HC Deb 30 January 1957 vol 563 cc1075-8
Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 33, to leave out from "Act" to the first "they" in line 34.

I put this rather small point in order to hear what my right hon. and learned Friend has to say about the proposal slightly to widen the Clause in order that relief can be given with regard to countervailing duties as well as in respect of antidumping duties. Dumping can apply to particular consignments of goods, while the subsidies may apply to the classes or type of goods included in many consignments. I think that the effect of allowing these words to be removed from the Clause will be to allow the countervailing duties to be considered as well as the antidumping duties.

What I am saying accords with what I shall be saying later on a new Clause which I shall attempt to introduce, because I think that there may be the possibility of wrong decisions being given in the case of many consignments and correspondingly the need for a rather better appeal procedure than the Bill has in it at present. I should like to hear what my right hon. and learned Friend has to say about including countervailing duties.

Mr. Walker-Smith

My hon. Friend has explained that the intention of this Amendment is to make Clause 3 give relief, where appropriate, in respect of countervailing duties, in addition to the anti-dumping duties to which the Clause is limited as at present drafted. I would say at once that I am certainly not out of sympathy with his general intention. I use the term "general intention" because I refer to the intended effect of my hon. Friend's Amendment, rather than the effect which I think it achieves. His Amendment is clearly technically defective. I do not want to make any point about that except to show in a moment that it is very difficult to get a form of words which will give appropriate effect to the intention which he has in mind. It is for that reason, as I am sure he will appreciate, and not from any preoccupation with technical or drafting matters that I make this point at once.

The form of the Amendment does not, in fact, fit the pattern and structure of Clause 3, because that Clause has been framed so as to deal with the dumping side of the two matters with which this Bill is primarily concerned. Perhaps I may give an illustration of that. Subsection (3) of the Clause refers to the export price of the goods and the fair market price as one of the matters to be taken into account. That, as the Committee is aware, is a criterion which applies to dumping, and not to the subsidy side which my hon. Friend wishes to include in the ambit of this Clause.

The Clause has been framed on this principle of confining relief to dumping duties broadly because dumping is a matter within the power of individuals and therefore varies from case to case; and because the dumping itself varies, it is appropriate that the relief should be a matter of individual assessment, which is what Clause 3 is concerned with. A subsidy, on the other hand, is normally a known and defined practice, and for that reason it is more appropriate that relief should be given in general terms. My hon. Friend did not refer to this, but if he will be good enough to look at Clause 2 (3, d) he will see there the procedure for relief in the case of countervailing duties on subsidies to be specified in the Order, as a more general way of dealing with the more general subject of subsidies.

The criteria which are given in Clause 3 as governing the question of relief from anti-dumping duties are, of course, very apt in the case of those duties, because they are the criteria which have to be satisfied to establish a case of dumping at all; but, unfortunately, they do not fit the case of subsidies. In other words, we cannot apply those simple and sufficient rules to subsidies. We cannot, therefore, give the same effective guidance for the ascertainment of whether a claim for relief has been made out in the case of a countervailing duty on subsidies as we are able to do in this Clause in respect of relief from anti-dumping duties.

That is the basic difficulty in regard to this matter. There is, however, the further difficulty that it is not possible to test the accuracy of a claim by a foreign manufacturer that, although he has received a subsidy, it has not, in fact, affected his export price. We have no real means of checking such a claim.

In those circumstances, I think that my hon. Friend will appreciate that it would not be appropriate or helpful—or, indeed, possible—to accept the Amendment which he has moved in such temperate terms; but, as I say, both my right hon. Friend and I sympathise with the desire to have some machinery for relief, in proper cases, from these countervailing duties in respect of subsidies. That being so, I would certainly give the matter further consideration between now and the Report stage. In saying that, however, I should make it clear that I think that, perhaps, the ball is now in the court of my hon. Friend and his hon. Friend the Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens), in whose name this Amendment stands.

7.45 p.m.

I have outlined the difficulties which we see in getting any criteria to fit this particular case in order to put it into the Statute. If my hon. Friends can be of help in that respect, and can suggest any appropriate criteria, then, as I say, we are by no means hostile to the principle and will be glad to incorporate a suitable form of words for a suggested Amendment when we reach the Report stage of this Bill.

Mr. Fort

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his expectedly lucid exposition of this rather complicated point. Perhaps he and I and our hon. Friend the Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens) could get together, as he suggests, to see what we can work out.

Mr. Walker-Smith indicated assent.

Mr. Fort

In view of what my right hon. and learned Friend has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Sydney Irving

I beg to move, in page 4, line 7, to leave out "three" and to insert "six".

As time is running a little short, I will say what I have to say in a couple of sentences. In moving a previous Amendment I conceded that some of the information coming to the Board of Trade must come from the importers claiming relief under Clause 3. To us, three months seems very inflexible, and we therefore suggest that the period should be extended to six months.

Sir D. Eccles

I can accept this Amendment, as I think it will improve the Bill. We have been told by importers' representatives that they think that the three months is rather too short. Therefore, we are very ready to see it made six months.

Mr. Irving

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.