in this memorandum in regard to this particular manufactured barley as to how much money is involved, the price of the article and the total of the imports. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should complain to the three Commissioners, that if they are to get their Orders through smoothly without criticism they should discharge their duties more efficiently by giving the House and the industries concerned the full information available to them, as they must have the information at their disposal in order to arrive at a conclusion.

11.28 p.m.


I have been asked a number of questions to which I should like an opportunity of replying. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) asked for figures and values, the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner) referred to citrus fruit with particular reference to Palestine, and the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) referred to pearl barley. The observations which the hon. Baronet made with regard to the lack of figures in reference to Orders will no doubt be read by the Commissioners, but I would point out that the figures are known, because there is evidence laid before the Committee, and the facts are all known to the industry.


They are not published.


These Orders have been laid for a fortnight or three weeks and have been available to Members in the Vote Office, and at no time have questions been addressed to my Department asking for details beforehand. I do not make a point of this, but only mention it to show that there is no reluctance on the part of the Department to furnish information if it is asked for. The practical difficulty I am now in is that these Orders, seeing that the Import Duties Acts was passed in 1932 and that the Commissioners have been at work so long, are in the nature of renewals. A great number of articles have already been taxed or become dutiable, and we are now only dealing with the stopping up of holes or something of that kind, and naturally it is a little difficult to supply the information likely to be wanted. For instance, my brief to-night for these three Orders is voluminous.

I will try to deal briefly with the points raised. Let me take first the hon. Member for Aberdare. He said: "Give us something in the nature of quantities and values. Tell us whether we are dealing with very large figures or with relatively small ones." These fruit juices imported are relatively small in quantity, amounting to just under 2,000,000 gallons, and of the value of about £120,000. It is juice, unfermented, not containing added spirits or added sweetening matter not liable to duty as table water. In reply to the hon. Member for Whitechapel I may say that there are not sufficient citrus fruit juices imported from Palestine to be included under a separate heading. The ripe fruit is entirely another matter.


If the hon. Member inquires from the fruit industry in Palestine as to their view, he will find that the real question is not what is the amount that is involved now but what is likely to be involved in the future, so that they may sell forward. Although only £120,000 is involved here, a tremendous amount may be involved later in respect of Palestine.


There is no ground for that suggestion. The order says quite clearly that an additional 5 per cent. duty is to be imposed; that makes 15 per cent. in all; therefore the hon. Member was wrong in talking about 40 per cent.


That 15 per cent. relates to unsweetened fruit juice. Sweetened is 40 per cent.


That is not correct. There is no 40 per cent. in it.


The Order says in respect of sweetened: Such a rate of duty as will, with the duty chargeable under any enactment other than the Import Duties Act, 1932, and the amount of the general ad valorem duty, if any, chargeable under Section 8 of the Act, exceed the duty chargeable under the said other enactment by an amount equal to 15 per cent. of the value of the goods. Will not that be something in the nature of 40 per cent.?


It will not. The hon. Member asks why it was necessary to put this duty on citrus fruit juices. I will tell him: It is the practice of the trade to import juices for cloudy squash, with such a proportion of pulp as might make it chargeable to duty, as preserved citrus fruit. This is a convenience to have the citrus fruit pulp and juice classified under the same head and the same rate. The imports of these substances came from Spain, Italy and the United States.

I was asked questions with regard to Order No. 21. The imports of laces amount to one and a half million single gross, two-thirds coming from Belgium, and a certain proportion from Japan. The c.i.f. value of imports is probably in the nature of £75,000 per annum. As regards pearl barley, 8s. 3d. per cwt. is the average value of the imports, which come from Germany, the Netherlands, other foreign countries and British Empire countries. The total imports amount to approximately 190,000 cwts., which at 8s. 3d. per cwt. works out at about £76,000.

Resolved, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 20) Order, 1935, dated the twenty-fifth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said twenty-fifth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved.

Resolved, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 21) Order, 1935; dated the eighth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said eighth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved.

Resolved, That the additional Import Duties (No. 22) Order, 1935, dated the tenth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said tenth day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved."—[Dr. Burgin.]