§ 9.34 p. m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I beg to move:That the Additional Import Duties (No. 3) Order, 1936, dated the third day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said third day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, be approved.It has been the practice, with the permission of yourself, Mr. Speaker, and of the House, to make one general introductory speech on a number of these Orders, leaving the House free to vote on each one, and to answer such questions as hon. Members may care to put. I propose, unless there is any objection, to follow that course to-night. The four Orders on the Paper deal with box and willow calf leather, with felt hats and felt hat shapes, with soya bean cake, meal and oil, sunflower seed oil and safflower seed oil, and with certain locks and padlocks. I think it will probably be convenient if I give most time to the Order which deals with leather which, being an Order placing a duty on a raw material, requires more commendation than some of the remaining Orders.
Order No. 3, which deals with leather, imposes as from 5th March of this year a further duty of 15 per cent. ad valorem, making a total duty of 30 per cent. ad valorem, on box and willow calf and certain other similar dressed leathers if imported in skins or pieces weighing less than four pounds each. The Committee say that the recommendation is a temporary one made in the interests of the home tanners of box and willow calf leather, the marketing of whose products is being prejudiced by intense competition from certain foreign countries at greatly reduced prices bearing little relation to production price. The 30 per cent. duty is a high rate of duty for a raw material, and 1174 the situation is to be reviewed from time to time in the light of the trend of prices of foreign box and willow calf leather and the position of the home tanning industry. As to the export trade in footwear, assurances have been given by the tanners in this country which, in the opinion of the Committee, will go far towards mitigating any inconvenience that might have occurred.
Taking the duty on leather and expounding it a little, let me tell the House that most box and willow calf leather comes in in skins or pieces weighing less than 4 lbs. each. That is why that particular unit is chosen. Of the total leather affected, 98 per cent. is box and willow calf and only 2 per cent., something quite infinitesimal, other types of leather. The home production of this type of leather increased to 4,500,000 square feet in 1930, was doubled by 1933, and in 1934 totalled 10,000,000 square feet. But the marketing of this British product has been seriously prejudiced by special competition at particularly reduced prices on the part of certain exporting countries. The countries from which these articles are imported into this country are Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary, and there is a small import from within the British Dominions, from Canada; but it is Germany which is the principal exporter to this country.
Production in this country is chiefly in the hands of 12 large firms, which employ something like 1,300 workpeople on calf leather production, and which are situated in Glasgow, Northampton, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich and Bristol. The effect is roughly an increase in the duty of 1½d. per square foot on the raw material. The principal users of this raw material are the boot and shoe manufacturers, and the boot and shoe manufacturers supply a very high proportion of the home market in footwear and have a very extensive export trade. It is not thought that the increase in duty will have a disturbing effect on the home trade. It is estimated that if the prices of leather were to be increased by the full amount of the duty, the resultant cost would be something like 3d. a pair on men's, women's and children's shoes of average grade. The market price of this class of leather is abnormally low, and it would be well below the price level prevailing in the years 1930 and 1931, even if the leather prices prevailing 1175 before the duty were increased by the full extent of the duty.
I think I have substantially given the particulars with regard to that Order, although if hon. Members desire I have further details concerning the countries, the prices, the extent of the imports and all other relevant information relating to that particular Order.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also give an idea as to whether there is to be any control over the price of the raw material when the added duty is imposed. I understand that there are fears in the trade that the imposition of the extra 15 per cent. may create a rise in the price of raw materials to boot manufacturers.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am anxious to deal with all those points, and the only question is whether I should do so in my opening speech or deal with them in answer to questions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough. (Mr. Alexander) asked what are the total imports in millions of square feet. In 1935 the average monthly importation from all countries was 4,178,245 square feet, of which 3,500,000 came from foreign countries and roughly 750,000 from within the Empire. Of the 3,500,000 square feet which came from foreign countries, just on 2,000,000 came from Germany, 500,000 from Hungary, just under 500,000 from the Netherlands and a small quantity from France.
With regard to the question put by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham), I think I made it clear that we have obtained assurances from the tanners as to the price of this leather where required for export. I, therefore, gather that the hon. Gentleman's question is not directed towards exports, but to the home trade. I have already pointed out that the moment this leather is at an abnormally low price, and even if the whole of the duty were added, the price would still be lower than the raw material costs in 1930 and 1931. I do not think there is any need for any special control at this moment, but the hon. Gentleman and the House will see that 1176 in the recommendations given by the Committee it is proposed that the situation should be reviewed from time to time in the light of the trend of prices, the home tanning industry being especially one of the industries that is affected. I think the hon. Gentleman will feel that steps have been taken to see that there is no undue rise in the price to manufacturers.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
The hon. Gentleman gave the importation of leather figures, and I would like to ask whether he would inform the House what is the home production price and the capacity of the home production?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am not quite clear as to what the hon. Gentleman means by the capacity of the home production, but the British boot and shoe, manufacturers control not only the home market but have a large export market. It is precisely because there is no natural reason why there should not be a large box and willow calf industry in this country that this duty is being recommended; it is because the trade is one which could very well be fostered and increased in our own country. It seems quite, unnecessary that we should import such a large percentage.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Are there not factories in the country capable of producing this leather; or is there not an opportunity for starting new factories in the derelict areas?
