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Clause 2—(Raw Cotton To Be Imported Only By The Commission)

Volume 436: debated on Friday 18 April 1947

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1.45 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, to leave out "or."

This Amendment and the Amendment which follows it on the Order Paper have been put down as the result of a promise I made when representations were put to me in Committee by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow), who pointed out that the prohibition of imports might exclude samples and that it might be very desirable to permit merchants, who, as I have explained, would be carrying on a considerable part of their merchanting business, to obtain samples of cotton available to them in other countries. This would enable them to carry on their third-country or re-export trade. The hon. Member moved an Amendment in Committee to permit the importation of samples of cotton of a weight not greater than 5 lbs. each. We propose to go a little further. We now propose to permit the importation of cotton in larger amounts than 5 lbs.

I am glad that the Minister has moved the Amendment. The absence of any mention of samples in the Bill showed the danger of a bureaucratic or theoretical approach to any sort of business transaction. It appears fantastic that it should have been kept out of the Bill. Many spinners have been adversely affected by the restrictions imposed upon the sending out of samples. I am glad that the Government, under pressure from the Opposition, have done something to make a bad Bill less bad.

I should be ungrateful if I did not congratulate the Opposition on the part which they have played in getting this Amendment made in the Bill. It is not a matter of small importance. It is the second or third time that concessions have been given in this way, and I congratulate the Members who have obtained them. The Government have had the wisdom to make this concession. I cannot make out why, with the knowledge which the Department must have of the control of the cotton trade since 1941, this provision was omitted from the original Bill. It seems that the Government, once again, have added to the long list of hastily drafted Measures which have been put before this House after very little consideration. Another reason why I think it is reasonable to accept this Amendment is that it keeps open a tiny portion of the channel of trade, and does something to encourage the cotton people who are using this market to realise that it is not closed once and for all. It does something to lubricate and keep going this trade. So far as that is concerned, I congratulate the Government on accepting the Amendment. I speak as one who does not come from that area of England which is taking a very great interest in this Bill. I hope that these samples will drift into the country in considerable numbers. I think with regard to the removal of the limit that is a thing for which we ought to thank the Government.

I would ask the Minister, as this has been due to muddle and mess on the part of the Government, if we may have an assurance that there is a proper definition in the Bill of the word "sample." In most Bills in which there is a word of that sort it is defined. I do not see any such definition in this Bill. It may be hidden away, and if so perhaps the Minister will be kind enough to tell me where it is, and what assurance there is in the Bill that a sample can be more than five pounds weight. Will he also give an assurance that, so far as this word "sample" is concerned, there will be no abuse? I wish that the word "sample" could be defined widely enough to include a whole shipload, because then that would wreck this rotten Bill. At any rate, may I have a definition of a sample? I think now that we have the welcome addition of two thinking Members more or less on the Front Bench opposite, and two ornaments, or drill sergeants—the people who stamp on your feet and all that sort of thing—we should be given some further knowledge. No answer?

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 27, at the end, to insert:

(c) to cotton imported in a quantity small enough to indicate to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise that it is imported as a sample only."

This is said to be a consequential Amendment. I am a little doubtful about that, and, before I accept this as consequential, may I not have an answer to the question which I put very seriously a moment ago? It was as a matter of courtesy that I curtailed my remarks.

The hon. Gentleman has already spoken on this subject. We were taking these two Amendments together.

I think that I still have the right to speak again, but I do not wish to speak again if I may have the usual courtesy of an answer. If the Minister will say that he will give me the definition for which I asked I will sit down, and deprive myself of the right to speak again. I want to know the definition of a sample. May I help the Government by suggesting that, if it is necessary to define "sample", they will have the definition put in, in another place? I am willing to sit down at this moment, if they will give the assurance either that the definition is already in the Bill, or, if it is not there, that they will consider it.

I feel fairly confident that the Commissioners of Customs and Excise who every day of their lives deal with samples coming through the Customs and are fully aware of what is a sample. I cannot say if the term is defined in other Acts of Parliament which regulate the duties of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, but I Should be surprised if it were not, It is not defined in this Bill, and I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that, before the Bill is considered in another place, the question of whether a definition of "sample" shall be put in, will be considered.

Amendment agreed to.

2.0 p.m.