§ 6.32 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack told us of the arrangement about the course of our debates to-day on the Orders before the House. It seems to me that to this arrangement the House tacitly agreed. My task, therefore, is to move the first of the three Orders standing in my name on the Order Paper, and then to explain the purpose of all three, so that the House may have a general discussion on them; then, after the first Order has been disposed of, to move the second and the third Orders formally.
Perhaps I ought to say at the outset that these Orders are not the instrument used to ban the imports of tobacco and sugar into this country from Southern Rhodesia. As I understand it, there was in being before November 11 an open general import licence which had the effect of authorising, inter alia, the import of tobacco and sugar and related products originating in or consigned from Southern Rhodesia. The Orders of November 11 exclude these goods from the benefit of the open general licence. As the House will remember, my noble and learned friend told the House, in our debate on the Southern Rhodesia Bill, that these Orders were made under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939, and are not subject to Parliamentary control. The Orders before us to-day are very much more limited in their scope, as I hope will emerge as I go along.
Your Lordships will have seen that the Special Orders Committee have reported on the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement Order and the first of the two Commonwealth Preference Orders as follows:That in their opinion the provisions of the Orders raise important questions of policy and principle, namely, whether the proposed action is desirable and effective:That the Orders are not founded on precedent:That in the opinion of the Committee, the Orders cannot be passed by the House without special attention.1099 The Committee then went on to report, in regard to the No. 2 Order:That the Order is precedented by the Order it amends:That in the opinion of the Committee the Order can be passed by the House without special attention.The first Order suspends the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in its relation to Southern Rhodesia. It is one of the measures announced by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in his statement to the other place on November 11. It came into operation on November 18, and, as with all Orders under the Southern Rhodesia Act, it can continue in effect only so long as the Act itself remains in force. As for our reasons for making this Order, I need only say at this stage that, although Southern Rhodesia remains part of Her Majesty's Dominions, the circumstances of the illegal declaration of independence are such that here, as with Commonwealth Preference, the Government felt obliged to withdraw the benefits which derive from Commonwealth membership.
I turn now to the provisions of the Order. Article 1(1)(a) is the main operative paragraph, and, in effect, suspends the operation of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in its relation to Southern Rhodesia. Because doubts have been expressed about the words,shall have effect as if the Rhodesia Sugar Association had not become a party",I ought to assure the House that this is suspension and not expulsion. This I can do, because, as I have already said, the Order can exist only so long as the enabling Act is operative. Thus the action under this Order is temporary and not final.
Article 1(1)(b) simply spells out that the Sugar Board's contract to buy sugar is cancelled. Article 1(2) provides that the suspension under Article 1(1) has no effect on the validity of purchases and payments made by the Sugar Board before the Order came into operation in respect of the sugar bought by the Board at the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement negotiated price, and in respect of the payments made by the Board to the Southern Rhodesia Sugar Association in lieu of Commonwealth Preference on sugar imported for home consumption 1100 and not forming a part of the negotiated price quota.
The general effect of the Order is to relieve the Government, acting through the Minister of Agriculture, of their obligation under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to take an annual quota of sugar from Southern Rhodesia. Southern Rhodesia's quota under that Agreement was 25,000 tons a year; and its value under the Agreement was about £1.2 million. The withdrawal of the Agreement means that advantage of some £46 per ton is lost to Rhodesia on the 25,000 tons, because the free market price is now around about £16 per ton.
In addition to the 25,000 tons of quota sugar, Southern Rhodesia might have expected to sell to the United Kingdom on a free market some additional 30,000 tons, which would have carried Commonwealth Preference. This aspect of the Commonwealth Preference on sugar is something that I shall have to mention in connection with the other two Orders. I must add that the Sugar Board have already purchased some 15,000 tons out of the quota. This Order does not affect that purchase. We understand that the remaining 10,000 tons were due to be bought and loaded at the end of November, at a cost of about £450,000. This will not now be bought. But as I said before, this Order does not affect purchases made prior to the making of the Order.