§ Dr. BURGIN
The hon. Member has in mind exactly what was in the minds of the Committee in making the recommendation. It is to encourage this industry in our own land that the duty is being imposed. Let us deal with the matter on that footing. The next Order, No. 4, proposes an immediate specific duty of 15s. a dozen on felt hats and hat shapes having a velour, soleil, peach bloom, or other finish with a raised or laid pile. It is pointed out that the production of felt hat shapes which have a raised or laid pile involves considerably more labour than the manufacture of plain fur felt goods, and though the home industry has made some progress in the production of these shapes, up to the present it has not made great headway in displacing imports. The purpose of the duty is to build up a new industry rather than to support an important existing industry. The new rate of duty does not 1177 apply in the case of loosely felted hat forms and cone shaped felt hat bodies. These goods remain dutiable at 25 per cent. ad valorem irrespective of whether they have velour finish or not. The industry is situated in the North and Midlands, and also in Luton and the South. Manufacturers in the North carry out the production principally in the earlier stages. The industry in Luton and the South for the most part does not carry out the earlier stages, but purchases hat shapes from foreign suppliers or from the North and Midlands for making up. The imports come from Austria and Czechoslovakia, and the wage rates in both countries are much lower than those in the United Kingdom, where wages in the hat industry are regulated under the Trade Board Act.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Has the hon. Gentleman any guarantee in the case of velour that the industry in this country can meet requirements as to price, colouring and finish?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I would not put it as high as to say that there is a guarantee to that effect but the manufacture in the North of England where these velours are made has now so far developed as to make an article which commends itself to the trade and the public and I think the hon. Lady need have no anxiety on the particular points to which she has addressed herself, namely, price, colouring and general finish.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
Is the hon. Gentleman certain that the dyers can produce a hat which would be suitable to the hon. Lady's hair?
§ Sir P. HARRIS
Have the Luton manufacturers who use these goods in making up the finished product, had an opportunity to express their view?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I should be surprised if they were not applicants to the Committee for this particular Order.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I think the hon. Baronet is mistaken. The application, I imagine, came from that source as well.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I will, if possible, obtain information on the point before the close of the discussion but I do not know of any protests or objections having come from that source and I think I should probably have heard of them had the point been seriously raised. The next Order which I have to submit increases the duty on soya bean cake and meal, soya bean oil, sunflower seed oil, and safflower seed oil from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. as from 11th March, 1936. The imports of soya bean cake, meal and oil have very greatly increased in recent months. These beans as the House knows were originally on the free list. They were then made subject to a 10 per cent. duty by the Finance Act of 1935, in the interests of the Colonies which produce ground nuts. In the Committee's opinion the duties will not cause hardship to the consumers, as there is available a wide range of substitutable cakes, and oils of Empire origin. The duties on sunflower seed and safflower seed oils are necessary owing to difficulties in distinguishing these from soya bean oils. The trade in these two oils is small. There is a provision for a drawback under Section 7 of the Finance Act of 1934.
Order No. 6 deals with locks and padlocks and increases the existing duty of 20 per cent. on the cheaper grades by the addition of a specific duty of 6d. a dozen to the ad valorem duty or the provision of a specific duty as an alternative. In the lock industry, in general, British manufacturers hold their own against foreign competition, but the section of the industry which produces cheap padlocks and furniture locks and which might have been expected to benefit from the extension of the cheap furniture trade has been losing the market owing to imports at uneconomic prices. The retail prices are not expected to be affected. The competition comes from Germany and the United States— from Germany as to 88 per cent. and from the United States and Canada as to the remainder.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary or his chief have any influence with the Prime Minister or the Chief Whip and, if so, why they do not try to prevent the Orders being taken at such an unsuitable time as this. They are in danger of 1179 becoming the most unpopular Ministers in the House. These Orders, dealing with important trade questions, are raised again and again always at the end of the day. When the House is thoroughly tired we are asked to examine these technical questions, often affecting Members' constituency interests. We are never given a real opportunity for adequate examination of the details involved in the industries concerned. I think the Board of Trade, which used to be at any rate one of the important factors in influencing the decisions of the Government in regard to the use of Parliamentary time, ought to protest and see that it has its business discussed at a more reasonable hour of the day.
