§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
This Clause has not hitherto received any explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or from the Financial Secretary or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade at present in charge of the Clause, and I rise to ask what is the significance of the Clause. Why are all these elaborate provisions made, and what precisely is anticipated to be the effect of them? Upon the answer, we shall be guided as to what course we take.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
Clause 6 seems to be one of the most interesting Clauses in the Bill, and in the Budget statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as far as I am aware, there was no reference to this interesting proposal. Some months ago, on the advice of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, very much higher duties were imposed on certain classes of steel goods. The sequel to that was certain negotiations, so I understand from the explanation subsequently given, between the British iron and steel interests and the Continental interests, as a result of which there were arrangements that shipments of certain classes of steel, of which we were not producing adequate quantities in this country, should come into this country from the Continent. As a consequence, the duties 138 were restored to the level at which they had been before the heavy duties were imposed. That was the arrangement, and at the moment we are not discussing whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. The arrangement was not confined to what might happen in this market; there were also certain arrangements with regard to exports to the non-steel-producing countries. This Clause seems to carry the arrangement a little further, but I have seen no reference, cither in Parliament or in the public Press, to any further arrangements between the British iron and steel interests and the Continental interests.
It looks as though this Clause is giving effect to some kind of arrangement between the British iron and steel interests and what is commonly known as the Continental cartel. It is a proposal to reduce the duties, or to have no protective duties, other than the 10 per cent, revenue duty, on certain kinds of iron and steel as specified in the First Schedule. That Schedule, broadly speaking, covers iron and steel in all its primary forms, and, indeed, in some of the rather developed forms like bolts, nuts, screws, rivets and washers. This concession, which is not duty-free importation, but importation subject to a duty of only 10 per cent., is to apply in respect of steel to which a certificate of origin is attached. This is the quantitative system applied not to free entry, but to a reduced duty. It is a novel application of the tariff principle.
In raising this issue I am neither approving of the idea nor dissenting from 139 it, but the Clause ought not to become law without our being conscious of this new form of protection. Behind this Clause there is the commercial agreement to which I have referred. I do not know who are the parties to that agreement, but I make the assumption that the agreement is between the Continental cartel and the British Iron and Steel Federation. It may be that every country in the world that has an iron and steel industry is party to the arrangement to which this Clause is intended to give effect. On the other hand, there may be no such arrangement. I do not know, but I am trying to guess what is behind it from the wording. This country has 40 odd treaties containing the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause, and under that Clause we must not discriminate as far as duties are concerned between the case of one foreign country and another, and, equally, the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause applies to quantitative restrictions, though obviously it is rather more difficult to operate when you come to quantitative restriction than it is with regard to tariffs. I have always assumed that if you were applying quantitative restrictions and also applying the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause you would have to state the imports of certain standard years, find out what percentage came from each country and then preserve as nearly as you could that same percentage in the future of the total imports you permitted under your quantitative system.
This Clause is a combination of quantitative restrictions and tariffs, and unless the arrangement is such that you preserve equality as between one country and another, then difficulty arises. Here you are giving an advantage. If it happens, say, that 50,000 tons of Belgian steel comes into this country, with a certificate of origin attached, and as a result it bears a duty of 10 per cent. instead of 333 Per cent., what will be the position if steel comes in from the United States? I mention the United States for the sake of argument, although in general we have not imported iron and steel from the United States. If, however, we import certain supplies from the United States and none of it enjoys this advantage of importation at 10 per cent., the United States might invoke the commercial agreement which, I think, was signed in 140 1814 and which contained the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause, and say: "You are not treating us fairly. You have allowed a certain amount of Belgian steel to come into your country at a reduced rate of duty and you have not applied the same rate of duty to any of our American steel. Therefore, you have broken the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause in our Treaty, and accordingly, as we are parties to certain arbitration clauses, we are going to take you to the Hague Tribunal, and the damages that Great Britain may have to pay may be £4,000,000 or whatever sum The Hague Tribunal may assess."
It is very important that we should realise what is involved. On a previous Clause there was some incidental reference to the iron and steel industry. Let us recall the history of the matter. On 1st March, 1932, a duty of 10 per cent. was applied automatically to all iron and steel goods under the revenue Clauses of the Import Duties Act. As a result of the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee on a date in April of that year—I think it was on the 26th that it was passed—33⅓ per cent. duty was applied to certain classes of iron and steel goods, but it was stated that those duties would operate for only three months, subject to the industry reorganising itself. That was the biggest joke that ever was, because if reorganisation was desired it could not be done in three months. Three months later another three months' grace was allowed, but again nothing happened, because nothing could really be done in those few months of Protection, and it was not until October, 1932, that the Import Duties Advisory Committee recommended that the industry ought to be given Protection for two years, certain. About 12 months were wasted from the General Election of 1931 until the iron and steel industry knew where it was. As a result the necessary developments were delayed and we have this extraordinary situation to-day, that the iron and steel industry is not in a position, so far as I can make out, to produce all our requirements of certain kinds of iron and steel, because—and it ought to be stated in the blunt language of the market-place—they were messed up four years ago when Protection was first introduced into this country.
141 This Clause, I imagine, is introduced in recognition of the fact that there are certain classes of iron and steel which at this moment this country is not producing in sufficient supply. As one who has played some part in urging a Protective policy in this country, I regret that that should be so. Apparently, that is true. The iron and steel industry in certain respects is not at this moment in a position to deliver all the goods, but I do not believe that the iron and steel industry is to blame. We were told that there must be reorganisation, whatever that means. Reorganisation seems to be one of those blessed words which is to solve all problems, although it solves none. We were told that there must be reorganisation of the industry, which means that you must persuade an industry to do something which it ought not to do, as a rule. At any rate, this alleged reorganisation delayed natural forces from producing their ordinary results in increasing productive capacity, and therefore the iron and steel industry to-day lacks the productive capacity which it ought to have.
