HC Deb 19 March 1937 vol 321 cc2533-4

3.55 P.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Dr. Burgin)

I beg to move, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 4) Order, 1937, dated the third day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, 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-seven, be approved. This Order imposes a minimum specific duty of 2s. 6d. a dozen on umbrella handles and parts as an alternative to the present duty of 20 per cent. to which they are liable. It also imposes a duty of 33⅓ per cent. on all metal parts and fittings for umbrellas. Prior to this Order, only one form of ribs of umbrellas were regarded as wire, and were subject to a duty of 33⅓ per cent., and now all types of ribs are to be subject to the same rate of duty. The cheap foreign metal, celluloid and wooden parts come from Austria, France, Italy, Japan, Germany and America. The existing level of duties is adequate in the case of complete umbrellas, but there are difficulties about cheap goods coming in from abroad in the form of parts, and the home trade in the making of umbrellas will suffer if the cheap parts are allowed to come in.

3.57 p.m.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

I think it would be unreasonable for the House to be asked to take a decision on this Order after such a short opportunity for Debate as now remains. We are being asked to vote on the principle of a heavy increase in the duties on the imported component parts of an article the manufacture of which is an important industry. It is clear from the White Paper which the Parliamentary Secretary has presented that if the increase which is now recommended were imposed, it would be considerably to the detriment of employment in at least that part of the industry which manufactures the completed umbrellas. The Report reads: The manufacture of complete umbrellas is carried on in this country by a large number of firms, and the high degree of competition which exists, together with the trend of popular demand of late years towards a cheaper article, has driven some of the manufacturers to look to the cheapest possible source of supply for their parts, irrespective of origin. The existing level of duties, whilst adequate in the case of complete umbrellas, has failed to meet the position of the manufacturers of handles and such metal parts as ribs, frames and other fittings. Therefore, it is clear that, in order to meet the needs of the working classes of this country, whose purchasing power has been so much depleted, as was said by the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley) when he spoke on the Financial Resolution for the Special Areas, the industry had to provide, if not a cheaper article, at least one that was not increased in price, and to do that, it was necessary to go to the markets of the world for the cheapest component parts that could be obtained.

As soon as that happens apparently without having regard to the employment provided in the manufacture of the completed article, and having regard only to the employment in and profits—which are never revealed in the applications made to the Import Duties Advisory Committee—of the industry which asks for protection, we are asked to increase the duty. It would be wrong for us to agree such a duty to-day without having far more opportunity than we have of going into the implications of the proposal in all their aspects, and of considering how it would affect the workers in each branch of the industry concerned, how it would affect the price of the completed article when it is put on the market, and all the other relevant matters which arise from the imposition of such a duty. Generally speaking, when duties of this kind are proposed, I cannot hide from myself the fact—

It being Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.

Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 22nd March.