I turn now to the Orders dealing with Commonwealth Preference. The first of these two Orders excludes Southern Rhodesia from the Commonwealth Preference Area. It provides that goods from Southern Rhodesia, and goods from a part of the Commonwealth Preference Area which are consigned from Southern Rhodesia, no longer qualify for Commonwealth Preference on importation into the United Kingdom and are, therefore, liable for duty at the full rate. The Order was made on November 16, and came into operation on November 19. It applies to all goods entered with Customs on or after that date. There is a reference in Article 1(b), your Lordships will have noticed, to Lourenco Marques and to Beira, because these are the ports from which nearly all goods from Southern Rhodesia are shipped, though they are not, of course, a part of the Commonwealth Preference Area. Article 2 deals with the special 1101 arrangements for warehousing. Under Customs law, goods which on importation are put into bonded warehouses—for example, tobacco—become chargeable with duty when they are removed from the warehouse at the rate of duty then applicable. But Article 2 of this Order provides that the goods from Southern Rhodesia which had been entered for warehousing before November 19 will be eligible for Commonwealth Preference on withdrawal from the warehouse.
By far the most important import from Southern Rhodesia which is enjoying preference is tobacco. The average value of United Kingdom imports of tobacco in the years 1962, 1963 and 1964 was £26 million out of an average total imports from Rhodesia of about £30 million. The Commonwealth Preference rate of duty is £4 5s. 10d. per lb., and this is 1s. 6½d. per lb. less than the full rate. All unmanufactured tobacco goes into bonded warehouse on importation, and the duty is not paid until it is withdrawn. Thus, although this Order provides that tobacco entered for warehousing before November 19 will be chargeable at the preferential rate on withdrawal, importers will have to pay the full rate on any tobacco entered on or after November 19 and withdrawn while Southern Rhodesia is outside the Commonwealth Preference Area—that is, on such tobacco as may come in before tobacco imports are banned.
The duty payment position will be the same for any other goods put into bonded warehouses on importation. Imports of sugar have been increasing, and are now the next most important item on the list of imports from Southern Rhodesia. The duty on raw sugar varies according to the degree of polarisation. I understand that most Rhodesian sugar is over 98° but not exceeding 99°, and on this the preferential rate is nil and the full rate is £6 18s. per ton. Other important items are asbestos, preferential rate, nil, full rate, 10 per cent.; meat products, preferential rate, nil, full rate, mainly 20 per cent.; frozen meat, preferential rate, nil, full rate, ¾d. per lb.
This Order makes no provision for charging the preferential rate on goods which were already in transit on November 11 and goods which had already been paid for, though they had not yet left Southern Rhodesia. The reason is that the Commissioners of Customs and Excise 1102 are responsible to Parliament for the administration of duties imposed by Parliament and must therefore apply duty changes from a precise date capable of absolute determination. Invariably in the past, therefore, when duties have changed, the change has applied at once and without exception on all goods entered with Customs on or after the date specified in the Statutory Instrument effecting the change, in contrast to import licensing under which it is normal to provide for goods in transit or under contract.
The Government have, however, reconsidered the matter in the light of the position at the date of the illegal Declaration of Independence, taking into account that at that date substantial quantities of tobacco from the 1965 Rhodesian crop were, contrary to expectations, still in transit to this country, partly because of transport hold-ups. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed that, in the unique situation with which we are dealing, a limited departure from the principles and practice of fiscal legislation is justified. The Government have therefore decided that, while the date of Southern Rhodesia's removal from the Preference Area cannot be postponed, goods which can be shown to have left the seaports before November 19 should qualify for the preferential rate of duty. This is the purpose and reason for the No. 2 Order, the third Order to which I am now speaking.
This, my Lords, is a concession, but it will not cover goods from Southern Rhodesia which were in transit on November 11, but which were not shipped from a seaport before November 19. Nor, of course, will it cover goods which were purchased before the illegal Declaration of Independence, but were still in Southern Rhodesia on November 11. It is recognised that this will involve hardship for some importers as, indeed, is so often the case with fiscal changes. A date of departure from Southern Rhodesia itself, let alone a date of purchase, would not have provided a date capable of absolute determination. The amending Order is the limit to which the Government can go without weakening the impact of the exclusion of Southern Rhodesia from the Commonwealth Preference Area.