Only the other day the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir J. Jarvis), who is one of my county Members in Surrey, in conjunction with other hon. Members, was asking why the town of Jarrow, which has a high level of unemployment, was having so much difficulty in getting an iron and steel works started in a yard which another form of reorganisation has said must not be allowed to build ships for the next 40 years. I do not like this planning of industry very much. I think it is a disastrous modern conception which is extremely reactionary.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am anxious not to disobey any Ruling that you may give, but, as I understand it, the sole necessity of this Clause arises out of the fact that there has been a wrong kind of planning. If the iron and steel industry of this country at this moment was in a position to produce all the classes of iron and steel that we need, there would be no necessity for this Clause, but I will not go beyond that. I was merely illustrating the case of Jarrow, because only the day before we adjourned for Whitsuntide a series of questions 142 was addressed to the Board of Trade with regard to the difficulties which existed—I am not certain what those difficulties are—in getting a steelworks started at Jarrow. Great efforts have been made by the county of Surrey, one of the divisions which I represent in Parliament, to assist the distressed area of Jarrow. One opportunity of helping Jarrow is to get a steelworks running there, but apparently difficulties have arisen, and I imagine that those difficulties have arisen because of the conception that somebody or other has to impose reorganisation on the iron and steel industry, which invariably means the defeatist policy, that you reduce your productive capacity and when the time comes for the demand you are not in a position to deliver the goods. I imagine, although I do not know—I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us—that the object of the Clause is to enable iron and steel to be introduced into this country at a reduced rate of duty because for some reason or other the iron and steel industry at this moment is not able to meet all our national requirements.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) asked me to give an explanation of this Clause. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), in an interesting speech, has stated many things which he imagines might possibly form the basis of the Clause, and he has asked me to tell him which, if any, of them, are within the borders of truth, and try to bring the matter to a sense of proportion. That is a large undertaking. In one sentence the hon. Member for South Croydon asked whether the Clause was necessary because the British iron and steel industry was not able to cater for all the needs of the iron and steel consumers in this country. I am very thankful, as one who is interested in international trade, to think that there are few industries in any country which are in a position to cater for all the needs of the country's requirements. The secret of all modern trade is to realise that in the industrial make-up of every country there are gaps which the industries of another country can fill, and that an exchange of products can take place. It is this elementary reason which makes Germany, a highly competitive country, our 143 best customer because industry being so manifold and so highly developed in each we find that naturally we are the complement of each other.
This Clause is described as giving power to remove or reduce additional duties in respect of certain iron and steel goods. Sub-section (1) gives power to the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, to make an Order permitting consignments of iron and steel goods to be imported at a reduced rate, and provides that goods claiming this reduced rate shall be accompanied by a certificate of origin and also a certificate showing that they come within a certain quota. Sub-section (2) and the First Schedule deal with the range of goods to which an Order made under the Clause is intended to apply, and Sub-section (3) provides the application of the Import Duties Act powers to amend or vary an order. Sub-section (4) deals with the type of certificate of origin and Sub-section (5) with regulations. Subsection (6) is the ordinary common form Clause that anything requiring to be done by the Board of Trade may be done by the President and a certain named officer.
What is the Clause intended to do? What does the Clause really mean in terms of legislation? Let me try to explain quite shortly for the benefit of the Committee. The history of the duty on iron and steel has been not inaccurately described by the hon. Member for South Croydon—a duty first of 10 per cent. rising to 33⅓ per cent. and then rising to 50 per cent.; consternation on the part of other countries which make steel, realising that the 50 per cent. duty was largely prohibitive; then bargaining between various steel countries as to sharing markets; the reduction, of the duty from 50 per cent. to 20 per cent. with the present duty at 20 per cent. When you are concerned that a great industry in your own country should flourish and employ large numbers of operatives, that it should as far as possible supply local needs, you are concerned to protect it against any influences which would undermine its success. One of the influences which would undermine the success of the British iron and steel industry would be the wholesale dumping into this market of cheap Continental steel at prices 144 bearing no relation to those in the country of origin.
How can you prevent large quantities of cheap Continental steel being dumped into this country? You can do it by a variety of means. You can do it by a duty, or by prohibition, or by commonsense bargaining between different steel-producing countries; and it is this bargaining, which has resulted from the Import Duties Advisory Committee's Orders, on the part of foreign countries. When the duty on iron and steel goods coming into this country was raised to 50 per cent. the various producing countries, Belgium, France, Germany and Luxemburg, realised that this country was not imposing a temporary tariff of a low order for a period of months but intended seriously to see that its own market was kept largely for its own people. Realising that the policy of a temporary extension of the duty was no longer to apply, the foreign countries came, met the British Iron and Steel Federation in England and said, "There are quantities of foreign steel that you need. These you will want, and will no doubt permit to come in on favoured terms. If we agree to let you have these quantities that you need on favourable terms, will you arrange with your Government conditions under which, by ourselves undertaking not to flood your markets with quantities above the agreed totals, the prices at which this limited total is to come in shall be lower than would otherwise be the case?" Memories are short and may I remind the Committee that in the recommendations of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, Additional Duties Order No. 27 of 1935, which was made on 6th August last year, the details of an agreement were then given the details of what may be called a cartel agreement.
I do not want the explanation I am giving to become in any way involved. The Clause takes legislative power to differentiate and to allow goods to be introduced at a lower rate of duty than is generally applicable. When it has been passed it will be open to the Import Duties Advisory Committee to make an Order that iron and steel may be imported into this country at X duty. It will be within the power of the Treasury to say that notwithstanding this Import Duties Order certain people may 145 import certain steel from certain countries at a lower rate. Sub-section (1) of the Clause says:On the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, and after consultation with the Board of Trade, the Treasury may by order direct that any additional duty chargeable under Part I of the Import Duties Act, 1932, on a consignment of goods, being goods of a class or description to which the order applies, shall not be charged, or shall be charged at such reduced rate as may be specified in the order, if—That is, on a given consignment there shall not be charged the full rate or there shall be charged such a reduced rate as may be specified. In the cartel agreement between the four countries made on 31st July, 1935, the relevant particulars of which are in Command Paper 4972, they are agreed as to what is to happen. There shall be imported in the first year a total not exceeding 670,000 tons of steel and in every subsequent year the total shall be 525,000 tons. That amount is to be permitted on favoured terms from these cartel countries. The imports had risen in 1934 to 912,000 tons, an increase of 42 per cent. This sensible arrangement under which the quantity of steel that is required for our local use from countries which are good customers is limited to a total import of 525,000 tons in subsequent years, on the other hand secures by sectional agreements relating to each class of products the same proportion of the total export trade as existed in 1934. I need not go through the lists of the different kinds of steel which are set out in the First Schedule. They are not quite final, and there are possibilities of slight variations being made.
