HC Deb 21 February 1957 vol 565 cc702-13
Mr. Rhodes

I beg to move, in page 2, line 36, at the end to insert: and to furnish information to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise.

Mr. Gordon Walker

This is a paving Amendment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the Amendment in Clause 5, page 4, line 37, to leave out subsection (1), and to insert: (1) The Board of Trade may by order provide for the furnishing to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise of such information relating to goods of a description specified in the order which are being or have been imported into the United Kingdom as the order may prescribe; and if such information is not furnished to the satisfaction of the Board the circumstances relevant to any question as to the application thereto of section one of this Act shall be deemed to be such as the Board may determine. We were informed by Mr. Speaker that we could discuss both Amendments together.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

Certainly, but we shall have to deal with this one first.

Mr. Rhodes

This is a far easier matter than the last Amendment which I moved, which was a very obscure subject. Unless Clause 5 is amended, it is useless having the Bill at all. I suppose the origin of this Bill is that it was meant as a sop to British industrialists to allow a little more free trade to develop after some of the failures in G.A.T.T. But it does not go far enough to satisfy most of the industrialists of this country who have suffered in some degree in the past from outside dumping.

As Clause 5 stands, industry has to make its own case. It has to provide the Board of Trade with evidence that it is being injured by dumping from outside. Part of the Clause gives power to Customs and Excise, but it does not give any authority to require British importers or foreign exporters to provide information about the home market prices until after an order has been made. It may be possible for an industrialist or trade association, or a group of industries to be able to provide evidence of home market prices in an overseas country. That may be possible, but it is not possible for an industrialist, a trade association, or an industry generally, to provide information about export prices. That information is locked away in the books of the importer and of the Customs and Excise.

9.0 p.m.

The object of the Amendment is to enable the Customs and Excise to give the information to the Board of Trade so that it will be able to ascertain what really was the fair market price in the country of origin. Unless that information comes from the Customs and Excise, it is not even possible for the Board of Trade to get it by itself. I ask the President of the Board of Trade or the Minister of State to tell us how the Board of Trade would set about getting information about the export price of a commodity which came from Germany or anywhere else. Unless the information is forthcoming on a statutory basis from the Customs and Excise, we shall never get it.

I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to tell me how he would get it. I have heard him say time and again during our consideration of the Bill that he is out to help industry in the main. I ask him now how he will help on this matter. Can he get the information without the provisions of the Amendment? I tell him that he cannot.

There is a choice of procedure. We have worded the Amendment so that he can go either to Customs and Excise for the information or he can issue an order demanding a declaration from the exporter as to what the export price is. There is nothing new about this. This system is in operation in a large area of world trade. America, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all have this method of declaration. It must be an authenticated declaration. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded the principle on a previous Amendment that an authenticated statement of facts would be necessary. If the right hon. Gentleman will concede the necessity for an exporter in another country to make a declaration as to his home and export price, I am perfectly certain that my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House will be quite happy to accept it.

It might be argued that some of these countries which insist upon a sworn declaration do it for a particular purpose, that purpose being to assess the duty payable. Industrialists deal with them every week for goods exported to dollar countries and are experienced in this and know what has to be done.

I will give the President the information—he may not know this—that the United States Customs Simplification Act, 1956, included a direction to the Secretary of the Treasury in America to report to Congress by 2nd February, 1957, on the operation and effectiveness of the United States anti-dumping Act. That report has been made, and it will not be long before the information filters through to the Board of Trade, if it has not already received it today. The Secretary of the Treasury in America has proposed the re-design of the current U.S. Customs invoice form to make it essential to show home market price in the country of origin, not only, as at present, where duties are charged on an ad valorem basis, but also automatically and in all cases where goods are liable to a specific duty or enter duty-free.

This indicates the experience which the Americans have had over the years. A recommendation has been made to the Treasury in America to adopt a certain line of conduct in the anti-dumping law in America. We therefore cannot have it argued against us that the reasons the Americans have adopted the method is on account of special circumstances in the working of their own particular duty; because, as I have tried to show, they have recommended that it should be done whether there is any duty on that article or not.

Let us suppose that the Bill is passed in its present form and the position is left that the industrialist in this country has to supply the evidence. Let us suppose that he supplies enough evidence to make out a prima facie case that somebody overseas is dumping. We have exactly the same sort of argument as we adduced on the question of production. Only one or two invoices need to be shown to throw out the whole of the antidumping machinery and to throw out the Order which has been made. A couple of invoices put through below price would shatter the Board of Trade Department which is to look after this matter, because the Board would have no evidence with which to dispute what the importer said.

