HC Deb 08 December 1958 vol 597 cc162-5

10.25 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Import Duties (General) (No. 2) Order, 1958 (S.I., 1958, No. 1941), dated 21st November, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th November, be approved. This Order makes amendments to the Import Duties (General) Order, 1958, which was approved on 8th July. That Order introduced the new Brussels Nomenclature tariff which will come into force on 1st January, 1959. An advance edition of the new tariff was published in July to give importers and traders an opportunity to study it. The wisdom of publishing the tariff six months before it became effective has been amply proved. The present Order is, in effect, a mopping up Order.

I said on 8th July, in column 348, that there were a number of cases involving the details of the new tariff which had still to be examined or on which we had not yet reached agreement with the interested parties. I said that we should, if necessary, introduce an amending Order before the new tariff becomes effective in January. This is the Order.

Before I explain the new Order, I should warn the House that there are one or two changes which are still being discussed with industry, and when traders start to operate the new tariff there might be others. Any such changes will be dealt with in later Orders. I had hoped that this would be a final mopping up Order, but there may be possibly one more.

If I may, I will now explain the details of the Order. There are a number of amendments and corrections to be made which are set out in the Schedule to the Order. The need for these changes may be summarised as follows. First, since June the House has approved a number of changes in duty under the old tariff, and Part I of the Schedule makes the consequential amendments to the new tariff to carry over those changes in duty from one to the other. Secondly, we have to correct certain deviations from existing rates of duty which have been drawn to our attention since the advance edition was published. Thirdly, a number of items were still being discussed with industry in June and we now have to give effect to the agreements which have been reached. Fourthly, we have to correct a number of verbal and typographical errors.

The Schedule therefore is divided into two parts. Part I is the tidying up measure following from the changes approved since June in the old tariff. Part II deals with all the other Amendments and corrections to which I have referred. The House will agree that it is not a very long list when compared with the 3,000 or more headings contained in the new tariff.

The Schedule to the Order contains one innovation, in that in the third column of the Schedule there is shown against each tariff heading a short summary of its effect. I must warn the House though that these summaries are explanatory only, and, as is pointed out in Article I of the Order, they are without prejudice to the operation of the amendments. The summaries explain the effect of the amendments as compared with the new Brussels tariff approved in July. The House may be interested to know that about 6,000 copies of the advanced edition were sold and, of course, copies have been sent to all official representatives of the overseas countries concerned.

As I explained at the time, that edition was a trial run only, and the value of this experiment has been fully proved in the event. A further operative edition will be published on 15th December containing the amendments which are embodied in this Order, and we hope that traders and importers in their own interests will get copies of this as soon as possible so that they may be able to use it from 1st January when the new tariff enters into effect.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

So that the House is clear what it is doing in this Order, I should like to ask the Minister a few questions. As I understand it, the changes in the Order all come into effect on 1st January and not before 1st January, whether they appear in Part I or Part II. First, I want to be clear that that is correct. Secondly, and what is perhaps most important, am I right in supposing that all the changes which are to come into effect later are not matters of policy and that they do not in themselves imply any change in import or economic policy, but purely follow from the changes in nomenclature and the administrative tidying up operation which we have discussed before?

Thirdly, so that we may be clear how the Order works in practice, I should like to ask the Minister of State about one item which appears on page 4 of the Order under the tariff heading 29.35. In the third column there is mentioned a substance of which I had not heard, haemin. There we read that this chemical, I think it is, is to be chargeable at 331/3 per cent. instead of at 10 per cent. On the assumption that we are making no policy changes in tariff tonight, I should like to know just what is meant when we read that this particular substance, which appears to be a chemical material, is to be chargeable at 331/3 instead of at 10 per cent., which, on the face of it, is a fairly substantial increase.

Mr. Vaughan-Morgan

In reply to the last point raised by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I hope he will forgive me if I say that I would like to look into it. There is, however, no real change in duty. I admit that the example raised by the right hon. Member is an odd one. Had he given me a moment's notice beforehand, I might have been able to give him the details. There are some even odder examples had the right hon. Gentleman pursued his researches further, but there are no effective changes.

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks, I should repeat that Part II of the Schedule does the tidying-up and Part I covers the changes that the House has already passed as between June and now. That is all.

Mr. Jay

So that by what we are doing tonight we are not making any further policy change?

Mr. Vaughan-Morgan

We are not making any further change at all by this Order,

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Import Duties (General) (No. 2) Order, 1958 (S.I., 1958, No. 1941), dated 21st November. 1958. a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th November, be approved.