The Import Duties Advisory Committee have had the matter under review, and the parties—the cartel countries and the British Iron and Steel Federation—approached the Government with the view that this system of a two-fold rate of duty, a higher rate and a lower rate, an effective sanction against undue imports, could be operated satisfactorily only by the institution of a system of licences. The Government accordingly found it necessary to provide the means which both the parties to the agreement regarded as necessary to make that agreement effective, and the arrangements contemplated in this Clause are the result of the discussions which have been taking place for months past 146 between representatives of the British Government, the Governments of the cartel countries and the British Iron and Steel Federation. It is not proposed to prohibit any imports into the United Kingdom, but to allow a regulated quantity of imports to enter at a favourable rate of duty while maintaining a normal rate of duty on other imports. It is for the Import Duties Advisory Committee to recommend what in its view should be the normal rate in the usual way by a recommendation under the Import Duties Act, and from time to time to recommend the reduced rate of duty for the products to which this Clause is to be applied.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The variation of the list, of course, can be made only by the parties to the agreement. It is the British Iron and Steel Federation on the one hand and the cartel countries on the other that determine the list of products which can usefully be covered by an agreement of this kind. It will be found that the agreement, which is for five years with an optional break at the end of three, relates, broadly speaking, to 12 different classes of iron and steel products, and the details are set out in Order No. 27, to which I have just referred.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
I understand that licences will be granted in respect of specific consignments. Suppose I became ambitious and thought I would like to be an importer of Belgian steel, never having imported any in the past, under the ordinary tariff system I could start in that way, but under the new licensing system of Clause 6, would I be permitted to enter the business And to bring in any steel at a reduced rate of duty, or would that privilege be given only to people already in the business?
§ Dr. BURGIN
That is a perfectly proper question, and I think the answer is as follows: In all probability the export trade from any country would be regarded as part of that country's trade; that would be the contention which His Majesty's Government would put forward. I imagine, therefore, that in any question of the export of Belgian steel from Belgium to 147 the United Kingdom, the licence would be granted to the Belgian exporter and he would be required to show that the steel came from Belgium and was within Belgium's quota of permitted imports into the United Kingdom. I imagine that whether or not any particular individual in this country could import steel at the reduced rate would depend on the relations of that importer with the British Iron and Steel Federation. I think my answer is correct.
It was clear that with that state of affairs, before the President of the Board of Trade could allow a system of that kind to be introduced into the law of the land, it was necessary for him to obtain assurances from the British Iron and Steel Federation as to what would be their attitude to such cases as that mentioned by the hon. Member for South Groydon (Mr. H. G. Williams). Accordingly, on 31st March, 1936, assurances were given to the President of the Board of Trade by the British Iron and Steel Federation. I must trouble the Committee by giving the actual terms of the undertaking, because I apprehend it is a matter of extreme interest to hon. Members. The undertaking is in these terms:The Council unanimously agreed to undertake on behalf of the Federation,What I have endeavoured to do for the moment is not to meet arguments or to advocate a policy. I have endeavoured merely to expound. I do not want the Committee to assume that the remarks which I am concluding have been an advocacy of the policy. They have not been intended to be such. They have been an explanation of what I apprehend the Clause to mean. I have been showing that we prefer a common sense agreement to either prohibition or an excessive tariff wall, pointing out that the agreement appears to me to contain proper safeguards, and giving the undertaking which the British Iron and Steel Federation have given to the Board of Trade.
- (a) To use their best endeavours to secure that adequate supplies of suitable steel are at all times available to meet the reasonable requirements of British consumers and to make arrangements, if circumstances so require, for the importation of such additional tonnages as the Import Duties Advisory Committee may deem necessary in excess of those fixed by the Cartel Agreement;
- (b) To make such arrangements for the disposal of the imports of foreign steel from the Cartel as will secure to the satisfaction of the Import Duties Advisory Committee the equitable distribution of such steel as to quantities, qualities and prices among all classes of consumers without discrimination as to whether or not they are members of an affiliated Association;
- (c) To undertake that membership of affiliated Associations shall be open to all firms who are eligible under their rules and willing to observe them;
- (d) To arrange that the prices of the agreed imports of foreign steel shall not be in excess of the prices charged for corresponding British steel to Members of the Federation; and in this connection reaffirm the assurance as to the price
148 policy of the Federation given in the Memorandum submitted to the Board of Trade dated 14th March, 1935."
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. BENSON
May I ask the Minister whether the agreement which he has read is available to the House?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I have told the hon. Member—perhaps he did not follow—that the terms of the agreement are to be found in Command Paper 4972, which was the additional Import Duties Order No. 27 of March, 1925.
§ Dr. BURGIN
If the hon. Member means the undertaking, I have read the undertaking in extenso, and consequently it will be quoted in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. BENSON
Is it not customary that any document read by a Minister should be available to the House?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I can imagine no better way of making any document available than to read it, and for it to be quoted in the OFFICIAL KEPORT.
§ Mr. BENSON
The Minister has no right to quote a document unless it is made available to Members at the Vote Office.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
The guarantee of the British Iron and Steel Federation does not cover my hypothetical case. Why should not I be able to become an importer of iron and steel and have the same preference that will be given to other people? I stand for a certain amount of liberty and freedom. What 149 guarantee have I that if I become an importer I shall be allowed to import these products?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I did my best in the time at my disposal to quote what I think was the whole document. The opening paragraph is:
§ "To the Rt. Hon. Walter Runciman, M.P.,
§ Board of Trade,
§ Gt. George Street, S.W.1.
§ Sir,—At a meeting of the council of the British Iron and Steel Federation, held here on. the 19th instant I explained to them that in connection with the statutory imposition of a licensing system in respect of importations under our International Agreement there were certain assurances which it would be necessary for the federation to give to you as President of the Board of Trade.