The Special Orders Committee have posed the question: Is the proposed 1103 action desirable, and is it likely to be effective? There can be no certain answer to the latter part of that question. The Government have given this matter the most careful and anxious thought, and they have decided that of all these possibilities immediately before us the action in the Order is best calculated to meet what is an unprecedented situation. The Government, rightly in my opinion, ruled out the use of military force to quell the rebellion. What then remained? Either to do nothing, or to impose economic sanctions. To do nothing would have flown in the face of world and Commonwealth opinion, and to have renounced our obligations to the coloured population of Southern Rhodesia. The consequences of doing nothing might have had the evil result of worsening the already strained relationships of the races in the world—perhaps a greater hazard facing the world at this time, and well into the future, than East-West relations which have so long occupied our minds.
What remains, then, is only economic sanctions. "Are they desirable?" asked the Special Orders Committee. They appear to us to be the lesser of all the evils that arise out of the unfortunate circumstances of the illegal Declaration of Independence by Southern Rhodesia. Will they be effective? This is a tremendous question for the Special Orders Committee to present to this House. Only time can answer that question, and not this House to-day. We believe they will, or we should not have imposed them. As has been said this afternoon, we realise that innocent people as well as guilty people will be hurt by them, as is the case in a war in defence of a principle—a principle we hold dear. In these circumstances innocent people are hurt, and we realise that innocent people will be hurt by this, but we think this is the best way to do what we have tried to achieve.
I do not want to enter into any argument about whether these sanctions are punitive or whether some other word would more aptly apply. What they are intended to do, and what we hope they will do, is to bring about the rejection by the people of Southern Rhodesia of the present régime and open the way to a régime which will grasp the conciliatory hand, again held out by the Prime 1104 Minister on behalf of the Government in his Statement on Tuesday last. My Lords, that is our prayer and our earnest hope. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Southern Rhodesia (Commonwealth Sugar Agreement) Order 1965, be approved.—(Lord Champion.)
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ LORD ERROLL OF HALE
My Lords, the noble Lord has explained all these Orders with his customary clarity, and for that I, on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House, should like to thank him. He spoke first of the Sugar Order and then of the Commonwealth Preference Orders, because that is the order in which they are down on the Order Paper. If noble Lords have no objection, I should prefer to commence my remarks by mentioning the Withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference Order, because I feel that is the one with the greatest spread, embracing tobacco, sugar and certain other commodities. The noble Lord was good enough to explain in some detail the scope of the Commonwealth Preference Order, pointing out that by far the greatest proportion in value of all imports from Rhodesia are tobacco, and that there are only one or two other exports from Rhodesia which attract preferential rates. He mentioned asbestos, canned meat and one other, a total amounting to something like £4 million compared with the £26 million worth of tobacco sent to this country.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I did not mention the full list, but I have it here, and if the House should want it I shall be glad to give it. I mentioned only some of the things.
§ LORD ERROLL OF HALE
My Lords, my impression is that a considerable number of items from Rhodesia come in without Commonwealth preference, since there is no tariff on them coming into this country, because we pursue as far as possible the principle of bringing into Britain food and raw materials from most parts of the world duty free. Therefore the Commonwealth preference is of most value to Rhodesian exporters in the field of tobacco and sugar.
The interesting thing about this Order is that with the banning of tobacco and sugar imports, which is done by separate 1105 administrative action of the Government, there will, of course, be no preference to withdraw, and after a short transitional period this Order will bite on only a very small part of Rhodesia's normal exports to us. When the noble Lord referred to sanctions, to the importance of doing what we can, he presented this as a very powerful instrument, when in actual fact it will be an instrument which will spend most of its time beating the thin air because there will be no Commonwealth preferences to withdraw from exports to this country which have been banned by another action of the Government. I suggest that we can safely pass this Order, knowing that by itself this Order will have very little effect indeed.
However, there are some absurdities about the transitional period to which I referred a moment ago. These absurdities are within the power of the Government to put right by means of further amending Orders, if they are so minded to do. First of all, in the case of tobacco, they have already made one amending Order to ease the position of the British purchasers of Rhodesian tobacco. It is known that there is still some tobacco in Rhodesia which has already been bought and is in the ownership of the British importers. That tobacco, when it comes to this country and is subsequently taken out of bond, will have to pay duty at the higher, non-preferential rate, and I have been told that this additional burden will be of the order of £1 million to £1½million. One would have thought, in view of what the noble Lord has said, that this additional burden should have fallen upon the Rhodesians, but in order to hurt the Rhodesians economically the Government are, in fact, burdening the British manufacturer of tobacco products with an extra burden of £1½ million. I fail to see how this will help the cause which the noble Lord outlined in his speech. Surely it would be possible, if the Government were so minded, by means of a further amending Order, to allow tobacco which had already been so purchased to come in and attract only the Commonwealth preferential rate. This would not be helping the Rhodesians in any way, but it would be removing a manifest injustice to the British importer.