I will address myself to the first duty mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary, and that is the duty of an additional 15 per cent. on box and willow calf leather. I never heard of such a patched up case—I am not blaming the Parliamentary Secretary—as he has handed on to us from this Council of Three that sit very nearly in secret and never really give us any adequate explanation, in the short White Papers submitted, of the grave wisdom which they are supposed to exercise in the initiation of these duties. What a story this is that has been put before us to-night. The Parliamentary Secretary says that 1,300 workers engaged in the production of these particular classes of leather are engaged in an industry which might well be worth the support of a protective duty for widening and developing the industry. This commodity, however, happens to be the raw material of the hoot and shoe industry, which is employing tens of thousands of workers. In fact, the actual trade union organising the boot and shoe industry has over 60,000 members, and there are even more workers than that engaged in the industry, and when you gradually get the numbers and the quantity of the commodities under review, what a revelation you get. You are already producing in this industry, with a total of 1,300 workers, 10,000,000 square feet of this class of leather. When you ask the Parliamentary Secretary how much we are importing, you find that the total, including your Empire countries, is barely over 4,000,000 feet, so that if you were at once to be able, as you do not expect to be able, to shut out every foot of the leather that you are now going 1180 to tax, apparently the total extent of the increased employment, you could give in this country would be between 500 and 600 workers, and by that means you might have raised the actual number employed in the tanning of this class of leather to something less than 2,000 workers, in the course of which you would have taxed the raw material of a trade which is employing at least 30 to 40 times that number of workers in this country already, and in the course of that tax you not only increase the price of the article and thereby in the long run reduce the demand in tie home market, but you add—
§ Dr. BURGIN
Quite inadvertently, I quoted a month instead of a year. In giving the figure of 4,000,000 square feet, I had overlooked the fact that it was a monthly average rather than a yearly total. The amount from all countries is just over 50,000,000 square are feet.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
That is a very strong support of my plea to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should urge the Prime Minister to let him do his work by day and not by night. I do not make any complaint, but it certainly led me to use an argument which now is not so strong, though it is not completely gone. But even if you take those actual figures, with a total import of about 45,000,000 feet, the total extent of employment that you could give to this industry, if it manufactured every foot of leather at present imported, would still leave it in a very small relationship to the tens of thousands of workers employed in the industry which uses this commodity as a raw material. There is no doubt at all that this duty ought to be resisted. In this report the Committee themselves have some doubt, for they say:We recognise that a duty at this rate is justified on material of the nature in question only in exceptional circumstances.What are the exceptional circumstances? As a matter of fact, there is not one of us who has any superficial knowledge even of the boot and shoe manufacturing industry who does not know that while there is—and I am glad to know there is—an improvement in certain of the processes and the technique of tanning this class of leather in this country, it is true to say that in regard many of the lines of boots and shoes which have to be made, you cannot get the qualities of 1181 leather from home production that are essential to the business, and they have to come from imported sources. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary can say that it is not essential to some parts of the industry that they should continue to import as their raw material certain of the classes of leathers now coming into this country of a quality and a standard which have not yet been reached by the home tanning industry. I feel, therefore, very strongly on this duty, and I shall ask the House to oppose it.
We had a short explanation in regard to the three other duties. First of all, with regard to hats. I suppose the chief source of import of the hat shapes and hats that the hon. Gentleman talked about would be Austria and Czechoslovakia. You can see the sort of thing that is being done by this type of duty. Already you have rendered a grave injustice under the Versailles Treaty by carving up Austria and leaving her a little bit of territory to keep one great central city of 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people going, and every duty of this sort is making it worse for any hope of gaining a real economic revival and resettlement of the problem of Central Europe.
Although the Parliamentary Secretary said he understood the Luton manufacturers were likely to be behind this application, I do not read from the report in the White Paper that that is so. There have been, I know, considerable references in the trade paper's in the last few months to the growth of the hat trade in the north and Midlands, and the suggestion that there are certain faults at present—I am not giving this as my opinion, but I am taking it from trade papers—in the Luton area which has led to their falling behind in the development of the hat trade. I have no personal knowledge that the Luton people have been factors in this application for a. duty, but I have no doubt at all that in the north and Midlands the manufacturers have been concerned in the application. Certainly, this again is another trifling addition to the duties which are gradually being built up.
The third duty referred to is another instance of the tragedy of the preferential system set up on the lines of the Ottawa Treaty. We had the most classic example of all examined here in the Debate last December with regard to linseed oil, and here you have something almost entirely 1182 similar in regard to soya beans. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1935 was persuaded, in order to give a special preference for nut growers in one or more. Colonies, to put a duty on soya beans, which are a raw material for the purposes of the crusher. He finds then that he has a handicap of 10 per cent. His cakes and meals which he sells to the farmers here then come into competition with imported or other competing foods, and he finds himself being put out of business by the actual 10 per cent. duty put on. "Oh," says the Import Duties Advisory Committee, "never let that discourage you. It is always possible to cure one wrong by making another one. Let us put on another duty, taxing the prepared meal or prepared cake when it comes in in that form." At the time when you are trying to revivify agriculture, endeavouring to protect the farmer in the home market with the product that he puts over, you come along and set up a whole series of taxes on the raw materials of the farmer himself. What a mad world it all is, and this country is lending itself to such a system as that without any real result at all in the final raising of the standard of life or the prosperity of the industries concerned.