§ The council unanimously agreed to under take on behalf of the federation"—
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
May I point out to the Minister that there is a well established Rule of this House that if he quotes a document, quite apart from the fact that that document automatically appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, that document must be laid? Will he give the House an assurance that the document will be laid?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I do not myself accept the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman has put on the Rule. This is a letter. If it is necessary that that letter shall be made available to hon. Members it shall be. I am not trying to depart from procedure, and if it is in accordance with practice that it should be laid, it shall be laid.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
We have had a very remarkable statement from the Parliamentary Secretary. Anybody who had been listening to the discussion to-night would not have realised that we were discussing the Finance Bill of the year. On the Contrary he would have got the impression that we are now introducing a new kind of legislation for carrying out the policy of the Government for Protection of British industry. I do not always agree with the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), but we owe him a debt of obligation for dragging out of the Minister this long statement 150 of the meaning and working of this proposed Clause. If it had not been for pressure from this House, the House and the country would not have known the real significance of this Clause. The speech which the hon. Gentleman has just made should have been put into a White Paper. It has taken him about 20 minutes to explain the meaning of the Clause. He has had to produce out of his folios a Memorandum on which, on his own admission, the smooth working of this Clause depends—an undertaking, not given by the Government or the Board of Trade, but by the Federation of the Iron and Steel Industry. That does not include the whole industry of the country, but only certain favoured industries, and, as the hon. Member for South Croydon suggested, if he liked to start an industry and to import these commodities it would be very difficult for him to get a licence.
When we passed our new system of import duties we had long debates in this House; the proposals were subjected to most minute examination, and we set up a new form of committee to pass these duties. We are now departing from that policy. It may be a good thing or bad, but we are departing from that policy and substituting a system of quotas and licences. I defy anybody who has heard the discussion to be quite clear how this particular Clause will work or how the Government intend it to work. I approach sympathetically any proposal to cheapen the raw material of industry and to enable our manufacturers of iron and steel goods to draw their raw material from the widest possible market, but under this system we have arrangements made behind the back of Parliament, private negotiations between private industries, and when the thing is accomplished they will come to the Minister to implement the proposal. I want the House to realise that this scheme will be a limited quota, a maximum. We assume that the importers of these commodities will import only as long as they find it profitable. When they have enough they will stop, and the late comers will not be able to share the swag. The people who get the licences will be privileged people.
I am satisfied from my knowledge of the President of the Board of Trade and the very able Parliamentary Secretary 151 that they will do their best and will exercise zeal in the discharge of their duties in this matter, but inevitably there will be suspicion in the minds of the less fortunate importers that some privileged merchants who have had a pull have been able to get in first and secure the advantages of these licences and quotas. I suggest that we ought not to part with this Clause until we have had a White Paper setting forth the full facts, figures and details, the memorandum of agreement, and the letter from the President of the Board of Trade, so that Members, whether Free Traders or Protectionists, whether directly interested in this industry or not, shall be in full possession of the facts and able to realise the significance of this new departure in our policy regarding international trade.
The Parliamentary Secretary apparently surprised some of his supporters by his discourse on the advantages of international trade, but it did not surprise me, because I know that the hon. Gentleman's conversion from the economic doctrine with which Members on these benches are associated was very sudden. There was no finer advocate of free imports, no finer lecturer and speaker on the advantages of free imports than the hon. Gentleman, and so he was naturally able to give lip service to those dectrines which had little concern with the proposals contained in this Clause. I do not feel that the Committee is justified in passing this Clause, and I put that view to hon. Members, irrespective of whether they are Protectionists or Free Traders. In many ways I think the Clause is less desirable from a Protectionist point of view than from a Free Trade point of view, but we are not justified in passing it until we have all the facts and figures before us, in black and white, so that Members may form a considered judgment as to the desirability of legislation of this kind. I should like, if it were in order, to move that the Chairman do report- Progress, but if that is not possible I hope the Committee will hold up the Clause until we are in a position to form a judgment on the effects which it may have in the future.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I do not propose to enter into the Debate on the general 152 subject, but it is evident that the statement of the Minister has shown us a method of legislation and a method of dealing with the whole question of imports which sets a new precedent, which is exceedingly complicated and which, in spite of the Minister's speech, has not been fully explained. For that reason I think the suggestion that there should be a White Paper covering the whole subject is one to which the hon. Gentleman ought to accede. In order to show that he is practically bound to issue a Paper covering the document which he has read, I propose to quote Erskine May on the duty of a Minister in regard to reading a State paper in the House of Commons—and any document addressed with authority to a Minister is a State document according to the interpretation of Erskine May. The relevant passage is:A minister of the Crown is not at liberty to read or quote from a despatch or other state paper not before the house unless he be prepared to lay it upon the table. The principle is so reasonable that it has not been contested; and when the objection has been made in time"—and in this case it was immediately made—it has generally been acquiesced in.Therefore, I think the Minister has no choice but is bound to lay a paper concerning the subject-matter of his speech. As he is so bound, I ask him now to give the full history of this matter, not in a speech but in a White Paper containing full particulars such as a speech made here from notes cannot possibly contain. We are dealing with a new method of legislation and nobody can have heard this Debate without being impressed by the enormous powers which are being wielded by these outside organisations. They are bargaining with the Government, in some respects as if they were rival governments themselves. The House of Commons and the public are entitled to the full facts before the Report stage. Without those facts a satisfactory debate is impossible. This Debate is taking place in exceedingly difficult circumstances. The Minister himself practically said that he would not expect the Committee to understand what the Clause signified and it is obvious that we cannot, reasonably, be expected to understand all the Clause signifies if we are not to have a full explanation of it. I suggest, therefore, 153 that this Clause should be postponed until we have had a White Paper enabling us to deal with the subject with proper knowledge.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) has indicated the reasonable line for the Committee to take, namely, that this Clause should be postponed. We are in a difficulty. I do not think it would be fair to suggest that the letter from the cartel was only read by the Minister because the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) asked a particular question as to what his position would be if he wanted to get steel under the arrangements contemplated in the Clause. I assume that the Minister was going to read the letter in any case. That being so, surely the Committee ought to be in a position to see it on paper, either in the report of the Minister's speech or preferably in a White Paper, before deciding on the merits of the Clause. Those merits depend to a large extent on its exact meaning, which it was not easy to judge from a rather rapid reading of the letter. I am not now going into the question of whether it ought to be laid or not. I think it ought to be, but as I gather—and as I say it was difficult to gather the full implications of the letter—it could well be taken to mean that this special importation would be only for members of the cartel, and only at prices not higher than those at which they were willing to sell British steel of the same quality. If that is so, I can imagine that people who are not inside this cartel might have very reasonable grounds for demurring to the arrangement which the Government are kindly making for those who are inside the cartel, but at any rate, as so much depends on being able to see the terms of that very important letter which the Government have not made available to us in any form, even by the slightest reference, until the Minister read it towards the end of his speech, I think the really fair and square thing to do by the Committee would be to postpone this Clause until we have had a chance of seeing what it all really means.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. MORRISON
The most interesting feature of the Debate is the circumstance in which it has arisen.
