HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc2073-6

11.26 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, in page 45, line 32, at the end, to insert: so however that except with the consent of the Minister (to be embodied in an order made by him) such sum shall not exceed threepence. (2) An order of the Minister under this Section—

  1. (a) may be revoked or varied by a subsequent order of the Minister made thereunder;
  2. (b) shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made;
and if either House within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after the order has been laid before it resolves that the order be annulled the order shall thenceforth be void but without prejudice to the making of a new order. This Clause enables the Development Board to collect from either pig producers or bacon producers such sums as the board may think right and proper as and when they want these sums to cover their expenses. We think that no outside taxing authority should have carte blanche to collect from pig or bacon producers or from anyone else just as much money as they think fit. I therefore suggest in this Amendment that 3d. per pig might be collected by the Development Board without appealing to the Minister, but that when the expenses of the board exceed that limit they should be called upon to apply to the Minister. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman in Clause 36 has an identical Amendment on the Paper for an identical purpose. Why he should have an Amendment down to Clause 36 and not to Clause 35 perhaps he will tell us. In any case this external taxation does not appeal to Members in all parts of the House, and although we appreciate that the Development Board's expenses must be found by the industry, we think that at least there should be a limit to their taxing ability.

11.28 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The hon. Member has drawn attention to the fact that in Clause 36 I have an Amendment making it necessary for the Minister to consent if a larger sum is imposed by the Bacon Marketing Board, and he very naturally prayed in aid this Amendment as a reason why I should accept a similar provision in regard to the Development Board. I confess that I agreed to put the Minister in the position of having this indirect control in the case of the Bacon Board with some reluctance, but there was justification for it which I do not think exists in this case—namely that the Bacon Board is a marketing board set up under the Agricultural Marketing Act, and its powers are detailed by a scheme and any amendment of the scheme enabling it to make greater charges would in the ordinary course of events have to go before its members for approval, with all the long-drawn-out discussion which is inserted in the scheme to safeguard members from alterations affecting their own interests.

In this particular case that procedure has not been adopted, and I thought there was some reason for giving the Minister power to give consent to any excess charge made by the Bacon Board. In the case of the Development Board I do not think that limitation should be made. I had a feeling that as far as possible it is desirable to divorce the finance of these boards from Ministerial control. They have their own work to do and their own funds, and, as far as possible, the Minister should not interfere with them. In any case, I would point out that the limit which the hon. Minister has in mind would really make it necessary that in all cases the Minister would have control. As far as I can tell, it would work out as follows: The sum of 3d. per pig, say on 2,000,000 long-contract pigs, would provide £25,000 in a year. That is only half the sum which would be expended annually upon research alone under Clause 38 (2). With this 3d. limit it is clear that the board would always have to be running to the Minister for power to impose a levy.

11.32 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

It may be that the proposal that the limit should be 3d. is not satisfactory, but the Minister has not met the point of my hon. Friend that whereas in the case of the levies of the Bacon and Pigs Marketing Boards there is a limit, and that any increase must not only be put to the Minister but laid before Parliament, you are leaving unlimited powers to the Development Board to do what they like. They can increase the levy as much as they like. It is left to them to increase the tax upon the whole of the units in the pig and bacon industries. That isunreasonable, for we have always maintained that this House is the sole taxing authority. When that side of the question was raised in Committee, the Minister kindly met our point on Clause 36 by tabling the Amendment that if the Minister's approval is sought there must be an opportunity for Parliamentary comment to be made. But in the case of the Development Board, the right hon. Gentleman leaves it to the board to settle what the charge shall be at any time. The Minister could meet the point now by altering the limit in our Amendment. We were unaware when we drafted it what was likely to be the total charge normally required for the Development Board's funds, and we put down 3d. as a try-on. If 6d. is a more suitable limit, let the figure be 6d., and then let Parliament ultimately make any alteration that may be necessary.

11.35 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

In view of what the hon. Member has said I should like to consider the matter to see whether I cannot meet the point raised. It is not a thing on which I should like to express an opinion straight away, because the limit is so small in this case that it would mean a continual responsibility on the part of the Minister.

Amendment negatived.