Lastly I come to the duty on locks. I am quite unable to understand on what basis the Committee have come to their judgment, but apparently there is one section of the lock industry, the more expensive locks, where they consider the duty is adequate and they do not propose to raise it. There is another class of locks used in the manufacture of cheap suit cases and the like, which apparently they are so nervous about that they do not want to interfere with it because they do not want to raise the price of cheap attaché cases, and suit cases used by the working class. But there is another class also of cheap locks on which they propose to put a tax especially. Why? All I know is that they are putting increased duties on that type of lock that is used by the working class, and the actual expenditure of the industry in this country to-day dealing with the type of lock that the Parliamentary Secretary is asking us to tax to-night is really very small indeed.
The whole of this series of duties, I submit, are irritating and unnecessary additions to the growing wall of taxation that is being placed around the trade of 1183 this country. Instead of helping they are hindering the recovery of our export trade, and I believe that we should register once more our opinion that the revivification of industry and the raising of the standard of life of the workers of this country, is not to be obtained by putting on circles or individual cases of duties of this kind for the private profit of manufacturers. If you are going to raise the standard of life in this country it must be on the basis of the widest possible exchange of goods between the countries concerned, and the largest amount of working-class production in the interest of the whole community, workers and consumers alike. We, therefore, oppose all four of these duties, and while we do not want to keep the House with regard to a whole series of Divisions, having taken the general discussion as a whole, we shall ask the House to divide.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. He certainly has put the case so well that I do not intend to cover the whole ground again, but I want to associate myself and my Friends with the case he has put up. He was very much disturbed apparently at the late hour at which the import Orders are being taken. But I would remind him, speaking now with some years experience, that he is new to this game, due to his absence during the last two or three years. We are comparatively fortunate in taking these Orders soon after Ten o'clock. Generally they are exempted business and in the ordinary way we take them at Eleven o'clock or later, even in the early hours of the morning, and I remember in one case having to sit up until Four o'clock in the morning in order to protest against one of the most pernicious of these Orders.
But it is well to remind the public through the House of Commons of the very unsatisfactory system of reviewing these duties, sometimes downwards and sometimes upwards, late at night. I suppose it is inevitable, if we are to work the machinery. I agree with the protest against this tax on leather. After all it has always been a tradition of even our most violent Protectionists that raw material should be exempt, and although of course this is not a primary product—because it goes through some processes, 1184 and when it becomes leather it is not in the rawest state—it is the raw material of one of the healthiest and most efficient of our stable industries. During all the ups and downs of trade in the last 30 years no industry has been healthier, stronger or more virile than the boot and shoe industry. It has had comparatively few disputes, has paid a relatively high wage, and has survived depression in a remarkable way when cotton and other trades have been in a bad way. It has been able to stand through bad times.
I have a very vivid recollection of how 30 years ago we were told that the boot industry was being ruined by American imports. At that time there had been great progress in America in the mass-production of boots through the invention of various machines. Tremendous progress had been made in the system of manufacture by the Goodyear welting machine, new lasts and above all new materials. Politicians were running around the country and offering the manufacturers Protection. But the manufacturers did not ask for it or get it. They introduced ingenious machinery, American lasts and cheap American leather. What was the result? In a few years time they were making American boots, that is to say boots in the American style with American leather and American machinery, very much more cheaply than America. They produced them in this country in the full light of free imports far more efficiently and cheaply than America, and the result was that they not only captured the home trade but the world trade as well.
The Commissioners, these three gentlemen, have sat in their wisdom and decided to tax an essential raw material, to tax the leather of these manufacturers. We are not told in this report how far the boot manufacturers were consulted. One of my comments on these reports of recent years is that they are shorter and shorter. Whether it is to economise paper I do not know, or whether they think the House of Commons is so docile and so uncritical that it does not want to have more such figures. They do not bother to give us more than a page or a few paragraphs. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade attempts to fill up some of the gaps, but I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should convey to the se three gentlemen 1185 that they ought to give us fuller reports. Let them give us some kind of synopsis of whom and what they have seen, a few more figures and facts and the essential details of the industry. It is not fair to the House to expect it to come to a conclusion without this information. The great majority of Members, I believe, do not bother to read these Orders.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
My hon. Friend evidently takes pride in that fact; he is neglecting his duties. That is against the traditions of the House, for we are still responsible to the taxpayers for looking after the expenditure of public money. We have to be careful that in trying to help one industry we are not hindering some other industry. That particularly applies to this first Order, but it applies to all the Orders. My hon. Friend referred to soya bean meal, which is a finished product. We are constantly told that agriculture is a depressed industry, and these materials are, I suppose, imported largely for farmers. The duty is not a small one, amounting to 20 per cent. The report on this Order is another example of the scanty nature of the material on which we are asked to accept the duty. The same applies to locks. It is a common practice of these Commissioners to go out of their way to put an extra tax on the cheaper articles. It is rather sinister, for these articles go to production of the cheaper class of furniture. I do not understand why the Commissioners should think it more important to tax the cheap article which is used for the lower class commodities than to tax the better class commodities. That is noticeable in each one of these Orders.