154 There was no mention of this matter in the Budget, and there would have been no mention of it to-night had it not been for the fact that while the Government intended to allow the Clause to go through without a word of explanation, the matter was raised on the question of the Clause standing part.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The hon. Member must not make observations of that kind. It is customary on the Finance Bill for an explanation of a Clause to be asked for. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) asked for an explanation, and I intended to give and I gave a full and complete explanation on the first opportunity. The hon. Member must not give the Committee to understand that it was an attempt to get this Clause through without giving an explanation. There is no foundation for such a statement.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I can only say that those who have been present throughout this Debate are in a position to judge as to how much of the information has been freely given by the Government and how much has been, in the words of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), dragged from the hon. Member. As I understand the position, this statement made by the Minister foreshadows the re-formation of the international iron and steel cartel, which broke down some 18 months or two years ago. While the hon. Gentleman was making his announcement, my mind was running along the lines of a speech delivered by the chairman of one of the largest iron and steel companies in this country at the annual meeting of his shareholders a few weeks ago, in which he pointed out that the decrease in profits in the past year was entirely due to the breakdown of the international iron and steel cartel, and that if only something could be done to re-form that cartel, more prosperous times would be shown in their next balance-sheet. It seems to me that, following on the lines of that speech, the Government have now decided to help to re-form the international iron and steel cartel. I noticed also in the Press in the last day or two a statement that a Noble Lord, who was until recently a distinguished Member of this House, was one of the passengers to America on the maiden voyage of the "Queen Mary," as part of a delegation to interview the iron 155 and steel people in America with the object, I presume, of trying to ascertain whether the American iron and steel manufacturers would be prepared to join in the cartel to which reference has been made to-night.
It seems to me that this question is of so much importance that we ought to have much fuller information than we have had up to now, and in a form in which Members could quietly read it before debating the subject. One thing which exercised me during the Parliamentary Secretary's speech was that he concluded his remarks by saying that he had not attempted to advocate any policy, but that he had only explained it. Does that mean that the hon. Member is not supporting this proposal? It seems to me a remarkable thing that when it is a matter of sharing profits and markets, the capitalists of all countries are very ready to make these arrangements, but when it is a matter of trying to stop the vast expenditure upon armaments throughout the world, neither capitalists nor Governments appear to meet with any success. In a matter of this sort they not only meet with remarkable success in a very short space of time, but they succeed in getting Governments to endorse their action and to give it legislative form. My interpretation of the hon. Gentleman's announcement is that it foreshadows that the international iron and steel cartel is now to be re-formed with the full backing of the British Government, and that is a matter which ought to be much more fully debated, and upon much more complete information than we have yet had before us.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am sure the Committee will acquit me of any desire to keep any facts from them, and I do not think there will be support in any part of the Committee for the suggestion that I am not in favour of the Clause which I am moving. I was asked for an explanation of the Clause, and I contented myself with giving that explanation without advancing arguments in favour of it. The right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) asked me—and he quoted the relevant section of Erskine May's work—whether there was now a definite assurance that the undertaking given to the President of the Board of Trade by 156 the British Iron and Steel Federation would be laid. Certainly, unquestionably. This type of undertaking has not infrequently been given in connection with Import Duties Advisory Committee Orders. I have myself at this Box moved a number of such Orders, in regard to which there have been undertakings given by the makers that consumers' interests would not be allowed to suffer and that prices would not be raised, and I have not infrequently quoted from undertakings of that kind without the question of the documents being laid being raised. I was under the impression, obviously wrongly, from the quotations which the right hon. Member opposite made, that where I was dealing with a matter of that sort there was less formality than where one was referring to a State paper. I have been corrected in that matter; I recognise it at once, and I give the undertaking that that document shall be laid.
§ Dr. BURGIN
In whatever is the appropriate form for a document which has been referred to by a Minister to be laid. I now come to the general question as to how this Clause ought to be dealt with. The only question that is outstanding, apart from the appeal which has been made that this Clause should be postponed, is the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), who wanted to know what was the position of a person who suddenly took it into his head to start up in the importation of steel fittings, and why he, as a loyal British subject, should not be allowed to buy steel from Belgium at the lower rate of duty.
§ Dr. BURGIN
If the hon. Member can secure that the cartel will sell to him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!'] Well, it takes two to make a contract. If the cartel will sell him the steel as part of the quantities in the agreement, the steel will come in at the lower rate of duty. Arrangements have been made whereby the Government have received assurances as to the method in which the British Iron and Steel Federation will discharge their responsibility for equitable distribution, and the federation 157 have given, in the words that I have read out and which I am going to lay, assurances that consumers who are not members of the federation will receive a fair share of imported steel at the same price as members.
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) have suggested that this is a matter of such complexity that there ought to be a White Paper, and that the Committee ought to have an outline before them in some form more easy to assimilate than a speech involving the reading of an undertaking giving material guarantees. I suggest that the Commitee are not for the moment giving adequate weight to the fact that this agreement has been set out almost in full in Order No. 27 of August, 1935, Cmd. Paper 4972. In that Order the legislation which is now contemplated is forecast. The arrangement whereby steel is coming into this country and is limiting in extent the actual tonnage, the rate of duty, the countries, the classes of steel goods, the proposal to have a differential rate of duty, the agreement with the cartel, the reasons why the matter is dealt with by agreement rather than by prohibition or a high rate of duty—all these things are set out in the Order. I have no objection to giving any information the Committee would like, and, within reason, to giving it in the form which is most convenient to the Committee. I am willing at once to say that if the Committee will pass the Clause I will, between now and Report, lay a White Paper giving the whole of the material for which the Committee has asked.
