HC Deb 19 March 1923 vol 161 cc2133-5W

also asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether ho is aware that, following upon the imposition of export duties on the raw palm produce of Sierra Leone, the native exports, and thereby purchasing power, sharply declined; that prior to 1919 the average annual purchase of cotton goods exceeded 10,000,000 yards; that during the period of heaviest duties this fell to 4,500,000 yards per annum; and that a recent reduction in the export duties on oil and kernels was immediately followed by a substantial increase in the consumption of manufactured cotton goods; and whether, taking these facts into consideration, he will suggest to the Sierra Leone Government the abolition of all duties on the export of raw material?


As regards the first part of the question, I am aware that, following the imposition on the 1st of January, 1918, of export duties on palm kernels and palm oil in Sierra Leone, the exports of these products for 1918 were lower than for the preceding year; but during the years 1919 and 1920, when much heavier duties were in force, these exports improved considerably and reached a higher value than at any previous date. In reply to the second and third parts of the question, I am aware that, prior to 1919, the average annual quantity of cotton piece goods imported into Sierra Leone had for some years exceeded 10,000,000 yards, and that this figure dropped to 4,526,771 yards in 1921. But it is not the fact that the year 1921 was the "period of heaviest duties," since from February to August of that year the duty on palm kernels was in abeyance altogether, and the duty on palm oil was no heavier during 1921 than it had been during 1920. As regards reductions of these duties, the export duty on palm kernels has stood at its present rate since September, 1921; that on palm oils was reduced to its present figure in February, 1922. I am glad to see that the imports of cotton piece goods rose to 8,500,254 yards in 1922, though the quantity of other cotton goods imported last year declined. I do not consider that these facts warrant any such suggestion as that put forward in the last part of the question. The question of the effect of export duties on production was fully examined by the Committee appointed by Mr. Churchill to inquire into trade and taxation for British West Africa. The conclusions reached by that Committee (which may be found summarised on page 43 of their Report presented to Parliament in March last year) were, briefly, that the imposition of export duties had not, in practice, checked production, and that the falling off in the exports of palm kernels and palm oil during 1921 was mainly to be attributed to the low prices offering for those commodities in the consuming countries. The Governor of Sierra Leone was a member of the Committee, and is in agreement with its conclusions.