asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that in some ports toy tin trumpets and toy pianos costing 1s. 6d. each are being detained as liable for duty as musical instruments, whilst in other ports they are reckoned as toys and allowed to pass through; and can he give instructions to the examining officers that all toys, whether they omit sounds or not, shall be treated as toys and not as instruments of music?
The fact of an article being a toy does not necessarily prevent it from being also a musical instrument. As a matter of fact, however, there is a special exemption in the case of musical instruments when the value does not exceed 1s. I am not aware of any divergence in the practice of Customs officials at different ports in regard to this matter, but if the hon. Member will give me particulars of any specific instance, I will cause inquiry to be made.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why measure (glass) forms are being held to be liable to key industries duty when they are imported previous to being graduated and engraved, seeing that glass jugs of all sizes, from quarter-pint to four pint imported for graduation, are admitted free of duty; and if he can say why large tumblers are allowed in free of duty whereas the smaller size of tumbler is marked down for duty?
I have been asked to answer this question. Certain types of measuring and test glasses, whether graduated or ungraduated, are included in the list of dutiable articles falling under the heading of Scientific Glassware. Glass jugs are not scientific glassware, and consequently are not dutiable. As regards the last part of the question, I am not aware that any duty has been levied on small tumblers.
Chlorate Of Potash
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that in the lists of commodities defining the key industries schedule which were published by the Board of Trade, ordinary chlorate of potash was included and that, in consequence, a key industries duty of 33⅓ per cent. was levied by His Majesty's Customs on consignments of this commodity which arrived in this country early in October, and that the Department have since removed this item from the official lists; whether, seeing that this constitutes an admission that the commodity was wrongly included at first, the duties already paid by the importers on the consignments referred to will be refunded to them; and what action is he taking to publish the fact that although this commodity is supposed to be liable to duty, yet henceforth no duty will be levied?
I am aware of the fact that the item "potassium chlorate" was shown on the Board of Trade lit without the qualifying letter "R" which should have been prefixed. The error has been corrected by notice in the Board of Trade Journal of the 20th October, and, in any case where duty has been levied on importations of this article which can be shown not to have been of "R" quality, the duty will be refunded. The Commissioners of Customs have issued instructions accordingly.
Old Sinking Fund
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether the Treasury can still use the old Sinking Fund to repay deficiency advances; and, if so, whether he will consider the prohibition of such repayments without a special application to Parliament?
I do not think it neces-necessary to make any alteration in the Acts governing this matter. There have in fact been no deficiency advances since 1914.
(by Private Notice)asked the Prime Minister whether he can say whether it is true that the Jugo-Slav forces have already reached the Albanian sea coast; and when the emergency meeting of the Council of the League for dealing with the Albanian question is to take place?
I have no official confirmation of the report that the Jugo-Slav forces have reached Alessio. I understand that the emergency meeting of the Council of the League of Nations is to take place in Paris in a few days' time.
Prorogation Of Parliament
(by Private Notice)asked the Prime Minister if he can say whether it is the intention of the Government to prorogue or adjourn Parliament when the Government business now before the House has been disposed of?
May I ask a question which I think is relevant to the subject before the House? I wish to know if the Government will give any opportunity for discussing a question which has excited widespread interest both in the country and in the House of Commons in reference to the articles of the so-called Angora Treaty? I have a Motion down calling attention to this subject from the point of view of the interests of the Christian and other non-Turkish subjects in the Turkish Empire, and I hope the Government will see their way to give an opportunity for the expression of our point of view on that question, subject to the understanding that we say nothing that might in any way impair friendly relations.
The request which the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) has just made is the third request for an extra day which I have been asked to give in the course of these Sittings. With regard to the remainder of the business for which Parliament was summoned, very little remains to be done, namely, the Consolidated Fund Bill and the consideration of Amendments from another place, and our hope is that this business may be concluded to-day and to-morrow by seven o'clock. From inquiries made in different quarters, I gather that that will be possible, and, being possible, that is desired by the Government—I had better not say by everybody, but by a great majority of the House. In that case Parliament will be prorogued as soon as our business is completed.
What about Ireland?
May I add with reference to the special case raised by my hon. Friend, that as I promised after the Question was raised by him the other day and by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), I did consult the Foreign Secretary as to whether matters had reached a point at which we might have a discussion in this House. I have been informed that communications are still proceeding, and are not completed between the French Government and our Government. In these circumstances, I do not think we can usefully say anything in a Debate of this kind at the present moment.
May I ask in what respect present circumstances differ from those contemplated when the House adjourned on the 19th August, when the Conference was proceeding, and a crisis might probably arise before the ordinary period when Parliament would be summoned—a crisis which would require the attention of Parliament?
I should have thought that the difference between August and November was an obvious one, if I may say so. Parliament, if it had been prorogued in August, would not, in the normal course, have met again until January next. We thought that it was a critical moment and therefore it was desirable to make arrangements for Parliament to meet earlier. We have done that, and we now think the time has come to close this long Session, and, if it be necessary to summon Parliament again, it should be for a new session.
I want to put a question to the Leader of the House. In so doing, I am sure he is fully aware of the fact that all Members of the House and people all over the whole country, are not only deeply concerned in the negotiations proceeding in respect of the Irish question, but are anxious for them to have a happy issue. In view of the fact, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether steps cannot be taken, either to postpone the Prorogation or make some arrange- ment whereby the Prime Minister may be able to make some statement to the House before the House rises?
May I remind my right hon. Friend that the Prime Minister, on the Adjournment of the House in August, said that, if the negotiations broke down, Parliament would be summoned. Nobody knows whether they are going to break down or not, and, therefore, would it not be better to have an Adjournment and not a Prorogation?
Are not the reasons and conditions which actuated the Prime Minister's statement on 19th August still more operative at the present time?
That is a question which I have already answered. My hon. Friend may think that our reasons are unsatisfactory, but they have satisfied us As regards the question put by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) I do not think that the Prime Minister would have any special statement to make to the House. I will get into touch with him. There is a function to-night which, by ancient tradition, the Prime Minister always attends, and his utterances on that occasion are always ones to which special attention is directed. I very much doubt whether either to-night or to-morrow in this House the Prime Minister would make any statement of the character suggested.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that no arrangement will be come to in regard to the Irish situation without calling together this House?
As regards the control of Parliament over any arrangement, I have nothing to add to the Prime Minister's statements on many occasions and as late as on Monday week last.
Has there not been a definite statement in this House that no final settlement would be arrived at without giving the House an opportunity of discussing it?
That question has been asked several times and clearly answered several times.
I have not heard it answered once.
On a question of Order. May I ask whether I would be in order in raising the question of the future of Christian and other non-Turkish races under the Turkish Empire as affected by the so-called Treaty of Angora, on the discussion on the Consolidated Fund Bill?
I think not. The Consolidated Fund Bill contains only Votes which have been passed since the House re-assembled in October, and therefore the discussion on the Bill must be relevant to what the Bill contains.