HL Deb 19 April 1955 vol 192 cc441-3

4.50 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the relations between the Isle of Man and the mainland for the levying of Customs duties are interesting and ancient. Customs legislation has to be passed here in Parliament, but that legislation is invariably based on resolutions of the Tynwald, the Isle of Man Legislature. In the last resort, of course, Parliament could legislate without a Tynwald resolution and, moreover, is not obliged to implement such a resolution. But in practice such a situation does not arise, because there are consultations, and if there are any differences of opinion they are ironed out before the stage of resolution or legislation.

The Isle of Man Customs tariff follows our code pretty closely, being sometimes lower, though I think never higher, than ours, and it is on an annual basis. That means that legislation is necessary every year to renew the duties from August 1 to July 31, and at the same time to make any adjustments the Island thinks necessary in the light of any changes we have made in our Budget—or, indeed, of course, any other changes they may wish to make, irrespective of our Budget. This situation has two disadvantages. The first is a practical one, in that Parliamentary time has to be found here for an annual Isle of Man (Customs) Bill. The second is sentimental, as the Islanders must feel that their resolutions are subject to our Parliamentary control.

For some years talks have been going on between the Island authorities and our authorities on the question of constitutional and financial reform. It may be some time before these talks come to full fruition, but it seems to us that at any rate we can go forward in this one matter of customs procedure where agreement has been reached. Our proposals are that if a Tynwald resolution is passed in respect of customs duties it should automatically come into effect if confirmed by Her Majesty by Order in Council. At the same time, we seek in the Bill to bring up to date a financial situation which arises from the Isle of Man Customs Harbours and Public Authorities Act, 1866, whereby the Island makes a contribution of £10,000 a year to the Imperial Exchequer from its customs revenue. In 1949, an agreement was arrived at with the Island whereby for the five years from 1950 to 1955 the Island would contribute instead of £10,000 a year, 5 per cent. of the proceeds of certain customs duties. This would have the effect of increasing the Island's contribution from £10,000 to about £90,000 a year. No resolution of Tynwald could overrule the Act of 1866, and so they have not been able to pay over these amounts and they have been accumulating, pending legislation here. By now there is something like £450,000 waiting for us to receive, and in Clause 2 of the Bill we make it possible for this sum to be handed over.

To sum up, the effect of the Bill will be that there will be no more annual Isle of Man (Customs) Bills and the Imperial Exchequer will receive something like £450,000 as contributions for the years 1950 to 1955. The island representatives have informed the Governor of their approval of the terms of the Bill, and I ask your Lordships now to give it a Second Reading.

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

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, when I first looked at this Bill it struck me as rather odd. Ever since I can remember Parliamentary procedure, we have had these Isle of Man (Customs) Bills, and there has never been any great difficulty about passing them. This has given rise to the very old Parliamentary practice of "Grievances before Supply"; and grievances have been redressed as a condition of passing the Bill. Why is it, I asked myself, that this ancient Parliamentary landmark is being swept aside by this revolutionary Government, and why are they quite deliberately substituting the passage of a mere resolution, in place of the old-established procedure of Act of Parliament? Have not this Government proclaimed on many occasions their dislike of mere resolutions instead of Acts of Parliament? Here they are doing that very thing.

Further examination, however, has convinced me that there is no reason for anxiety about this change. I understand that the Tynwald regard it as a point of prestige that a resolution of theirs shall have statutory effect, without the passing of an Act of Parliament. They apparently derive some satisfaction from that changed procedure and, that being so—assuming that they do derive satisfaction from it—I see no reason whatever why we should not give them the satisfaction they desire. For the rest, seeing that the Bill makes possible a payment to us of something of the order of £400,000, which, by reason of some Parliamentary difficulty, would otherwise not be payable, I think that that part of the Bill should have our cordial support and approval. In those circumstances, this is certainly one of the Bills which can be rescued from the bonfire which noble Lords opposite have lit.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.