With regard to the Order dealing with felt hats and hat shapes, I was surprised that when I interrupted the Parliamentary Secretary he was not, able to reply about Luton. I understood he was the Member for Luton, and I should have thought he would have taken a great deal of trouble to find out how this duty affected his own industry. The centre of the hat trade is Luton, which largely produces the finished product in those delightful hats which are the pride of ladies and provides so much labour for the young women of Luton. We understand from this very scanty report that 1186 the shapes are made in the North and Midlands and sent down to the hat manufacturers of Luton. The Luton manufacturers cannot carry on their trade entirely on the home market and it has been famous for its export trade. It exports hats all over the world. If these goods from Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia are to be stopped or heavily taxed, is it not reasonable to suppose that the manufacturers in those countries, as they will not be able to send goods to Luton, will turn out the finished product themselves and compete in the neutral markets of the world with the hat manufacturers of Luton? I suggest that the hon. Gentleman makes investigations in Luton, and that before we finally part with this Order he should be satisfied that he will not only be helping a comparatively small number of manufacturers of hoods in the North and Midlands and one or two, I believe, in Luton, but that he is not imposing a serious injury on a large number of people employed in the manufacture of the finished product.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I wish to put one or two points to the Minister with respect to Order No. 3 covering box and willow calf leather. I agree that the House does need much more information respecting these Orders, and it would be very helpful if the Minister could inform us whether there has been any protest from the boot and shoe industry regarding them. At the same time I wish to point out to hon. Members opposite that there is not the slightest probability of the price of boots and shoes being raised as the result of this Order or any such Order. As a matter of fact after the 15 per cent. duty was put on there was a successive reduction in the prices of boots and shoes from that day to this, and the tendency in the industry is for a gradual cheapening of processes, and therefore for a cheapening of box and willow calf goods, generally speaking. I wish to make a strong protest against the attitude of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) on this question. He made it the point almost of a cheap jest that an Order like this was not worth while because it would only mean finding employment for 500 or 600 more men in the tanning industry even if we secured the maximum possible benefits from a stoppage of the importation of this leather. I say that the fact 1187 that the Order will put into work an extra 500 or 600 men is a reason why the whole House ought to welcome the proposal.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
But that is not the end of the story. The introduction of this duty will put 500 or 600 men out of work in the export trade.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I think that estimate is absolutely questionable. If the House would give me the time I should be prepared to go into the details, but the right hon. Gentleman must know that the actual amount of British labour which would be occupied in the transportation of imported goods would not amount to one-sixtieth of the labour we lean put to work in this country in the manufacture of these materials.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
Will my hon. Friend be good enough to say whether, in considering these applications, the Import Duties Advisory Committee have gone into the question of whether or not the standard rate of wages and other conditions are being observed in these industries? When the Act was going through Amendments were put down—I put down some myself—to make it a statutory duty of the Committee to investigate that point, but we were told that everything would be quite in order without them because those points would be considered. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House, whatever they may think of the principle underlying these duties, would agree that no duty should be imposed unless the standard rate of wages is being observed by all employers who come under it. I ask the question more specifically about the lock and latch industry, which affects my constituency, because there has been some controversy in this connection in the past.
There is in the industry a joint industrial council on which both employers and employed are represented, and they agree upon standard rates, but a complaint has been made that not all employers will observe those rates. Some of them pay lower wages and "blackleg" the great bulk of the employers who really do carry out the 1188 arrangements. I should very much like to know whether the Advisory Committee have satisfied themselves that if this duty does go through, not only the bulk of the employers but all the employers in the trade will pay the agreed rates to which employers and employed have set their hands. It is to that point that I would ask my hon. Friend to be good enough to reply, and to give us information.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I did not intend to intervene in the discussion, but I would like to say a word in regard to Order No. 6, relating to locks and padlocks. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), speaking in eloquent terms, say that the Order was inimical to the working classes. In my constituency we have a very large and flourishing cooperative lock factory which employs a great number of hands and is doing a very considerable business both at home and abroad. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has consulted them before speaking to-night.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I have not had a complaint from them with regard to this Order, or any request that I should oppose it. That should be remembered. Lock factories have been suffering from competition abroad, and I am convinced that the Import Duties Advisory Committee must have given careful attention to this matter and I am quite prepared to accept their conclusions on the subject.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) will, I hope, acquit the Board of Trade of any desire to put these Orders before the House at this time. I am not infrequently, perhaps, the chief sufferer from the present practice. It is not the wish of the President of the Board of Trade or of myself that the House should have these Orders at this late hour. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about these Orders as small irritating additions. Is it not a fact that when Parliament passed the Import Duties Act of 1932, this system of Advisory Committee was set up. An ad valorem duty of a general character having been passed, the task was delegated to this special tribunal to go, 1189 industry and industry and section of industry by section of industry, into the question of what additions must be made. In the nature of things, an addition to the tariff must now be relatively small and precise and in rather a narrow compass. Perhaps that is why the Committee take much more evidence and publish only their recommendations.