Another argument which might be brought against us is that there is no inspectorate. Is it proposed to run the trade of this country in the Free Trade Area without an inspectorate? The Government will have to appoint a small department in the Board of Trade to deal with the industrial matters when the Free Trade Area is formed.

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

A small one?

Mr. Rhodes

It may be a big one—but my point is that there will be a department. When all the duties come off they may not need any for a lot of industries, because those industries may not exist. I say that inspectors will be needed, but not many, for this particular job. For the whole of the European business of Canada, and it is considerable, only four inspectors are needed. Everybody in industry knows that when exporting to the countries I have named, the exporter has to put in a sworn, attested document—

Mr. Osborne

In triplicate?

Mr. Rhodes

Probably in triplicate—and I do not see why, if it is good enough for us to do it for America and all the countries I have mentioned, it should not be good enough for those countries and those in the Free Trade Area to do it for us.

I say, also, that we should take the opportunity now to do all we possibly can within G.A.T.T. If the Minister thinks that other countries will take a very easy line on this and will take this document that he has put forward for acceptance today as an example and a precedent he will be very much mistaken. Personally, I do not know why this Bill has now been introduced at all, except, as I said at the beginning, as a slight sop to industrialists because of the disillusion about G.A.T.T. and it looked as if progress in free trade was going to collapse.

Why cannot the President postpone this Bill until we can all do it together? The talk is of a Free Trade Area in Europe, and people are just waking up a bit to that in this country. They are on the march. It will not be as easy as the right hon. Gentleman thinks; there will be a lot of opposition. Why cannot he postpone this Measure until everybody has the same anti-dumping rules? As things stand now, it only needs the President of the Board of Trade to get this Measure through, rush it into print, and when the members of the proposed European Free Trade Area get it they will all go one better.

We want to think a little more realistically about it. We cannot enter into a business bargain like this with nothing to support us but idealism. We need a little hard common-sense bargaining. That is why I was bitterly disappointed when I read in last Wednesday's The Times that the President of the Board of Trade had been making speeches which pleased the Americans, the Canadians and the Germans very much indeed; because it was indicative to me that other people besides those in the Free Trade Area were very interested in what was happening over here.

I hope that the President will have another look at this question. It is the real guts of the Bill. It is a "phoney" Bill without this Amendment.

Mr. Gordon Walker

I beg formally to second the Amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Walker-Smith

First of all, may I say that I am obliged to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) for his kind reference to our previous talks in the speech which he made on an earlier Amendment. I too always seek to profit by the experience and learning of the hon. Gentleman in these matters.

We are, with your approval, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, discussing two Amendments together—in page 2, line 36, and page 4, line 37. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) described the first of those as a paving Amendment. With respect to him, I do not think it is that. I am afraid that his first Amendment is misconceived, if he will forgive me saying so.

The effect of the first Amendment would be to give the Board of Trade statutory power to furnish information to the Customs. That, of course, is not necessary because that is an administrative matter which can be done in any event. But I think the probable intention of the Amendment is that the Board of Trade should have power to require other persons to furnish information to the Customs.

I do not want to take technical points at all, except where they have some substance beyond that of mere drafting, but the second Amendment is also, in fact, defective in one sense, apart from the main substance, to which I shall come in a moment. It would have the effect of taking away from Customs the general powers which they enjoy under the Bill as drafted, under Clause 5 (1), for requiring information from importers where the anti-dumping order is already made. I take it that it would not be the intention to deprive Customs of that power.

The broad object of the proposals of hon. Members opposite is, no doubt, a desire to make it easier to establish the export price and fair market price so as to be in a better position to satisfy the criteria which are specified in the Bill. I can say right away that we would sympathise with that object, and we certainly share their desire to make this Bill as practical as possible.

What the Amendments now on the Order Paper and representing the current proposals of the Opposition would do is to seek to achieve this object by shifting the onus of proof as to both export price and fair market price from the complainant to the Board of Trade. They seek to do that now by a different method from the method which was suggested at the time of the Committee stage, though not then formally discussed. I am bound to confess that there were times when I could not help wondering whether the hon. Gentleman had the distinction entirely clearly in mind, because a large part of his argument appeared to me to be addressed to the alternative method which was put forward in Committee and not to the method which is now being put forward.

If I may seek to make that quite clear, the method which was suggested in Committee was the requirement that all importers should provide invoices, supplied in turn by the exporters from whom they are importing, stating the current domestic value of the imported goods. This method was the discarded method put forward at that stage, and employed in these other countries to which the hon. Gentleman referred in an eloquent part of his speech.

