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Clause 10—(Amendment As To Relief From Import Duties Of Certain Machinery)

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1950

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Before the Committee parts with this Clause which bears on the Import Duties Act, 1932, there is one matter I desire to raise with the Minister. The Financial Secretary will recall that last year during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, we asked that licences for the importation of certain machinery free of duly under the Import Duties Act, 1932, should also cover spare parts and accessories. I am not going to recapitulate the arguments I put forward on that occasion—they are all on record—but would remind the Committee of the outcome of last year's Debate.

The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), who was then Financial Secretary, made a sympathetic response to our request while at the same time emphasising the difficulty of effective drafting if considerable anomalies were to be avoided, and the Government undertook to look at the whole problem. I understand that certain discussions with the industry have taken place during the past 12 months, but I am also given to understand that certain unexpected difficulties have arisen, particularly on the definition of plant.

Nevertheless, there is an opportunity here for this question of parts and accessories to be cleared up. The attitude of the Treasury to the matter for some time now has been that if these are to come within Section 10 of the Finance Act, 1932, which provided the machinery for operating the Import Duties Act, new legislation would be necessary. Certain of the industries concerned in this matter maintain that this is not the case. In pre-war discussions, they suggested that parts as well as complete machines should be eligible for remission. Various Government Departments seem to have accepted that this could be done under the Finance Act of 1932 without further legislation.

None the less, nothing has been done in this matter, and the Treasury are refusing applications for duty remissions in the case of parts and accessories. It would appear that this is yet another matter which is waiting for a Ministerial ruling. My remarks are exploratory and made in the hope that the Government will take the opportunity of saying what has been done since the Finance Act of last year. Can the Chancellor or one of his satellites clarify the position?

I should like to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this Clause. Undoubtedly it is helpful to industry to have an extended time for manufacturers who are importing machinery duty free to make their applications. The position is that the application must be made before the machinery on which duty free importation is required arrives in the United Kingdom. Under this Clause the application can be made after importation but before delivery is taken. Why cannot time be extended to more than is set out in the Clause. Why cannot six months or a year be granted?

If further time could be given it would be of assistance to manufacturers and importers. It is not always the case that manufacturers and importers are aware of the conditions and able to get the application through to time. There is no alteration of the principle set out in the Clause; it is only a question of extending the time further than the Clause does. If it can be done I think it would be much appreciated by industry. It is a chance for the Chancellor to give some concession which will not cost him anything. What a wonderful thing it would be if at this hour of the morning he could give a concession when he has given so little.

It is true that there has been discussion with industry on this point, but it has not been possible to get a settlement in the way indicated by the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on this Clause. In practice there is no difficulty if a reasonable case can be made out. We do give industry a measure of protection which they want, to see whether replacement parts can be made by our own manufacturers. In addition, when it becomes a question of larger supplies of spare parts we enter the field of mass production, in which case our own manufacturers can provide them quite easily. In cases where spare parts can be provided either by mass production or by some special manufacturer in our own industry, no time is lost; the spare parts can be provided, and I would have thought that in the circumstances we ought to be sure of giving a reasonable amount of tariff protection to our industry to enable it to develop. In the matter of time there is not the difficulty to which the hon. Member referred. Spare parts are regularly available as and when they are required.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. I think it is clear that there has been a certain advance in this matter during the past 12 months. It was never suggested that the provision of spare parts by our own industries should be discouraged. Last year's Amendment referred to the import of spare parts from abroad and I was asking if there could be the same concession as existed in the Import Duties Act for the whole plant. I gathered from what the hon. Gentleman said that the matter is now running more smoothly. I do not know whether there has been a directive to the officials concerned.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.