§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
It will be known to many Members of the Committee that this is a subject of almost perpetual interest, and, if we do not dwell at any length on the matter, I hope the Government will not regard it on that account as being unimportant in our minds. We still regard this matter as one of fundamental importance. The duties in question were, of course, imposed by the Government in view of the fact that certain annuities, which were deemed to be due from the Irish Free State, had not been paid. The Government held that the non-payment of these annuities was a breach of an agreement which had been arrived at at some previous date. It is fair to say that the people of the Irish Free State allege, anyhow, that in their judgment the annuities were no longer due. I shall not enter into that very vexed argument, because this is not, perhaps, the appropriate place to do so. But, whatever the merits of the dispute might have been as between one side and the other, the House of Commons in 1932 determined that certain customs duties should be imposed under the Irish Free State (Special Duties) Act, 1932.
The question I should like to ask is whether the Government, with this long experience of these duties, now feel that it is worth while from every point of view to maintain them, or, indeed, any such proposal. I can quite imagine that the representatives of the Treasury to-night will say that the Irish Free State owed us £x, that they did not pay that sum, that we were obliged to impose the special 2278 duties, and that, by means of these duties, we have been able to recoup a certain amount of money. I suppose that that is how they would argue that their legislation has been attended with some measure of success. But how is success to be measured in this matter? That is the fundamental issue which is raised. In the first place, is it quite accepted ground that it is the Irish people themselves who have paid these taxes? I should venture to assert, even if I could not show that the whole of these duties has been paid by the people on this side of the Irish Sea, that certainly it would be very easy to sustain the proposition that a very substantial proportion of these duties has been paid by our own people. So whatever sum the Government have been able to extract by reason of these duties they have extracted with some difficulty from the pockets not of the Irish but of the English, Welsh and Scottish people. Is that what is called success?
The operation of the duties has had certain inevitable consequences. They have had a substantial effect upon the trade of our Western ports. Fishguard and Holyhead were engaged in a substantial trade with Ireland. I do not suppose that the depression is wholly due to the duties, but a substantial measure of it is due directly to their operation. You have, so to speak, been "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Is that what is regarded as success? These duties in their origin were retaliatory in intention as well as in some degree in their effect. Would the Dominions Secretary from his point of view regard them as being a success? I am sure he must desire to see an end to this impasse between ourselves and the Irish Free State at as early a date as possible. While these duties are retained, the chance of throwing a bridge so to speak, across the Irish Sea is reduced almost to a minimum. They have embittered and antagonised Irish opinion. Suppose I grant, for the sake of argument, that the Government may have got their money. I doubt it, 2279 but suppose they have. Is it worth while getting the money they do get if, in the process of getting it, they dig deeper the gulf between us and the Irish people? The outlook in Europe is such as to induce the right hon. Gentleman to seek every possible opportunity to restore cordiality between ourselves and the Irish Free State.
From the financial point of view the duties are scarcely justified, for in the ultimate result it is the people of this country who pay the duties. From the Dominions point of view it is certainly ill-advised, and from the broader international point of view it is deplorable that this dispute should be maintained so long without some effort being made by the Government to restore cordial relations. A very substantial contribution to that restoration of good relations would, in my judgment, be the acceptance of the Motion which I now make.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
The hon. Gentleman has urged his case with great sincerity and I am very anxious to say nothing which would in any way widen the difference on this financial question between the Irish Free State and this country, but I am bound to point out one or two reasons why we cannot accept the Clause. In 1933–34 the yield of these duties was £4,100,000, in the following year it was £4,200,000, in the next year £4,900,000 and in the year after, £4,200,000. The estimated yield in the present year is about £4,100,000. As against that, the estimated amount required this year is £4,704,000. I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman in the argument as to who pays an import duty. We hold the view that the duty is very substantially paid by the exporter in the other country. The hon. Gentleman holds the directly contrary view and we might face each other all night and half to-morrow and we should never agree. Nevertheless, there is a considerable sum of money which we have to find for the purpose that I have indicated. In February, 1936, substantial reductions, estimated to cost £650,000 a year, were made as part of an arrangement involving additional imports of cattle from the Irish Free State and coal from the United Kingdom. In February last the 20 per cent. ad valorem duty on live 2280 horses was removed as part of an arrangement for renewing, with modifications, the arrangement that I have mentioned, and that was estimated to cost £80,000 a year. Since those agreements were made, there has been a very considerable measure of recovery in the trade between the two countries. On the general question of our relations with the Irish Free State arising out of this financial matter, in again renewing the coal-cattle arrangement and removing the duty on live horses the Government have shown their readiness to accept measures likely to prove of benefit to the two countries and hope that such measures may lead to the establishment of improved relations generally.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
