HL Deb 07 September 1939 vol 114 cc1031-2

Brought from the Commons endorsed with the Certificate from the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of the Parliament Act, 1911; and read 1a.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of the Bill is to suspend the statutory functions of the Import Duties Advisory Committee and to make temporary provision for the exercise of powers which are exercisable at present on the recommendation of the Committee without any such recommendation. The main effect of the Bill is to give the Treasury power, without any recommendation from the Import Duties Advisory Committee, to increase, decrease or remove duties chargeable under the Import Duties Act, 1932, to deal with drawbacks of duty under that Act, and to issue licences in respect of the duty-free importation of certain articles.

The Import Duties Act both imposed a general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. on all goods not otherwise chargeable with Customs Duty and not specifically exempted from the operation of the Import Duties Act, and gave to the Treasury—after consultation with the appropriate Departments, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture and so forth—power to impose by Order additional duties over and above the general ad valorem duty on the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Under Section 19 of that Act, any Order made by the Treasury could be revoked or varied subject to certain qualifications, of which the chief was that an Order could not be varied so as to increase the rate of additional duty above the rate specified in a recommendation made by the Import Duties Advisory Committee unless a further recommendation was received from the Committee.

From the Parliamentary point of view, the safeguards were, firstly, investigation by an independent arbitral tribunal in the form of the Advisory Committee, and secondly, the negative right of the House of Commons to reject any Order made by the Treasury, coupled with the positive right to approve any Order imposing a new or additional duty of Customs. The proposals embodied in the present Bill are intended to maintain the system set up under the Import Duties Act, subject to the temporary suspension of the functions of the Import Duties Advisory Committee. Under the Bill, the Treasury will be able to vary duties either upwards or downwards, without any recommendation from the Committee, and, therefore, without the detailed scrutiny which the Committee was set up to conduct. For the rest, however, all existing safeguards will remain. For example, the obligation on the Treasury to consult the appropriate Department before making an Order is left untouched, as is the requirement that all Orders made by the Treasury must be presented to the House of Commons, which will retain both its negative right to annul any Order and its positive right to approve all Orders imposing new or additional duties of Customs. The Bill is a certified Money Bill under the Parliament Act. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a, and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.