HC Deb 01 April 1958 vol 585 cc1158-9

9.59 p.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. J. K. Vaughan-Morgan)

I beg to move, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 2) Order, 1958 (S.I., 1958, No. 404), dated 14th March, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th March, be approved. The Order which I am asking the House to approve increases to a rate of 25 per cent. ad valorem or £40 a ton, whichever is the greater, the import duty on the following antimony products: antimony metal in any form, and alloys in any form which contain not less than 85 per cent. by weight of antimony; antimony oxides, and mixtures containing not less than 85 per cent. by weight of antimony oxides expressed as antimony trioxide.

The Order was made on 14th March, and came into operation on 21st March, but I should remind the House that the powers under which this Order is made are still those conferred by the 1932 Act, as amended by the 1939 Act. The House, I am sure, will not want too many technical details of the products, and perhaps it would be sufficient if I say that antimony metal is used for hardening lead, particularly that used in lead storage batteries, cable sheaths, bearings, type metal, and so on.

An application for an increase in import duty was submitted to the Board of Trade on the ground that the existing duty was insufficient to protect the United Kingdom industry against low-priced imports coming primarily from China and, to a less extent, from Russia. After careful consideration, it appeared to us that there was undoubted evidence of significant imports of foreign antimony, at prices much below the minimum which United Kingdom smelters could economically charge, although there is every reason to believe that the industry here is as efficient as any in the world.

It seemed undesirable and unwise to allow the United Kingdom to become entirely dependent on imported supplies. The smelting of antimony is a highly specialised industry, and we did not want the value of this specialised technique to be lost to the United Kingdom. We therefore decided that the importance of affording additional protection to this small but valuable trade—probably, however, the largest in the world—against foreign competitors, outweighed the very small effect any such increase would be likely to have on the finished products in which antimony is used. We have, in every way, complied with the requirements of the G.A.T.T.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Could the Minister of State say whether the low price at which these imports were sold here was due to their being sold below the cost of production abroad, or because the costs of production abroad are lower than those here?

Mr. Vaughan-Morgan

We have no information to show what the actual costs of production in the countries of origin were.

Question put and agreed to.

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