I am unable to agree to the postponement of the Clause. I realise the complexity of this matter, however. I have nothing that I wish to keep back. I want the Committee to understand that what an hon. Member above the Gangway described as a bargain between governments may conceivably be an extremely advantageous bargain, and that all the manufacturers of iron and steel in this country may be very thankful that cheap foreign steel above a certain quantity is to be excluded from this market. If adequate provision is made for consumers 158 nothing could be better than that one of the basic industries in this country should be fully restored to prosperity, employing large numbers of men in industries in which, being basic, employment has hitherto been restricted. It may be a great advantage to this country to have such an arrangement. I believe that the agreement that has been made with the iron and steel cartel is one that the Committee will desire to implement. Believing that, I have no hesitation in offering to lay between now and the Report stage a White Paper containing the information, including, of course, the entire terms both of the original agreement and of the undertaking given to the President of the Board of Trade.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I have-listened with a great deal of interest to the Parliamentary Secretary's long and careful explanation—for which I thank him—of the provisions of this Clause, but, in spite of what he has said, I do earnestly press, not in any spirit of obstruction, that the Government will reconsider our carefully considered suggestion that they should postpone this. Clause to a later stage of the Committee proceedings on this Bill. When I first read the Clause I thought that it was quite a simple proposal admitting of a' simple explanation. I noticed that the-only proposition contained in it was a^ possibility of reducing the duty in certain circumstances. I imagined that after the simple explanation, my friends sitting, behind me, and, I have no doubt, hon. Members below the Gangway, would have-offered no objection to the passage of the Clause. When the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) spoke, I began to realise that there was more in the Clause than we imagined; and when the Parliamentary Secretary explained it, I found it becoming "curiouser and curiouser." I am now, after having heard all the Debate, in a complete fog as to what the Clause really proposes to do. I venture to think that that is not due to my peculiar obtuseness, because I really believe that, with the exception of the Minister himself, there is probably no one in the Committee who has a full understanding of what the Clause does.
It is not merely that the Clause is difficult to understand, but we are faced 159 here with an important new principle. Hitherto, we have put on and taken off duties, and they have been carried through by the Orders with which we have become familiar, and this procedure has removed a great deal of power and control from this House. We are now faced with an entirely new procedure. We are faced with the proposition that an industry in this country makes a bargain with cartels in other countries; it comes to the Government, and, as part of the proposed arrangement between the industry and the Government, we are to have an entirely moveable tariff. The Government can put the tariff up or down. At first, I thought that this Clause was more or less innocuous, because it would mean nothing but a lowering of the tariff. As the Parliamentary Secretary explained it, I became suspicious because, as I understand the position now, the Import Duties Advisory Committee can at any time recommend an increase of the tariff, and we may be confronted any day with an increase above the present tariff to what will then become the normal tariff. Then the Government will have the right, if this Clause be carried in its present form, to cut that tariff down in respect of certain unspecified imports from various countries.
In other words, as I understand the Clause, we are entering upon an entirely new departure of tariff policy, which gives the Government a freedom to alter the tariffs between one importer and another and creates an entirely new system. The Parliamentary. Secretary shakes his head. I may be wrong, but this is certainly something very new and a departure in policy of a grave kind. It may not have the effect that I have been suggesting, but the point I am making is that it is difficult to understand it. It is not possible for us to understand it, coming to this proposition for the first time in spite of hearing the careful speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. It was inadequate to explain the complexities of this Clause, and it has been impossible for this Committee to grasp its full details.
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that it is customary for financial propositions to go through a number of elaborate stages 160 in this House. In the first place, the Chancellor of the Exchequer sets out the grounds of his proposals in a general Budget speech. On that are framed the Resolutions which go through the Committee and Report stages. Then they are brought in in the form of the Finance Bill and carried through the different stages of a Bill. I am not complaining of what was done, but neither in the speech introducing the Budget nor in the discussion on the Resolution did we have any reference whatever to this Clause. I do not think the hon. Gentleman will deny that it is a Clause of great perplexity, and though I will certainly give him credit for a very able speech I do not think even he will claim that he can hope to have made it clear to this Committee, hearing it only for the first time.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman who is now leading the House in the absence of the Prime Minister that there has been nothing in the nature of obstruction on the part of the Opposition. We have not made long speeches, and we have passed five Clauses, some of them of great importance, in some five hours, and that is good going for a Finance Bill. I remember when I sat in the place occupied by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury that we spent five days, sitting up half through the night, without getting as far with the Finance Bill as the Opposition have allowed the Government to get in these few hours. In the circumstances I do not think it is an unreasonable request, and I hope that the Government, for the sake of clarity in our proceedings, will consent to this very simple proposal. I think it will not mean additional delay for them, but will very much facilitate business, because if we are to continue discussing this subject to-night we shall go on for a considerable time, whereas if we know that we shall have the White Paper which the Parliamentary Secretary has already promised, and postpone this Clause until a little later, we can then go on with the remaining parts of the Bill. Afterwards, with the information before us, I see no reason why the Clause should not be disposed of quite quickly. In the interest of making progress with this Bill I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he should consent to postpone the further consideration of this Clause until after the present week.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir J. Simon)
If we could have your Ruling, Captain Bourne, on a point which has occurred to me, I think it might save time. I must not be understood to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite, and my hon. Friends who are in charge of this business to-night do not, of course, require my intervention, but I would like to ask whether it is not the case, when the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill has been put, that that does not involve the view that the Clause has been considered, and would it then be in order to move that the consideration of the Clause be postponed?
I have naturally been giving this question such attention as I have been able to give it in the Chair ever since it became obvious that the question of the postponement of the Clause might arise. Unfortunately, Erskine May is not very assisting on this particular subject:Clauses may be postponed unless they have already been partly considered and amended, in which case it is not regular to postpone them.The Question has been put from the Chair "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and were I to accept a Motion for the postponement it would mean that we were doing something we have never done in the Committee or in the House, and that is to postpone a Debate which has already been commenced. I think I am bound to hold that a Motion to postpone a Clause must be made before the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" is put from the Chair. It is now too late to do that, and I must hold that a Motion to postpone the Clause at this moment would be out of order.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MICHAEL BEAUMONT
Without saying anything on the merits of the ease, may I ask your Ruling on this point? Supposing it were desired to do so, would it not be in order to re-commit the Bill in respect of this Clause, which would have exactly the same effect?