On a point of Order. Is it in order for one Department to give an answer relating to the relations between this country and the Irish Free State when the Minister specially charged with those relations is sitting there, apparently not going to speak?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colville
This Government is entirely one, and there is no doubt about that. If the right hon. Gentleman who himself has been a member of Governments of various complexions in the past will cast his mind back, he will recall this elementary truth of which he has just been reminded from the Chair. As they have indicated on many occasions, His Majesty's Government in this country would be very ready, if they thought a satisfactory basis of discussion could be secured, to enter into negotiations with the Irish Free State Government with a view to the settlement of all the questions outstanding; but until that time we do not see any reason for ceasing to collect in taxation the sums required to meet the various obligations which we maintain should, under existing conditions, be met by the Irish Free State. That is the answer to the claim of the hon. Gentleman, and I believe that it is one that will appeal to the Committee, and I am sorry that I cannot accept the Clause.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Financial Secretary has told us that the yield from this 2281 Irish duty amounts in round figures to £4,000,000, and may I ask whether he can compute setting off against that, first of all, the loss which has not yet been recovered or anything like recovered in the amount of coal that used to be sent from Wales to Ireland and, secondly, the amount of loss sustained all along the coast on this side of the Channel in the cattle trade, and thirdly, the amount of unemployment benefit that has been provided, for example, for the workmen in Holyhead where, according to the latest figures, the unemployment is about 48 per cent. and is exclusively due to this policy? There is no other reason for it. It is a condition which has grown up out of this Irish problem. He should set against the duty the amount of money provided for unemployment which would be saved to the Unemployment Fund. Most of it now would be saved to the Treasury because it is not unemployment benefit but unemployment allowance paid by the Unemployment Assistance Board. There is, lower down the coast, the Port of Fishguard, which grew up on this trade. An enormous amount of capital has been spent in developing that port for this Irish trade. In spite of the agreements to which the right hon, and gallant Gentleman has referred, the improvements are very slight, and I would ask him, deducting these consequential losses, how much is the yield of this tax on these imports from the Irish Free State?
§ 10.19 p.m.
I would have thought that of all the Members of this House the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) would be the one most anxious to support the sanctity of what was an international bargain. I believe that there is no more sincere advocate of peace than the hon. Gentleman, but peace means the observance of law, and it cannot obtain unless the law is respected and observed. It is no good to talk about these duties as if they were independent of the bargain, in consequence of the breach of which these duties are imposed. The British Government were faced with the breaking of a solemn bargain that was made between the Irish Free State and ourselves, and we either had to sit down under it or take means of enforcing our undoubted right to the money.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
Is that strictly so? Did not the Irish Free State offer to submit it to arbitration?
They wanted foreign arbitration. Since the matter was an inter-Imperial matter, it must be an Empire tribunal, and nobody who respects himself can say anything else. It was not a matter for a foreign tribunal, and the hon. Member knows that perfectly well. The excuses made by the hon. Member and his friends were various. This treaty was made in February, 1923. It was said, first of all, that Mr. Cosgrave and the Irish representatives were overwhelmed. In addition to Mr. Cosgrave, there was Mr. Hogan, his Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Kennedy, his Attorney-General, and Mr. Justice Wylie, a very distinguished Irish judge, besides two civil servants. On the other side who was there? Myself. My right hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary was in the room, but all the bargaining was done by me. I do not pretend that I had not the assistance of the ablest body in the whole world, the Treasury. The representatives, therefore, consisted of three Irish Ministers and one judge, and one of those Ministers was Prime Minister of the Free State. So much for that point.
The second point was that it was a bad bargain on Mr. Cosgrave's part. I would ask any hon. Member of this House whether he has ever known an Irishman who was a bad bargainer. They are the keenest bargainers I have ever met. The bargaining for this Treaty took, I think, three days. There were a very large number of points to be discussed, and the discussion was keen. No one who has met Mr. Cosgrave can doubt that he is a man of outstanding ability and strength of will. The third point was that it was a hole-and-corner affair. The discussion took place between the authorised representatives of the two Governments. I do not know whether that was a hole-and-corner affair. It was also said that the agreement was kept secret. Was it kept secret? It was mentioned in the Dail, and the annuities were paid under it. These distinguished Senators and Members of Parliament in the Irish Free State, who protest that they knew nothing about it, could not have kept their eyes open, for if they had looked 2283 at the national accounts of the Free State they would have seen the payments of these annuities year after year.