The countries which use that other method, however, use it primarily for the evaluation of goods for tariff purposes. It is quite true that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne was very up to date with regard to the United States of America, but he did a little less than justice to the Department, of which he was formerly an ornament, because we do know what has recently been done in the United States; and I quite concede that America has, as he says, very recently proposed to extend the scope of this to articles not in fact bearing a duty. Though that is true, I do not think it invalidates the principle of the matter, which is that one can have this thing working on that universal basis, requiring all importers to supply invoices containing an exporter's declaration of market value, only where it is in use as a machinery for evaluation for tariff purposes, and where that is its primary object.

I have made that clear, because the hon. Gentleman did devote so much of his speech, as it seemed to me, to a substantiation of the merits of a proposal which the Opposition, in its wisdom, and for very good reason, I think, has now discarded in favour of the alternative and more limited method which is represented by the Amendment on the Notice Paper.

I think the House will agree that whichever method is proposed must be judged by the same basic tests. Is the procedure reasonable in the wider context of its effect on trade as a whole? Will it, in fact, work satisfactorily for the specific purposes of the anti-dumping legislation? Finally, and very important, is it reasonably free from international complications and repercussions and risk of retaliation?

What I called the original method, the comprehensive method, as practiced in other countries primarily for tariff purposes, of course, founders in this country on the first of those tests, because it would not be reasonable in the context of general trade, since we do not use that method for our evaluation for tariff purposes.

Mr. Rhodes

There is a reason for that; our system of levying the duties is different. Ours is on c.i.f. and overseas it is f.o.b.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for reinforcing my point in that way. We use a different tariff method, and we think it is a better tariff method; but, because of that, we do not need this information for tariff purposes. Because we do not need it for tariff purposes, we have no general use for it over the whole field of trade. Because we have no general use for it over the whole field of trade, it would be an improper and unjustifiable imposition upon traders by and large to make this sweeping demand merely in the narrow context of this particular Bill.

The Opposition has, I think, understood this; at least, the right hon. Member for Smethwick has, in putting down his Amendment, because he has deserted that method. What he now proposes is to limit the collection of information to goods specified in a specific Board of Trade Order. He has done that, no doubt, with this point in mind.

I must submit to the House that, although it avoids the difficulty of the first of the three tests I suggested, the present Amendment founders under both the other two. In regard to its practicability, its working operation, the Amendment would not be effective for various reasons. The information would obviously be of minimum value, perhaps, because the importer who is giving it would merely be a conduit pipe for passing on the information supplied to him by the exporter as to what was the fair market value.

The importer would have no knowledge of the matters himself and nor would Customs. We would be in the position of having to accept the ipse dixit of the exporter in the foreign country. We would have no staff or machinery to check up—as I think the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne has conceded, because I take his point about the expanded staff for the European Free Trade Area. It is much too early to found anything on that, and in any case Europe is only one continent and we would have the same problem in the other continents.

We would be in this position: if we make a Statute saying that this information must be supplied by these exporters, then we are more or less binding ourselves to accept the information which they give us.

Mr. Rhodes

We are doing nothing of the sort. The Minister has got it all wrong. The Customs and Excise know it on every single transaction now. All we are asking is that the Customs and Excise should tell the Board of Trade. If that is done, we shall be perfectly happy.

Mr. Walker-Smith

No. The information will have to come from the exporters in the foreign country. We would be bound in this case to accept their declarations, although the importer here would not be able on his own knowledge to testify to them. He would be able to testify only as hearsay what he received from the exporter, but we, having written in the Statute that that information shall be furnished, would be in the position of being bound to accept it.

There is one other very substantial difficulty in this. The order contemplated in the Amendment would be a preliminary order, an investigatory order made before the main anti-dumping order under Clause 2. What is the effect of that? We make a preliminary investigatory order which makes it clear that we are contemplating at a later stage putting an anti-dumping order on certain specified goods. As soon as we do that, what do the importers do? They immediately forestall by buying quickly those articles before the anti-dumping order comes into effect. By doing that, we should be weakening the machinery and defeating the object, instead of strengthening and reinforcing it.

I want very briefly to refer to the difficulties about the other test I suggested, which is the international test. The powers here are very wide. The position under the Amendment would be that if the required information is not furnished to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade, then the Board of Trade would be virtually free to make assumptions about the export price and the fair market price and to act accordingly. That would get us into the position where we might be charged with making rules for our own convenience as we went along. That might be criticised in G.A.T.T. and might expose our export trade to the danger of reprisals.