Then there is timber. In the case of timber, a number of contracts had been 1106 placed before U.D.I. That Rhodesian timber had been ordered, and rightly so, because it was important that as far as possible normal trade should continue, because of the hope that there would not be a U.D.I. But under the Order importers will have to pay duty on timber which they contracted to purchase from Rhodesia before U.D.I. Some of it is already on passage to the United Kingdom. The imports from Rhodesia are mainly flooring strips in species not obtainable from other sources; hitherto they have been duty free under Commonwealth preference, but in future they will attract the full 15 per cent. duty on the c.i.f. value. The trade in flooring strips from Rhodesia is not large—I think the total figure was £160,000 in 1964—but it is one in which a few importers have specialised. This material is sold forward at fixed contract prices, which means that importers will be involved in financial loss. In those circumstances the 15 per cent. duty represents a sanction not against Rhodesia but rather against the United Kingdom importers, and therefore in this respect the Order fails to achieve its purpose. I suggest that for shipments against contracts made before U.D.I. the United Kingdom importers should be spared the liability for this duty.
Turning to the Sugar Order, but before leaving the Commonwealth Preference Order, I notice that the Government naturally take care of their own, and while we are told that for reasons of fiscal respectability it would be quite impossible to go further down the tobacco road, so to speak, they have nevertheless made quite certain that their own Sugar Board is not going to be caught in the same position as the tobacco importers and the timber importers, because under the Sugar Order Article 1(2)(a) says:Paragraph (1) of this Article shall not have effect with respect toSo any sugar which has been bought by the Sugar Board and which is still in Rhodesia will come in at the preferential rate, but any tobacco which a private importer has bought will be dunned for the full rate. This is a most undesirable and most unnecessary form of discrimination. It does nothing to harm the 1107 Rhodesian economy; it is merely an unfair form of discrimination between the British Sugar Board and the private importers of this country.
- (a) any sugar in which the property has passed to the Sugar Board before the date when this Order comes into force."
As regards the Sugar Order itself, it revokes, as I understand it, a contract made by the United Kingdom Sugar Board with the Rhodesian Sugar Board; and I was grateful to the noble Lord for his assurance that this is a suspension and not a cancellation. It does mean, therefore, that the purchases of Rhodesian sugar can he renewed as soon as may be when conditions are different. One may say I think, and I believe noble Lords will agree, that the Sugar Order of itself is not a ban; it represents merely the withdrawal of a subsidy to Rhodesian producers and also a withdrawal of an assured market in Britain. But for the ban, the Rhodesians would still have been able to sell their sugar had they so wished to British refineries at the lower world price. The ban stems from administrative action made under other legislation, and so this Order should not in itself be regarded as being a ban, though a withdrawal of the subsidy makes the marketing of Rhodesian sugar in this country a very much less attractive proposition than it would have been.
Three years ago Southern Rhodesia was a net importer of sugar, and the Rhodesian sugar industry is by and large a new industry, now capable of and actually exporting increasing quantities of sugar to this country. This new industry has been financed very largely by British capital; I am told the figure is £20 million of British capital invested in the industry. This Order may well do harm to a section of Rhodesia's agriculture, but it will also cause deterioration to a sizeable British investment. Though I reluctantly agree that these Orders should be passed, let us not imagine we are damaging only the Rhodesian economy. We are harming ourselves by the absurdities of the transitional period in the Commonwealth Preference Order and we are harming British capital which was quite properly invested in Britain. With those observations, I would suggest that we accept the Orders when the Motion is finally put.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD CLITHEROE
My Lords, I agreed with nearly the whole of the speech of my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale, except his conclusion. I made it quite clear when I spoke in this House on Monday of last week that I was totally opposed to economic sanctions of all kinds because I believe they will either fail or lead to war. I see no chance of their succeeding, and therefore I think that at best we shall be put in an ignominious position, and at worst they will lead to war.