Lastly, Mr. Kennedy, who was Mr. Cosgrave's Attorney-General, himself supervised the drafting of the agreement. If you are to have an international agreement that is good and ought to be enforced, what better agreement could you have than this? It was drawn up after due discussion. There were many points of dispute, concessions were made on both sides, and at the end of the debate complete agreement was arrived at. It en the scene changed in Ireland. A different party came into power and they repudiated the agreement. What would hon. Members have had the British Government do? What would hon. Members opposite have done? Would they have taken it lying down? Surely not. They are much better men than they think themselves. On whom does the loss fall? These annuities are guaranteed by the British Government, and if there is any loss the British taxpayer has to find it. The hon. Member for Caerphilly did not tell the Committee that if this money is not collected by these special duties his constituents will have to find the money.
I doubt it. For all these reasons, because the bargain arrived at was a reasonable bargain, because a bargain must be kept, and also because the loss will fall on the taxpayer, I hope the Committee will oppose the Amendment. But let me put it on higher ground than that. May I remind the hon. Member that the only hope for the world is that the rule of law should prevail? That means that a bargain should be kept. Here, hon. Members opposite are condoning the breaking of a bargain and attacking the Government for taking the best means for enforcing it.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
While bearing in mind your dictum, Captain Bourne, that the Government is one, I should like to draw attention to the fact that we have the Minister present who could corroborate the statement of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), but he maintains a silence; he is not 2284 allowed to say a word. He is not allowed to tell us what we want to know, and what was the real gravamen of my hon. Friend's speech, whether anything is being done to assuage this quarrel between ourselves and the Irish Free State. The Secretary of State for the Dominions is the only person who can tell us that. The Financial Secretary is concerned with pounds, shillings and pence, the right hon. Gentleman is concerned with the relations between this country and the Irish Free State, a far more important matter. But he is not going to say a word and tell us whether the hopes which are held out by another Department as to better relations can be confirmed or not. As regards the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon no one is defending the breach of a bargain.
Oh, yes. It was defended for a variety of reasons while the right hon. Gentleman was not in Parliament.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. and gallant Member is referring to some other Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) was attacking the wisdom of this method of retaliation, that was all. We contend that the Government have made no case to show that this has been effective, because the Secretary of State for the Dominions will not tell us whether it is bringing any better relations between this country and Ireland or not. He is just silent; he will not even indicate what his feelings are. As regards arbitration, I do not think the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon did full justice to the Irish position. He knows that for various political reasons they were not willing to submit it to a Commonwealth tribunal, but they did offer to submit it to a tribunal.
§ Captain Ramsay
Surely the Irish Free State offer to accept an international tribunal was one which they knew could not be accepted by the Government.
§ Mr. Benn
The main part of the charge was that the Irish were not prepared to submit the question to arbitration, but it is clearly true that they were prepared to do that, although they were not prepared to submit it to the kind of tribunal which this Government wanted. The third point relating to the unity of the Government to which I would like to refer is the question, Who pays? The greatest master on that subject is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Over a period of more than 30 years I heard him explain time and time again who pays these duties. He was either president or treasurer, or some high officer, in the Free Trade Union, and he explained throughout the country that the idea that the foreigner paid the tax was pure nonsense, and that the tax fell upon the consumer. I think
§ it is fair to ask, seeing that we cannot get an answer from the. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should just say, in a word or by a gesture, whether he is confident that in this case the tax is paid not by the consumer but by the foreigner.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Colonel Gretton
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) and other hon. Members are very anxious as to who pays the duty on Irish cattle. If I am rightly informed, the Irish Government pay a bounty on Irish cattle which are exported to this country so they can be sold cheaply in the British market, and ultimately there is a charge in the Irish Free State Budget with regard to these duties. That is the answer to the question as to who pays the tax.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 130; Noes, 194.2287
|Division No. 254.]||AYES.||[10.32 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Groves, T. E.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Paling, W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Parker, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Price, M. P.|
|Barr, J.||Holdsworth, H.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Batey, J.||Hollins, A.||Ridley, G.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hopkin, D.||Riley, B.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jagger, J.||Ritson, J|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Rowson, G.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||John, W.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silkin, L.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Stephen, C.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leach, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Day, H.||Leonard, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leslie, J. R.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lunn, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McGhee, H. G.||Walker, J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||MacLaren, A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Maclean, N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gallacher, W.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Westwood, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Marshall, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Mathers, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Maxtor, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Messer, F.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Milner, Major J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Montague, F.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Petherick, M.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Furness, S. N.||Pilkington, R.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Gledhill, G.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Radford, E. A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Goldie, N. B.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Grimston, R. V.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Remer, J. R.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Guy, J. C. M.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hannah, I. C.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E, (Leith)||Hartington, Marquess of||Rowlands, G.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Bull, B. B.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hepworth, J.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Cary, R. A.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Scott, Lord William|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Higgs, W. F.||Selley, H. R.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Conant, Captain R. J E.||Keeling, E. H.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Somerville. A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cox, H. B. T.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Spens, W. P.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Leckie, J. A.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Lees-Jones, J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Liddall, W. S.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cross, R. H.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lyons, A. M.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Touche, G. C.|
|Denville, Alfred||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Donner, P. W.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Turton, R. H.|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Drewe, C.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Magnay, T.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Maitland, A.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Elmley, Viscount||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Patrick, C. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Everard, W. L.||Peake, O.||Captain Waterhouse and Mr.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Peat, C. U.||Munro.|
On a point of Order. Do I understand that you are not calling the next two proposed new Clauses in my name and in the name of the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) (Import Duties Act, 1932, not to apply to foodstuffs) and (Deduction in respect of dependent relatives)?