I should have been grateful myself had there been considerably more information in some of these Orders. It would have facilitated my task. It is no easy matter to know what material will be of interest to hon. Members and what should be prepared in advance to put before the House. It is not easy to prepare a brief or to answer questions that have been raised. In connection with the proposed leather duty, matters have been raised far outside any preparation that I made, but I think I can deal with the questions which have been put to me.
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) raised a question about the leather duty. I would like to give the House one or two facts. The boot and shoe industry spend, during an average year, some £20,000,000 on leather. What proportion of that leather does the House think is box and willow calf? The answer is something like 10 per cent. Box and willow calf are used principally for men's shoes; women's and children's are made of other materials. The trade in this type of leather, including home-produced and Empire-produced, is about £2,000,000 in the entire year. The hon. Baronet talked of the Import Duties Advisory Committee and their procedure, and would like to know much more about what is placed before that committee. Parliament, however, has elected that that body should be supreme and independent, and I have no more information about what it does than has the hon. Baronet.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I did not suggest anything of that kind. I agree that we are anxious that these three gentlemen should do their work in a calm atmosphere, away from politicians. All that I am asking is that we should have fuller reports. I think the hon. Gentleman would be in order in asking them to give fuller reports than they have lately been accustomed to give.
§ Dr. BURGIN
No doubt the Members of the Committee will read the report of this Debate, and will see how that observation from the hon. Baronet met with some general support in the House. It is certainly not one from which I should in any way dissent; I think that material is of advantage, for the reasons I have just indicated. The hon. Baronet also asked why there was a tendency for duties to be put on importations of articles of cheaper type. On that question I would make this general observation, that I do not think you help the consumers of articles of this type by allowing the makers of them in this country to be put out of business by importations below cost. The cheap locks of this type which have been coming in from Germany, no doubt as the result of subsidised exports from Germany, have been coming in below cost, and I cannot believe that that is healthy either for the consumer or for the producer here. It follows that the Import Duties Advisory Committee have very reasonably seen that one of the classes of imports which could be profitably reduced was this type of very cheap article, which is interfering with the trade here. If the article is being sold here below cost, it is not to the interest of the consumer any more than of the producer that that should be allowed to continue.
The hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham) raised the question whether the boot and shoe manufacturers had protested against this duty on leather. They have not protested to my knowledge. I cannot give him any definite assurance that they have not, but I have not among my papers any indication that there has been a protest of the kind to which he refers. I repeat that I said earlier, namely, that a satisfactory assurance has been obtained from the tanning industry that the export trade shall not be affected. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough, in talking about men being put into work in the home trade while others are put out of work in the export section, has failed to give adequate weight to the assurance the tanners have given that the export industry shall not be affected as a result of this duty. I do not think that we shall have a man put out of work as a result of the duty. It is a fanciful deduction.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
May we take it that there is an agreement that there shall be a drawback of duty on all boots and shoes exported if they include leather which has paid the tax?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I stated in my opening remarks that the Finance Acts contain a recognised Section—Section 9 of the Finance Act, 1932, as amended by Section 7 of the Finance Act, 1934—under which an application for drawback can be made. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that there is a lag between the putting on of a duty and the application for a drawback. There is a general law under which an application for drawback can be made. What the House is to understand is that, as to the export trade, assurances have been given by the tanners to the committee, which in the opinion of the committee Are satisfactory, which go far towards mitigating any unfortunate results with regard to the export trade. The committee have done their work with the express idea of protecting the export industry from loss.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) asked whether these trades are obeying the wage Clause. I hope so, and I hope, if anyone suggests that they are not, a proper protest will be made to the Import Duties Advisory Committee by the opponents of the duty. The fact that a, duty is under consideration is advertised, and 'anyone whose interest it is to oppose it has the opportunity of calling to the attention of the committee any fact relating to the trade which in his opinion should disentitle it to the benefit of the duty. I hope the hon. Member will not consider it his constitutional duty to throw bricks at British industry.
§ Mr. MANDER
I was anxious to find out whether the Import Duties Advisory Committee were carrying out their statutory duty in doing what I believe every Member of the House, irrespective of party, would desire them to do, that is, if they are given protection, that proper wages should be paid in the industry. To my knowledge, in one industry that was not done to the extent of 100 per cent. I asked the hon. Gentleman whether that was being investigated.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I have yet to learn that. The impression that the hon. Member's words made on my mind was that he wanted an assurance that the trade was not committing a breach of what he regarded as proper practice. I prefer to believe that the trade is carrying out the proper practice unless there is evidence to the contrary.
§ Mr. MANDER
I asked whether the Minister who is defending this Order had satisfied himself that, not the trade but the Import Duties Advisory Committee had carried out their duty. He is attempting to ride off and assume that my sincere and well-meant inquiry had some sinister political motive. That is quite untrue.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I hope the House will accept my assurance that I am not trying to ride off on anything. I am trying to meet the point. I have no information that in regard to any of these industries the applicants for duties are not observing proper practices. I have equally no information one way or the other as to whether the Import, Duties Advisory Committee regularly put a question to applicants in regard to wages. I imagine it is a matter for opposition to the duty rather than for the applicants to plead affirmatively, but that is pure guess work. I have no information.
