HC Deb 30 November 1938 vol 342 cc424-6
Mr. Higgs

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to exempt foreign plate more than one hundred years old from assay, stamping, and marking. Under the existing law all imported ornamental foreign plate must be assayed, marked and stamped in the same way as plate that is manufactured in Great Britain, but the Customs Amendment Act, 1842, granted exemption from all marking for all plate manufactured prior to the year 1800. In the process of time the exemptions, instead of applying to plate at in 1842, manufactured 42 years previously, now applies only to plate that has been manufactured 138 years. I think you will agree that this is a stringent regulation, and, obviously, as time goes on this restriction becomes more stringent. The proposed Bill would be drawn to extend this exemption from hall-marking to all imported foreign plate that is more than 100 years old. It would bring it into line with Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1926, under which Customs duties are not charged on goods more than 100 years old. The Bill would relieve the seller from penalty if he proves that the plate is more than 100 years old at the time of the alleged offence. It would relieve the Customs from their duties under Section 10 of the Revenue Act, 1883, which protects the importer and provides that the importer shall deposit the plate in bond. It shall not he allowed to be delivered home until it is assayed, marked and stamped.

Finally the Bill would repeal Section 6 of the Customs Amendment Act, 1842, which would then be superseded. The House would like to know what support such a Bill would receive. The Bill has the approval of Goldsmiths Hall, who are primarily concerned with legislation from this point of view. The Bill is supported by the British Antique Dealers' Association, who are directly concerned as buyers and sellers of the goods covered by the Bill and who incidentally are a very strong organisation. Amongst their members are all reputable antique dealers in the country. The Bill has the support of the Hall-Marking Advisory Committee, who approved of it in principle as far back as 1934, at a meeting at which all trade organisations were represented. It has the support, last but not least, of the Board of Trade and of the Board of Customs and Excise.

I have the privilege of representing the jewellery district, which is in my division, and I have been asked on several occasions what is the attitude of the manufacturers towards such a Bill. From what I have said it is very obvious that the Bill does not concern them, as in my district they do not manufacture antiques 100 years old. Hall-marking is compulsory in England but it is not compulsory internationally, and the result is that goods may be introduced to-day which would not pass our hall-marking standard 100 years hence; and therefore by the expiration of time this matter does not correct itself. The Bill is bringing us into line with the Finance Act, 1926, to which I have referred. That Act permits the importation of all goods more than 100 years old, with the exception of wines and spirits. In 1842 goods that were 42 years old could be considered as antiques. To-day they have to be more than 138 years old in order to be so classified. I think it will be agreed that there is an anomaly in the law, and I hope that the House will support that contention. I may be asked, what becomes of plate that importers try to import today? If it does not pass the standard of assay it is then returned to some address otherwise than in this country. I conclude with the statement that I think the House will agree that the Bill is a nonparty Measure.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Higgs, Sir Patrick Hannon, Mr. Crowder, Mr. Grant-Ferris, Mr. Liddall, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. Lyons, Sir John Mellor, Sir Smedley Crooke, Mr. H. G. Williams, and Sir Louis Smith.