I ask the House to believe that we have considered this matter very carefully and sympathetically. I hope that we have shown good faith in this matter by the number of suggestions from all guarters

of the House which we have accepted. We are not able to accept this one for the good reason that, on very careful study and on such advice as we have been able to have, we feel that its effect would be to weaken the main legitimate purposes of the Bill and not to strengthen them, albeit I appreciate that that is the intention of hon. Members opposite.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 98, Noes 158.

Division No. 70.] AYES [9.30 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Herbison, Miss M. Popplewell, E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Holman, P. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Benson, G. Hubbard, T. F. Randall, H. E.
Blackburn, F. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Redhead, E. C.
Blyton, W. R. Hunter, A. E. Reeves, J.
Boardman, H. Hynd, J. B. (Atteroliffe) Rhodes, H.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Bowles, F. G. Janner, B. Ross, William
Boyd, T. C. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Royle, C.
Brockway, A. F. Jeger, George (Goole) Short, E. W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Burke, W. A. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Skeffington, A. M.
Burton, Miss F. E. King, Dr. H. M. Sorensen, R. W.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Lawson, G. M. Stones, W. (Consett)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Thornton, E.
Chetwynd, G. R. Lindgren, G. S. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Clunie, J. MacColl, J. E. Viant, S. P.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Mclnnes, J. Warbey, W. N.
Collins, V.J. (Shorediteh & Finsbury) McKay, John (Wallsend) Weitzman, D.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda McLeavy, Frank Wheeldon, W. E.
Cronin, J. D. MacDermot, Niall White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Delargy, H. J. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wilkins, W. A.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Willey, Frederick
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mitchison, G. R. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Fienburgh, W. Moody, A. S. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Fletcher, Eric Moyle, A. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Gibson, C. W. Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Oswald, T. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey C. F. Parkin, B. T. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Paton, John Winterbottom, Richard
Hale, Leslie Peart, T. F. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hamilton, W. W. Pentland, N.
Hannan, W. Plummer, Sir Leslie TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hayman, F. H. Mr. Simmons and Mr. J. T. Price.
Agnew, Sir Peter Chichester-Clark, R. Cough, C. F. H.
Aitken W. T. Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.) Graham, Sir Fergus
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Cooper-Key, E. M. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)
Alport, C. J. M. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Green, A.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Corfield, Capt. F. V. Gresham Cooke, R.
Arbuthnot, John Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Grimond, J.
Armstrong, C. W. Crouch, R. F. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Ashton, H. Cunningham, Knox Harvey, Air Cdre, A. V. (Macclesfd)
Atkins, H. E. Currie, G. B. H. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Baldwin, A. E. Deedes, W. F. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Barber, Anthony Dodds-Parker, A. D. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Doughty, C. J. A. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) du Cann, E. D. L. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Hill, John (S. Norfolk)
Bidgood, J. C. Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Holland-Martin, C. I.
Bishop, F. P. Errington, Sir Eric Holt, A. F.
Black, C. W. Fell, A. Hope, Lord John
Bossom, Sir Alfred Finlay, Graeme Hornby, R. P.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Fisher, Nigel Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence
Boyle Sir Edward Freeth, Denzil Howard, John (Test)
Braine, B. R. Garner-Evans, E. H. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Brooman White, R. C. George, J. C. (Pollok) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry
Bryan, P. Clover, D, Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Channon, Sir Henry Godber, J. B. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Neave, Airey Studholme, Sir Henry
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Summers, Sir Spencer
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Oakshott, H. D. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Kaberry, D. Osborne, C. Teeling, W.
Keegan, D. Page, R. G. Temple, J. M.
Kerr, H. W. Partridge, E. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Kimball, M. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Kirk, P. M. Pike, Miss Mervyn Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)
Leather, E. H. C. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Leavey, J. A. Pitman, I. J. Vane, W. M. F.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Pitt, Miss E. M. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Powell, J. Enoch Vickers, Miss J. H.
Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Price, David (Eastleigh) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Redmayne, M. Wade, D. W.
Longden, Gilbert Remnant, Hon. P. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Renton, D. L. M. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. D. C.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ridsdale, J. E. Wall, Major Patrick
Macdonald, Sir Peter Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Roper, Sir Harold Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)
McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Maddan, Martin Russell, R. S. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Sharpies, R. C. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Marshall, Douglas Shepherd, William Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Mathew, R. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kensgt'n, S.) Woollam, John Victor
Mawby, R. L. Steward, Harold (Stookport, S.)
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Nabarro, G. D. N. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Mr. E. Wakefield and
Nairn, D. L. S. Storey, S. Mr. Hughes-Young.