If these economic sanctions are imposed, they will, of course, strike hardest at the poorest people in Rhodesia. They will strike hard at those who are earning their living in Rhodesia at the present time, those who come from Malawi and Zambia and who, if they lose their work, will have to go home. They will inconvenience the white population. They will damage the trade of this country. They will damage the trade of Rhodesia. They will risk provoking the worst of all consequences, which would be the closing of the frontier between Zambia and Southern Rhodesia, with consequences which I will not enlarge upon to-night, but which all of your Lordships who know these countries well will realise are very important. Therefore, although I agree with all the criticisms of these Orders which my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale made in detail, I find myself unable to support him in saying that I will vote for them, and I must tell the House that I shall not be able to support the Government.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise to speak about the Commonwealth Preference Orders, Orders Nos. 1954 and 1987, in so far as they refer to tobacco, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, as I am sure your Lordships are, for the careful way in which he explained these Orders. In so far as he explained their effect on tobacco, he was nearly right, but not quite, and in the course of my few remarks I shall make it clear to your Lordships where I think he was not quite correct.
Most of your Lordships already know that I am a tobacco manufacturer, and I have thought it my duty to come down 1109 here to-night to give you a few facts, because I spent this morning at my office briefing myself on the latest position; and to assure your Lordships that I am right up to date, I may say that as I arrived at the office a telephone call came from our head office in Salisbury. I think there are some very cogent reasons why fresh thinking should be done on these Orders in so far as they apply to tobacco. The reasons have nothing whatever to do with the merits or demerits of sanctions. I hold very strong views on this matter (I largely agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken), but I do not propose to inflict them on you to-night.
These Orders apply, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion said, entirely to the 1965 crop. They cannot apply to the 1966 crop, first because it has not been planted, and secondly because it has not been sold, if it ever is sold. My remarks will be as brief as possible, entirely factual and based on information available to me as a tobacco manufacturer. The whole of the United Kingdom purchase of the 1965 crop, which amounted to 112 million lb. green weight—that is, about 46 per cent. of the total quantity grown in Rhodesia—was bought before the unilateral declaration of independence. All this crop was bought by the English manufacturers. Much of it, but not all, was shipped before the U.D.I.; some was in transit at Beira, awaiting shipment; some was packed waiting for railway trucks in Salisbury, and some in our factories in Salisbury awaiting processing and packing.
On November 12 all tobacco manufacturers in the United Kingdom received a letter from the Board of Trade which stated that all imports of Rhodesian tobacco were on licence forthwith; and this Order was, of course, based on 1939 legislation and restored war-time practice. Secondly, this letter stated—and I would ask you particularly to note this—that import licences would be granted in respect of tobacco for which documentary evidence could be produced showing that it had been purchased before November 12. Such evidence is, of course, available in respect of the 112 million lb. of the 1965 crop purchased by our manufacturers. In view of that letter from the Board of Trade, ships already at sea continued on their course; loading continued at Beira; processing 1110 and packing continued in Salisbury, the cases being dispatched by rail to Beira as and when railway wagons were available, and this is still the position to-day.
In parenthesis, I may add that part of the delay—which was not quite as unusual as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, implied—has been due to the fact that wagons have been in short supply in Salisbury, and I believe that this is partly due to unusual retentions by Zambia. However, some ships have arrived in U.K. ports within the last few days, and many more will arrive between now and Christmas. In fact, the last ships carrying tobacco from the 1965 crop will not arrive till late January or early February. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, said that the dispatches of the 1965 purchases from Rhodesia are rather later than expected. I am not now, because I am retired, but I was for many years, since 1935, executive director in my company, and it was part of my duty regularly to visit our bonded warehouses in Manchester and Belfast. I cannot tell you how many Januaries have seen Rhodesian tobacco being unloaded and weighed. So there is nothing unusual this year about prolonged dates in regard to deliveries from Rhodesia.
At any rate, the effect of the Orders we are now discussing is that Her Majesty's Customs and Excise started at once to withhold Commonwealth Preference, and if such action continues, as indeed it must under these Orders, the United Kingdom tobacco manufacturers must eventually be subjected to an extra liability or mulcting (I do not quite know what to call it) of between £1 million and £2 million. I am not familiar with the details of other manufacturers' shipments, but I went down to the offices of my own company this morning and made myself aware of the exact position. Here, among my papers (although I am not going to trouble your Lordships with it) I have a list of the ships, with their names, and other details of the amount of tobacco already loaded in them and they are still awaiting completion of their cargoes.
