asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to a discrepancy between the terms of the Prohibition of Import (No. 14) Proclamation, 1917, dated 23rd February, 1917, and the revised Regulations of the Royal Commission on Paper, dated 21st February, 1917; whether the Proclamation prohibiting the import of books printed, and other printed matter, etc., was only intended to have the effect of prohibiting the import of paper as had reading matter or pictorial matter already thereon; whether the Regulations prohibiting the import of printed and coated paper were intended to include what is known in the paper trade as printed and or coated paper, i.e., paper without any reading or pictorial matter thereon, but intended solely for being printed upon in this country; and whether the Regulations were issued with the authority of the Board of Trade, and has their interpretation by the Commission been sanctioned by the Board of Trade so as to entirely exclude this imprinted paper?2740W
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension as to the existence of any discrepancy between the terms of the Proclamation and the Regulations of the Royal Commission. The Proclamation prohibits the importation of paper of all kinds except under licence, and the decision that no licences should be issued for the importation of any printed or coated papers was arrived at by his Majesty's Government on the recommendation of an Interdepartmental Committee, which fixed the quantity of paper of various descriptions to be imported during the current year.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to a memorial, dated 29th March, 1917, by certain paper importers, presented to the Royal Commission on paper, praying, inter alia, that certain coated paper with a prepared surface, but not printed upon, should in future be classified as wrapping or packing paper (which it essentially is), and not as printed paper; and whether the Government will grant an inquiry into this question of classification?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The fact that a coated paper can be used for wrapping or packing does not remove it from the category of coated papers, for the importation of which no licences are at present being issued. In the circumstances there appears no occasion for the holding of an inquiry.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to a request presented by certain importers of so-called printed and coated paper, praying for an extension of time within which to import about 3,500 tons of paper ordered by them from mills in Sweden and Belgium under licences granted by the Royal Commission on Paper prior to the issue of the revised Regulations of the Commission dated 21st February, 1917, which Regulations have been interpreted as prohibiting such import; whether he is aware that the prohibition, unless relaxed, will cause such loss to these importers as will lead to claims on their part for a return o'a sum of approximately £300,000 already paid by them as excess profits under the provisions of the Finance Acts, 1915 and 1916; whether he is aware that such interpretation appears chiefly to arise from a mistake in classification of goods; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?2741W
§ Mr. ROBERTS
My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. I understand that the Royal Commission on Paper have found it necessary to refuse all applications for extending the period of such licences for the importation of paper as expired on the 28th February, being the end of the Commission's year. This course has been adopted in order to reduce imports within the limits determined by His Majesty's Government, and the loss caused to importers, though regrettable, is unavoidable. The question of classification is dealt with in reply to the preceding question.