I am afraid I do not follow the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont). Of course, the Committee could delete the 162 Clause and some new Clause would then have to be brought up. But I am afraid the question of recommitting the Bill in respect of this Clause does not appear to arise at this moment.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
May I venture to suggest that what we have been doing hitherto is not so much discussing the Clause as endeavouring to elicit from the Government what the Clause means? That is what the Parliamentary Secretary said. He explained that he always intended to give an explanation of the Clause, but waited till I rose to ask for an explanation, and then gave it. I suggest that the Government might accept the view that the Clause has not been discussed, but that we sought an explanation of it, and that on that explanation we are now asking that the Clause be postponed.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) puts a very attractive proposition before me, but I am afraid that where no Amendment is down to a Clause it is a very common practice for the Committee to ask for explanations of the meaning of the Clause, and there is a discussion, and I could not regard that as really providing only an explanation.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
I do not in any way challenge your Ruling, Captain Bourne, but I was wondering whether you had refreshed your memory by consulting the manual of procedure—the latest edition, 1934—in which it states:The consideration of a Clause may, on motion made, be postponed, but the motion may not be made if the Clause has been amended.That is all that is said. No question of Amendment arises here, and therefore it does seem to me that the consideration of the Clause can be postponed. It is on page 174 of the Manual, Section 186.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am only interested to see that we get our procedure right, and we are in your hands, Captain Bourne, but I should have thought that that was an illustration, an illustration only, of a very plain principle. If one reads it at large the form of a Motion to postpone a Clause is to postpone the consideration of the Clause, and the real question is, Has the Clause been considered and 163 debated? If it has been considered and debated I cannot see how we can decide that it shall not be considered. It has been considered. What has been, has been.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I think that this is the kind of matter which has arisen in Committees upstairs. The point of postponing a Clause does not arise generally until the Clause has come to be discussed. Has it not occurred at some time in Committees upstairs, when a Clause has been under discussion and it has been said that the Government are willing to postpone it, that thereafter there has been the postponement of the Clause, when there has been no Amendment and when there has been some preliminary discussion? Is it not rather difficult to conceive of the postponement of the Clause before the Clause has been discussed, because the matter would never have arisen?
Replying to the Leader of the Opposition, I must say that I have not been on a Committee upstairs for so long that I have somewhat forgotten what happened there. The only occasion in my memory in which a. Clause has been postponed in Committee of the Whole House was when a Motion for postponement had been moved before the Chair had put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I can remember it several times occurring in this House antecedent to that Motion. I am afraid that I must stick to my view, which is the same as that of the Home Secretary, that once Debate has been started it is too late to postpone the Clause. I admit that that decision puts the Committee into some difficulty.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
It not infrequently happens in Committee that a Clause is passed subject to an undertaking on behalf of the Government and given by the Minister in charge. What I am anxious to do is to give the Committee an unqualified undertaking to supply them with the information which they desire, in order that the Clause may be properly considered before it passes finally into legislation. That, it seems to me, is the exact equivalent of asking 164 a Committee to pass a Clause subject to reconsideration. I am asking the Committee to pass the Clause. Divide, by all means, but let us proceed with the Clause upon an undertaking given by me, as the responsible Minister in charge, that I will, between now and the next effective stage without which the Bill cannot become law, lay, in the fullest and most complete manner that my advisers can prepare, a White Paper, giving, on all the demands that have been made from all quarters of the Committee, the fullest information, so that the whole of this matter is available. Then, between the usual channels, it will no doubt be possible to arrange that a discussion on the information shall be taken when the next stage of the Bill will be reached. I mention that because I am anxious that a matter of complexity should be dealt with clearly and reasonably on the Floor of the House, with full knowledge of the facts.
There is a great deal of misapprehension in the mind of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who talked of the Government doing something at the request of industry. This has been done upon the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, and, so far from it being a wide departure from the original procedure, it is an attempt to follow it out. It is with the consciousness that, with that explanation fully before it, the Committee will much more clearly understand the position, that I ask that we may proceed to take a vote upon the Clause, upon the definite understanding and undertaking, given by me, that between now and the next stage of this Measure, the full facts are laid before the Committee.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
Shall we also have an undertaking that, on the Report stage, we shall be given sufficient time to discuss the rest of the Bill at the usual length, and that account will be taken of the fact that the particular Clause will require more discussion than was originally anticipated? Considering the issues involved, we certainly should have half a day for discussion upon the Clause.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Without committing myself to any particular time, I should think the request of the right hon.
165 Gentleman should evidently be carried into effect, and I should personally desire to see it carried into effect.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
I have no great interest in this matter, except from the point of view of procedure, but I wish to suggest, Sir, that you might adopt a simpler method of dealing with it. I do not think that the Committee have been put into any great difficulty by your Ruling, but I suggest that a much more convenient way would be to negative the Clause and then to put down a new Clause for discussion on Committee stage. It seems to me that the Committee stage is the place to discuss this matter, and upon a new Clause. That would be a much better way. I shall support the Government in whatever line they take. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but have been prepared to divide against my party far more than they have. I do not think it is a matter of great importance, and I only rise to put it because I believe sincerely that from the point of view of procedure this would be the more convenient course to adopt.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
I desire to reinforce the appeal of my hon. Friend. The undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary that there will be ample time on Report is not quite satisfactory. I am not blaming him, but the opportunities of proposing Amendments on Report are very much more restricted than in Committee, and, having regard to the discussion to-night—I am a little to blame, perhaps, for having stirred it up, but the matter seemed to me to be one of great importance—it may well be that, on considering this case more fully when we read it than we have considered it so far, a number of Members may wish to propose Amendments. It seems to me that the Report stage is a most inconvenient time at which to commence attempts to amend a Clause, and that the proper time for the main body of Amendments is the Committee stage. The object of the Report stage is really the tidying up of those matters which experience of the Committee stage shows cannot be dealt with at that moment. When it is proposed to give an opportunity for what I may call the general body of Amendments, surely that ought to be done in 166 Committee. Therefore, it seems to me that we might negative the Clause now, and leave it to be re-tabled as a new Clause. If it is necessary that there should be some alteration, it would be quite easy to alter a few words. Surely, we ought to have the opportunity of proposing substantial Amendments. After all, I posed two questions to the Parliamentary Secretary, and, quite honestly, he has not answered either of them. I posed in my speech a question about the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause, and the OFFICIAL REPORT will bear record of it—
§ Dr. BURGIN
My hon. Friend certainly referred to the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause, but it was not within my recollection that he asked any question. I thought he laid down the procedure which he imagined the Government would adopt in connection with the quantitative system of regulation under the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause. I listened to what he said, and the point was an interesting one, but I was quite unaware that he put to me any question arising out of it, and I think that, when we both read the OFFICIAL REPORT, we shall not find that there was any question, unless a question could be read into the expression of hope at the conclusion of my hon. Friend's speech.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
My interpretation does not rest on the question of something at the end of my speech, but when in debate one raises a point of some substance one is raising a question, and the question I raised was how this Clause could be worked without breach of the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause. At the time that I raised it I had not read the document to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, and which is available in the Vote Office. It is Cmd. 4972, and on the second page it is pointed out:The agreement provides, on the one hand, for the limitation of the total imports of these products from the four countries at present represented in the cartel.I think the four countries are Germany, Belgium, France, and Luxemburg. It goes on:Under the Most Favoured Nation Clause of our commercial treaties, however, such a reduction would have to extend to similar products imported from other countries with whom no agreement had been made for restriction of imports.Among those countries which are in the habit of exporting iron and steel goods are Japan, Russia, and the United States 167 of America, with all of whom I think we have a treaty containing the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause. My imaginary constituent in Croydon wants to be an importer of iron and steel. The Parliamentary Secretary's answer was that it did not matter because he would not be allowed to buy any steel from the cartel. As far as I know, there is nothing in the Belgian law to prevent me from starting a steel works in Belgium. Here we are challenging the fundamental liberty of the British people to enter into any business they like. That is the issue that concerns me. Anyone is entitled to choose his own occupation. I do not think the President of the Board of Trade should be entitled to say, "Thou shalt not be a seller of iron and steel." No one can import meat into this country without a licence, and you cannot get a licence unless you have been an importer in the past. This is an extension from meat into iron and steel, and the Committee ought to know exactly where they are travelling before they commit themselves to this which is completely destructive of freedom of contract, freedom of enterprise and freedom of trade, which is quite different from Free Trade.