Rhodesian tobacco growers have been paid for this crop—the whole lot. None of us owes any money in Rhodesia at all now, but I do not quite know how we are going to keep paying our European and African employees. However, that is another question. So the only people 1111 to suffer from this immediate imposition of the withdrawal of Commonwealth Preference are the British importer and manufacturer, and eventually, of course, the British public.
It has been truly said by more than one person that sanctions are a blunt weapon. I personally have always agreed with that, ever since I began to think about such things. But in this case a better description of this particular sanction is a boomerang, because it is coming back to hurt us. I think the only people who will derive any pleasure or amusement from this boomerang exercise will be Mr. Smith and his rebel junta. I am afraid that the way this has worked out will expose Her Majesty's Government to a serious degree of derision and unpopularity. I do not think they want to appear like that in Southern Rhodesia at the moment; indeed, I am sure they do not; and I do not believe we want them to appear like that.
I hope that I have not taken too much of your Lordships' time. I have explained the position perfectly fairly. I beg the Government to withdraw these Orders, or to issue an amending Order to ensure that Commonwealth Preference applies to any tobacco from the 1965 crop legitimately purchased before November 11, irrespective of what date it was shipped or the date on which it arrives in this country. It is difficult to give an absolutely open date, but I think that February 1 would he the last reasonable date when all the 1965 crop would have been lodged in the bonded warehouses in this country.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, I am not going to inflict on your Lordships the reasons why I object to these Orders; I will content myself with saying that I do object to them. But I derive one crumb of comfort—namely, that these Orders are in fact an admission by Her Majesty's Government that Mr. Ian Smith's Government is the de facto Government in Rhodesia. I do not think it is possible to get away from that.
I should like briefly to reinforce the lucid argument which has just been put forward by my noble friend Lord Ampthill. I have no interest in the tobacco industry, and I have no particular knowledge of it. Indeed, what I have 1112 heard of this particular problem derives, in the main, from my noble friend. When I heard of what was happening, when I heard that tobacco which had been purchased perhaps months ago, where the cash had been paid, was being charged this duty, I assumed that some mistake had been made and that, just as the first Order was an oversight inasmuch as it did not cover shipments and then a second Order was introduced, so there had been another oversight. But it appears from what the, noble Lord, Lord Champion, said in his opening speech that that was not the case; that the Government realised that this hardship had been inflicted and was not prepared to do anything about it. I do not know why not—whether it was for administrative reasons or for whatever reason.
But surely, in common justice, there is no reason at all why the tobacco companies should be charged this tax. Payment was made, tobacco was received, tobacco was in the factories before November 11. There can be no reason in justice, and I cannot see that there can be any really effective administrative reason, unless the noble Lord says that he cannot trust the British tobacco companies who have operations in Rhodesia. I cannot believe that he would say that. I would appeal to the noble Lord to think again about this matter, because, as things stand, a real injustice is being done for which there is no reason, no possible advantage to Government policy, only an injustice to the tobacco companies here, and ultimately, as my noble friend has said, to the consumer.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, before the noble Lord opposite replies, I would just make an appeal to him. We quite understand the noble Lord's point that for the purpose of charging duty there must be absolute certainty as to a relevant date. But if it is the case that the relevant date in the case of sugar purchased by the Sugar Board is the date of purchase, then surely the relevant date can be the date of purchase of other goods as well. So long as the purchaser or the importer can prove with absolute certainty—and this, of course, must be left to the authorities, to Customs and Excise—that the goods were purchased 1113 on such-and-such a date, why should not those goods come in under the arrangement prior to November 19?
I put that point to him. We realise that he has gone quite a long way already in trying to reduce hardship; but I would ask him to consider whether it would not be possible to go still further. While we certainly do not intend to oppose these Orders, we hope that he will not close the door, at any rate on the possibility of looking further at this matter.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, the noble Lord. Lord Erroll of Hale, has apologised to me for the fact that he has had to leave, and one understands the reason for his absence. I must deal with some of the points he made. He was right to say that this Order is not the main instrument in respect of these sanctions. He said that the Orders deal only with a transitional period; and he is, of course, quite right. In my concluding remarks I referred to the rather wider field because I thought that that was justifiable in the circumstances. He appealed to the Government, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, to do something about the tobacco which has already been purchased but which is still in Southern Rhodesia. Lord Ampthill, of course, with his exceptional knowledge of this trade, made the point very forcibly. In the No. 2 Order we have gone some way to meet the difficulties which people are experiencing, but not all the way.