§ Mr. MANDER
The hon. Gentleman said I was always throwing bricks. That is entirely unfair and unfounded. I should like to ask whether it would be in order for a trade union, or for me, or for anyone who knew that proper wages were not being paid, to bring the matter to the attention of the Import Duties Advisory Commitee or some other Department?
§ Dr. BURGIN
Not to the Import Duties Advisory Committee. There is an established rule that Members of the House should not approach the committee, and it would be a pity if that practice were departed from. But, if the hon. Member has any information that there is a malpractice in any industry, I hope he will give it to my Department so that the matter can be investigated. There is no one who wants more forcibly to champion the rule of good employers 1193 than the trade Ministers in this House. I wish to protest against any suggestion that a British industry has been guilty of that type of complaint unless there is evidence of it.
§ Mr. MANDER
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to withdraw the statement that I was throwing bricks at British industry?
§ Dr. BURGIN
If I had made such a statement, I would withdraw it at once. I said that I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not consider it his duty to do it.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I did. I said I hoped that the hon. Gentleman will not consider it his constitutional duty to throw bricks at British industry. Those were my words.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Would not the House be correct in drawing the inference from the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend was taking an undue advantage and making a statement without any grounds whatever The House will remember that in the last Parliament the hon. Member raised this question. Was he doing something which he ought not to do? Surely, it is his duty, if he knows that something occurs, to bring it to the attention of the House. I think that Members of all parties will agree with that.
§ Dr. BURGIN
What I want to avoid is an assertion without evidence. I there is any suggestion that there is a malpractice let us have it, but do not let us ask "May it be assumed?" that there are malpractices. I do not want anything of that kind. I have no information that there is any malpractice. I do not know whether it is the custom of the Import Duties Advisory Committee to put such a question, and if the hon. Member has evidence he should convey it to me.
§ Mr. MANDER
I have evidence. It concerns only a very small section of trade, but I certainly will bring it to the attention of the hon. Gentleman, and I still think that he ought to withdraw an absolutely unfounded insinuation.
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
I intervene with some hesitation, and I say that as a matter of courtesy to the Committee. Owing to circumstances over which I had no control I was not here when the Debate began. Nevertheless, I happened to have taken particular interest in the Additional Import Duties (No. 2) Order, which, I imagine, is the primary object of the discussion to-night. A large part of the Debate has ranged round the question of leather. May I cross swords briefly with the Parliamentary Secretary when he said that he hoped that Members of Parliament never approached the Import Duties Advisory Committee? Although we are Members of Parliament we do not cease to be citizens, and I have, on two or three occasions, not as a Member of Parliament, but as having some interest in a particular industry, interviewed members of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly, we are not deprived of our rights as citizens. Let us be honest. There are occasions when we may have a personal interest. On one occasion I attended a conference with members of a trade with which I happened to have some association when the Import Duties Advisory Committee were considering an application. I did not go as a Member of this House but because I was personally interested. What would be wrong, to import an Americanism, would be to try to do the "dirty," if I may use such a phrase. That is never likely to arise in this country. I merely mention it because of what the Parliamentary Secretary said. I know it is the case that Members of every party have from time to time been on deputations which have been received by the Import Duties Advisory Committee.
So far as Order No. 3 is concerned, there has been a very long delay between the date on which the report was signed and the date on which the Order was made. It is the longest period that has elapsed and, therefore, if a grievance exists it lies with those who asked for the duty and not with the critics of the duty. The argument in this case is whether you should ever put a duty on something which is classified as a raw material. I see no reason why any commodity should be exempted from tariffs provided they are not likely to be injurious to employment in this country, 1195 and on that test no one can challenge this Order. If the net result of the Order is to increase employment, not diminish it, that is a good reason why we should vote for it. On the other hand, as an ardent Protectionist I have not hesitated to criticise Orders where I thought the net result would be a diminution rather than an increase of employment. That is the test. It does not matter whether you call it raw material or the finished article. The test is what is likely to be the result on employment in this country. I am satisfied, from the point of view of employment in the leather producing and leather using industries, that this Order will mean an increase in employment in this country.
