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Rubber Duty

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1950

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39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultation took place with bodies representing rubber growers, packers and shippers, and estate workers before the new rubber tax, due to come into operation on 1st January, 1951, was announced in Malaya.

41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultations took place between representatives of the rubber industry, Asian and European, either in Malaya or London, as to the practicability and effect of the new rubber duties before they were fixed.

Before the announcement of the new duty on 4th November, a tentative scale was put forward at an informal meeting with representatives of the rubber industry on 9th September. A letter was sent on 12th September to the United Planting Association of Malaya, the Malayan Estate Owners Association, the Malayan Planting Industrial Employment Association, and the Chambers of Commerce. This letter was published in the local Press on 23rd September. An open invitation to submit views was given in the Legislative Council (in which small-holders' interests are represented) on 25th September. As a result, local representations from all sections of the industry were received and considered. Further consultation with the industry is now proceeding locally, and a communiqué was issued on 18th November, the text of which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what was the effect of these representations on the proposals?

What, then, is the justification for the statements made at Kuala Lumpur by the rubber associations that no real consultation took place before the price was fixed?

Because of those arrangements does my right hon. Friend accept the view that the imposition of the tax was not wrong and improper, in the circumstances?

I think that the Government and people of Malaya are entitled to increase their revenue from this increased prosperity. They need the money badly to meet the cost of the present emergency, and to finance re-development.

Following is the communiqé:

His Excellency the officer administering the Government received a delegation from the rubber producing industry this morning to discuss rates of export duty to be imposed as from 1st January next year. After the meeting, it was announced that the Government will consider carefully and sympathetically representations made by the delegation, and that further meetings will be held in the near future with a view to reaching agreement.

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what opportunities were given to the Malayan Federal Legislative Council to discuss the new rubber duty, due to come into operation on 1st January, 1951, before it was imposed by notification in the official Gazette.

42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why no opportunity was given to the members of the Legislative Council of the Federation of Malaya to discuss the effects of the new rubber duty before they were introduced.

The procedure established by law is for rates of export duty to be fixed by promulgation by the Executive, under powers conferred by the Customs Proclamation of 15th September, 1945, which were ratified by the Legislative Council on 24th February, 1948. In this instance, in view of the importance of the new duty, the Government has Given advance notice of its intention to raise the duty, but has not yet formally promulgated the new rates in the Gazette. I have indicated, in reply to the last Question, that full opportunity for local discussion is being given, and it is possible that the question may be raised by members in the Legislative Council which is now in session.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that it is possible this matter may be raised, is he thereby giving an assurance that, if it is raised, it will be allowed to be fully discussed and fully answered by the Government in the Legislature?

This is a Legislative Council. It is not for me to give an undertaking as to what they should do. If members desire to raise it they will have to raise it in accordance with the local practice and the Standing Orders of their own Legislative Council.

Does the Minister realise that what matters is not the letter of the law but the spirit, and that it is no good talking about granting a Colony self-government if, in a matter of this kind, they have not been adequately consulted?

I am sure that there have been very adequate consultations with those concerned.