HC Deb 08 August 1940 vol 364 cc552-4

10.16 p.m.

Sir Reginald Clarry (Newport)

I beg to move, in page 15, line 9, at the end, to insert: Provided that before the Treasury gives a direction under this Section it shall publish notice of its intention to do so in the Board of Trade Journal, so that opportunity may be given to interested persons to make representations thereupon, and provided further that a direction shall not be given earlier than four weeks after the publication of notice. In moving this Amendment, I shall say only one or two sentences. It is an attempt to legislate by negotiation and consent. The Chancellor has already indicated that he is prepared to consider the matter.

Amendment negatived.

10.17 p.m.

Sir H. Williams

I beg to move, in page 15, line 20, to leave out "either."

If hon. Members will read the Clause, they will see that it says: An Order under this Section shall not have effect unless it is approved (either before, on, or after the specified date) by a resolution of the Commons House of Parliament. The object of the Amendment is to prevent a Resolution having retrospective effect. Most hon. Members regard it as undesirable that this House should do anything with retrospective effect, because that is unfair to a great number of citizens. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may have established a case for retrospective action in this matter in order to prevent the evil of forestalling; nevertheless, this opportunity of retrospective legislation is very dangerous, and even if the Chancellor of the Exchequer convinces me that he is right in this case it is as well that things should be on record, because, once again, it is important that we should not create a dangerous precedent.

10.19 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

I have been asked to reply on this Amendment. The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that, between now and the Report stage, he would consider what he would do to achieve something on the lines of the Amendment which has just been negatived, is a good reason why it is essential, in this case, that legislation should be retrospective. Suppose an announcement is made to bring certain classes of goods within the purview of the tax. There has to be a period of delay. The suggestion in the Amendment we have just negatived was that it ran into four weeks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer having accepted the idea of the first Amendment to Clause 20, it is impossible for him to accept this Amendment.

10.20 p.m.

Sir H. Williams

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for what he has said, but, on the other hand, I would ask him to read the Import Duties Act, because under that Act when somebody applied to the Import Duties Advisory Committee for an increase in duty and the Import Duties Advisory Committee came to the conclusion that a prima facie case had been made out, their next stage was to tell the world that such and such an industry had applied for a higher rate of duty and they asked whether anybody had an objection. The sequel was that all the importers of foreign goods who had objections sent in their objections, and there was a lengthy procedure, consisting of an interchange of documents and sometimes conference, and that went on for many months. Ultimately, if the applicant made out a case for a higher rate of duty, they made out a report which went to the Treasury, and if they were convinced that the argument was right, as they always were, a report was ultimately published, an Order was issued, and in due course we had a Debate in this House and we confirmed the Order. All this might involve six months between the notice and when the higher rate of duty ever came into operation. Nobody ever presented the argument which we have heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this is a new tax. As the forestallers may be more active, I have raised the issue. Having regard to the disorderly intimation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the previous Clause that he will give serious consideration to the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry), I will not press this Amendment, but I hope that something will be done on the Report stage, and perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consult those whose names are attached to the Amendment in order that we can come to some agreement in the matter. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.