If by any chance there should be a rise in prices—no one will say that an import duty never raises prices, although they have not done so yet—and there is a case for a drawback, then the doors of the Import Duties Advisory Committee are open to any application for a drawback. You do not introduce a drawback on the date that you introduce the duty. You find if any adverse effect has arisen, if there is any substantial degree of prejudice to the export trade in boots or shoes, or in any other product, then the Import Duties Advisory Committee are empowered to grant the necessary drawback in order to protect the export trade. The ardent and enthusiastic Free Traders opposite, who do not show the slightest interest in what I am saying, I do not blame them, who in between the times when they are trying to solve the problems of peace in the world, rather unsuccessfully, occasionally devote some interest to the Import Duties Advisory Committee, have never been able to produce any example where this policy has caused unemployment. Their speeches are entirely based on what will happen thereafter, and when "thereafter" comes they remain dumb and silent—
§ Mr. MANDER
If the hon. Member had been present during the Debate he would realise that I made not the slightest reference to Free Trade or Protection.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Obviously the hon. Member would not have joined in unless that were at the back of his mind. Why join in unless that were the objection? It would be the first time the hon. Mem- 1196 ber has taken part in a debate on this issue without referring to the fundamental issue or Free Trade or Protection. If his objection has nothing to do with that, I congratulate him on the intellectual progress he has made. For the first time he has admitted that this is a matter of expediency.
§ Mr. MANDER
I do not think that I have ever intervened in one of these Debates before, and if the hon. Member will read my remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow he will see that his comments are quite irrelevant.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I should have thought that here anything to do with Protection or Free Trade was relevant. But as a rule the hon. Member does not speak, because the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) says it for him.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. EDE
Having spent the earlier part of the evening enjoyably and festively with the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), I think that I must protest against his contradiction of the principle laid down by the Minister. The Minister stated distinctly that he thought it was inadvisable that Members of Parliament should approach directly members of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, and one understood that that was a principle which was accepted. But I gather that the hon. Member for South Croydon does not merely say that he does not accept the principle but has on occasion violated it.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
May I make it clear? It was not as a Member of Parliament. I suffer from the disability from which the Labour party are relieved, of having to earn my own income, and in that capacity I occasionally have to go through the ordinary proceedings of a citizen, and take a part in those industries with which I am connected. If I belonged to the Labour party, which is sustained by some gigantic party fund, I might not need to do that.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Surely one is not debarred as a Member of Parliament, when one is connected with certain industries, from exercising the same rights as other citizens have of approaching the tribunal which is concerned with those industries? A Member of Parliament is not debarred as a Member of Parliament from having an argument with an inspector of Income Tax.
§ Mr. EDE
I do not know what the connection of the hon. Member is with the industries he has alluded to, but I find it difficult not to be a Member of Parliament between the time when the electors return me and when they make a mistake next time, a fate which I have shared with the hon. Member. Supporters of Free Trade and people who desire to see that these imports shall be free from some of the abuses which have been associated with them abroad must have considerable alarm after the contradiction by the hon. Member of the principle laid down by the Minister. If the position of the hon. Member is accepted, no matter how he
§ may be able to juggle with his own intellect in thinking that he has established some defence, the day is not far distant when there will be people in this House professionally interested in trying to get tariffs, and who will afterwards see that any failure they may have had at the offices of the Import Advisory Committee is put right when the matter comes to this House.
§ I can only say that I hope the Chief Whip, having heard what was said by the Minister and the repudiation by his very loyal follower who is now sitting immediately behind him, will take steps to make it known that the promises that were made by responsible Members of Parliament from that Box when these duties were introduced will be brought to the notice of Members of this House who feel inclined to forget them when apparently it suits their purpose.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 133; Noes, 77.1199
|Division No. 118.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Guy, J. C. M.||Radford, E. A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Hannah, I. C.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Harbord, A.||Rankin, R.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Holmes, J. S.||Remer, J. R.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Robinson, J. R, (Blackpool)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Joel, D. J. B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Rowlands, G.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Salt, E. W.|
|Bull, B. B.||Leckie, J. A.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Mac Andrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Channon, H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Christie, J. A.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)||Magnay, T.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Markham, S. F.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cross, R. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Mitchell. H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Turton, R. H.|
|Denville. Alfred||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Moreing, A. C.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Emery, J. F.||Nail, Sir J.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Entwistie, C. F.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Wragg, H.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fleming, E. L.||Peake, O.|
|Freemantie, Sir F. E.||Penny, Sir G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Petherick, M.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Ward and Major George Davies.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Plugge, L. F.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Riley, B.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Rowson, G.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Holdsworth, H.||Salter, Dr. A|
|Barnes, A. J.||Holland, A.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Barr, J.||Jagger, J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Short, A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Compton, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Daggar, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dalton, H.||Lathan, G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leonard, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Ede, J. C.||Logan, D. G.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McGhee, H. G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maclean, N.||Westwood, J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Foot, D. M.||Mander, G. le M.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallacher, W.||Markiew, E.||Williams, T (Don Valley)|
|Garro-Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.||Wilson, C. H (Attercliffe)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Parker, H. J. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Potts, J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A||Price, M. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Pritt, D. N.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 3) Order, 1936, dated the third day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said third day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, be approved.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 4) Order, 1936, dated the fourth day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, 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 March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, be approved.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 5) Order, 1936, dated the ninth day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said ninth day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, he approved.
That the Additional Import Duties (No. 6) Order, 1936, dated the eleventh day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said eleventh day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, be approved."—[Dr. Burgin.]