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman cannot move to report Progress because I have not selected certain proposed new Clauses.
We are in Committee of Ways and Means. We represent the 2289 taxpayers and it is in Committee of Ways and Means that we seek the redress of their grievances. There is nothing which is out of order in the proposed new Clause which I have put on the Paper dealing with taxes amounting to £13,000,000 on the food of the people. The question has been discussed in a previous year in Committee of Ways and Means, and in the face of rising food prices and new taxes which are being put on by the Government it is nothing but an insult to the Opposition and to the consumers of this country that we should be denied the right to debate a matter on which we ought to be able to secure redress.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is precisely because of the discussion on the previous occasion that I did not select the right hon. Gentleman's proposed new Clause. I agree that the point which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to raise is one of great importance, but unfortunately his Clause does not raise it. If it did so I should have selected it.
With great respect, my proposed new Clause is precisely in the form in which it was moved in the previous discussion on the Finance Bill. It raises the whole issue which was raised in that discussion. We cannot get away from the impression that this important matter is simply being kangarooed, and we think that that is a disgraceful way for us to be treated from the point of view of our getting rightful redress of the grievances of the taxpayers.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is because of the discussion on the previous occasion that this proposed new Clause has not been selected. The great bulk of these duties do not come under this Act but under the Ottawa Duties Act and, I believe, under some special Acts. If the right hon. Gentleman had drafted an Amendment to cover the points he wishes to raise, I should have selected it, but it is because it covers only a tiny part of them that I have not selected it.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
Is it not the case that we are not in the Committee of Ways and Means but in the Committee of the Whole House?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
In view of the latitude given to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, are we to understand that 2290 if any of our Amendments are not selected we shall have the right to challenge the Chair in the same way?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I would add that I remember the last Debate, and nearly everyone of the speakers had to be stopped because it was pointed out that the particular duties referred to were not covered by the new Clause which had been proposed. If the right hon. Gentleman drafts a new Clause which covers the points he wishes to raise, I will certainly consider it.
I shall do that, but I submit that there are a large number of food duties which I have dealt with myself before the Import Duties Advisory Committee which are covered by my proposed new Clause.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Is it not a fact that the position with regard to food taxes has become much more serious than it was when the previous discussion took place, and that therefore discussion on this proposed new Clause would at this time be very much to the point because of the great feeling among the housewives of the country that the rise in the cost of their foodstuff is becoming positively intolerable?
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
On a point of Order. Without in any way contesting the soundness of your judgment in the selection of Amendments, Captain Bourne, I desire to ask you whether you could give your guidance to the Committee as to what steps it would be proper to take if Members of the Committee desired to know on what principles Amendments were accepted or rejected? I should also like to ask about the notice which is given to the House collectively in advance as to which Amendments are in fact going to be called and which are not. Further to that point, I should like to draw attention to the fact that some days ago I was informed through an unofficial channel that an Amendment which stood in my name on the Order Paper was not to be called. I heard it purely by chance. A number of other hon. Members have made extensive preparations for their speeches and have found that their Amendments have not been called. 2291 In these circumstances I desire to submit that it would be for the convenience of the Committee and hon. Members as a whole if some method were established which would inform hon. Members in advance of what Amendments would be called. What I wish to know is what method could be adopted.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If the hon. Member heard the statement made by the Chairman of Ways and Means not long ago he will remember that it was pointed out that on most occasions the course which has been suggested would be attended with great disadvantages, a point of view in which I thoroughly concur. It is sometimes possible on occasions like this for hon. Members to ask privately whether their Amendments are to be called, and if possible the Chairman gives them an answer, but that is not always possible because the selection or otherwise of Amendments may depend upon the course of the discussion of some previous Amendments, which it may be impossible for the Chairman to anticipate. The question of which Amendments are to be selected is one that has been left entirely in the discretion of the Chairman, and he is not bound to give any reason for his selection.