In my opening speech I dealt with the difficulties of fixing a relevant date, to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. He, too, with his knowledge as a Minister, his past support of Governments who have had to introduce Budgets, knows the difficulty of playing about with a fixed date of this sort. And, of course, tobacco manufacturers know very well the difficulties here. Indeed, to some extent they have, of course, always in the past suffered—or in some cases, perhaps, gained—as a result of fiscal measures. I would only say that, up to now, their shares are standing up to it fairly well. However, I do not want to introduce an argument like that into what is clearly a serious matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, also mentioned timber which is on the way. I am sorry that he is not here, as 1114 I should like to know what he meant by the words "on the way". Did he mean that it had been shipped from the ports I have mentioned and was actually in transit? Clearly, this is the sort of thing which is important and relevant to the question he asked me about timber. He suggested that the United Kingdom importers should in every case be spared. I am afraid that we just cannot do this, much as we should like to. He also said that the Government were taking an unfair advantage by the action they had taken on behalf of the Sugar Board in respect of the sugar which attracts Commonwealth Preference. The Sugar Board do not buy from Rhodesia sugar which would attract a preferential rate of duty. Sugar bought from Rhodesia outside the 25,000 tons is bought by private importers.
The noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, repeated his opposition to economic sanctions. He told us that it will strike hardest at the poorest people; that it will inconvenience the white population, and that it will hurt people in this country a great deal. We admit this. The only thing I would have asked Lord Clitheroe, had he still been here, is what he would have done in place of sanctions in this awful situation which we face in connection with the illegal declaration of independence.
To revert to the question of tobacco, and to the remarks of Lord Ampthill, the noble Lord said that there was documentary evidence of purchases made before U.D.I. I must say to him, and to the other noble Lords who have appealed to me on this matter, that I will make sure—this is no empty promise—that all that noble Lords have said about this will be brought to the attention of the Government. If the Government think that it would be wise to produce an amending Order, there is nothing to prevent their doing so and placing it before the House. There is nothing in the Southern Rhodesia Act which says that there shall be only one Order and never any amending Order. Indeed, of course, the No. 2 Order which is now before us is, to some extent, an amending Order, and was produced in order to meet some of the difficulties which had been brought to the attention of the Government. This rather proves that our minds are not absolutely fixed in that, having given a date, we will never in any circumstances depart from it. But I should be quite wrong if I held out too 1115 much hope to noble Lords about this. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, thoroughly understands this.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, if, with the leave of the House. I may speak again, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his remarks, which encourage in me some hope. I would add that not only is there documentary proof of where every shipment of tobacco was purchased, and when it was purchased, but I understand from the Customs and Excise people with whom we deal—I will not say which ones—that there is no difficulty, from their point of view, in sorting out which tobacco was bought on which date and applying Commonwealth Preference accordingly.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, the noble Lord's further remarks merely cause me to give a firmer promise that this point will be looked at. If the tobacco has been purchased and is not in transit—if it has not been shipped from the port—there is the difficulty which the noble Lord recognises.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to ask him whether he will point out to his colleagues, when he brings this matter to their notice, the fallacy, as I think it is, of thinking that this is just another tax change? In other words, this is not a tax change, but a political weapon.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Yes. I used the fiscal illustration merely because of the fact that in fiscal measures a date is set because of the difficulties which can arise, but I can give the noble Lord that assurance.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether there are any figures showing the unemployment that will be caused by not growing tobacco next year?
§ LORD CHAMPION
I have already mentioned the fact that we are going to hurt somebody. By this action we are bound to hurt somebody, as I am sure we hurt millions when we went to war in 1939 in defence of a principle. Occasionally, one has to take these actions, in the hope that it will avert something infinitely worse, which I think deterioration of race relations in this world would bring about.
§ LORD CHAMPION
This is how I see it, and this is how the Government see it. I cannot pretend to be absolutely expert in this field, but if I have failed to answer any point that has been made I will carefully search the record and write to noble Lords. I hope that this House will now agree to pass the first Order that I moved.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.