If my hypothetical constituent buys a ton of steel from the United States, he is called upon to pay a higher duty than someone from another constituency who is a licensed importer who buys a ton of identically the same kind of steel from Belgium. If that is the case, it is a complete infraction of every interpretation that has ever been put on the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause. I said if this arises, and a nation with whom we have a Most-Favoured-Nation Clause who is also a, party to the Hague Tribunal hales us before the tribunal, and damages are given against us, what is going to be the reply? I think we ought to know whether this Clause can be worked without a breach of the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I do not attach much importance to the hon. Gentleman's declaration, unless he shows how it is in the affirmative. The argument that I presented shows that two persons importing steel, one from one country and one 168 from another, will be charged different rates of duty, and the whole importation of steel which which may come from the United States will be at one rate and part of that coming from Belgium will be at another. If that is not a complete infraction of every conception of the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause, I do not understand what the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause is. If the Parliamentary Secretary is so certain that the answer is in the affirmative, perhaps he will now explain how the situation which I have described is in accordance with the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I do not think we can allow the Debate to close without expressing our opinion that the Committee have been put into a most difficult and unfortunate position, not by any action of its own but by the neglect of the Government to take the opportunity that it has had of giving some suggestion in advance of the immense importance of this Clause. It is now clear, from the nature of the discussion and the significance which everyone attaches to it, that this part of the Bill should have been explained during the Second Reading. In those circumstances we should have been able to make up our minds and to consider all the very complicated questions that have arisen. It is impossible to have an intelligent discussion of the Clause in these conditions, as our only knowledge of it is in the speech that the Minister has made. The responsibility for that is in the conduct of the Bill by the Government. In order to express our views that the responsibility lies with the Government, I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. BEVAN (seated and covered)
On a point of Order, Captain Bourne. I was on my feet trying to get your attention, so that I might say a word or two on the Motion to report Progress, but you put the Motion from the Chair without having seen me. Is it not desirable that the Committee should have an opportunity of addressing itself to the matter of procedure before we go on to the Clause 169 itself? There are one or two things that I want to say on procedure in Committee, and I submit that there ought to have been a discussion on the Motion to report Progress.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 138; Noes, 219.171
|Division No. 221.]||AYES.||[10.32 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Owen, Major G.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethlck-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardle, G. D.||Potts, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Price, M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Rlley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Holland, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||Hopkin, D.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bellenger, F,||Jagger, J.||Rowson, G.|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Short, A.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S, Ayrshire)||Kelly, W. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhlthe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cape, T.||Kirk wood, D.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Chater, D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cocks, F. S||Lawson, J. J,||Stephen, C.|
|Compton, J.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Thurtle, E.|
|Daggar, G.||Logan, D. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McGhee, H. G.||Walker, J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGovern, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Day, H.||MacLaren, A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Debbie, W.||Maclean, N.||Westwood, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||White, H. Graham|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marklew, E.||Whiteley, W.|
|Elvans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Marshall, F.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Elvans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Mathers, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Maxton, J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Foot, D. M.||Messer, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Atterclifte)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'ka'y, S.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morrison. R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Cartland, J. R. H.||Dawson, Sir P.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cary, R. A.||De Chair, S S.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Denman, Hon. R. O.|
|Albery, l. J.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Drewe, C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Channon, H.||Dugdale, Major T. L.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Chapman, A. (Ruthergten)||Duggan, H. J.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Christie, J. A.||Dunglass, Lord|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Dunne, P. R. R.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Colfox, Major W. P.||Eastwood, J. F.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Colman, N. C. D.||Eckersley, P. T.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Emery, J. F.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|flower, Comdr. R. T.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh.W.)||Entwistle, C. F.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Craddock, Sir R. H.||Errington, E.|
|Brlscoe, Capt. R. G.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Ersklne Hill, A. G.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Croom-.Johnson, R. P.||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Crossley, A. C.||Fleming, E. L.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Crowder, J. F. E,||Furness, S. N.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Gibson, C. G.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovll)||Glucksteln, L. H.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Selley, H. R.|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Markham, S. F.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Sumervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Harbord, A.||Moreing, A. C.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Morris, J. P. (Salford N.)||Spens, W. P.|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Storey, S.|
|Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Munro, P.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Strauss. H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hulbert; N. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hunter, T.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Penny, Sir G.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Petherick, M.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Pilkington, R.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Radford, E. A.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Ralkes, H. V. A. M.||Tryon. Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Leighten, Major B. E. P.||Ramsbotham, H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Lewis, O.||Rankin, R.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Reid, W. Allen (Derby)||Wells, S. R.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Rowlands, G.||Wise, A. R.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Wragg, H.|
|McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Salmon, Sir I.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|McKie, J. H.||Salt, E. W.|
|Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Sandys, E. D.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Maitland, A.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Ward and Sir James Blindell.|
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."172
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 213; Noes, 134.