Clause 4. — (Application of Custom Acts to Land Frontier.)

Part of Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 28th November 1922.

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Photo of Mr John Gretton Mr John Gretton , Burton

I want to know whether under this Clause it is the intention of the Government to set up a Customs barrier on the borders of Northern Ireland. Sub-section (1) deals with the making of regulations with reference to the importation and exportation of any goods into and from Northern Ireland, and regulations for the purpose of safeguarding the revenue and preventing and regulating the importation and exportation of prohibited and restricted goods. I take it that prohibited and restricted goods relate mainly to arms and explosives, but it is not clear what the Government mean by safeguarding the revenue. How will they safeguard the revenue by this Customs barrier? It is clear that the goods subject to Customs duty will be such articles as tea, sugar, alcoholic liquors and matters of that kind, and no doubt Customs duty will have to be charged upon those articles as if they were imported into any port in the United Kingdom when sent across to Northern Ireland.

There is another Clause which raises a question of greater difficulty, namely, the excisable goods sent to Southern Ireland which are afterwards sent across to Northern Ireland. Large quantities of goods are sent from Southern Ireland to Northern Ireland, and I would like to know what the Government propose to do under this Clause with regard to these matters. The Government propose to safeguard the revenue, and clearly it follows as a corollary that similar action will have to be taken in other parts of Great Britain. Therefore there will be a new Customs barrier set up by the Act under this Clause between the Free State and what was the United Kingdom. I am not quite sure that the Government realise how far this Clause really carries them. These are all matters which arise directly out of this Clause, and I think this is the proper time to ask the Government what they mean by inserting this provision and how they propose to carry out the conditions set down for safeguarding the revenue, and regulating the importation and exportation of prohibited and restricted goods.

There is another further question which will have to be dealt with. There is not the slightest doubt that under Article 12 of the Treaty Northern Ireland will elect to remain part of the United Kingdom. The boundary between Northern and Southern Ireland is of a most irregular character. The Customs harrier to which I have referred is subject to provisions under the Treaty. A boundary will have to be arranged, and it will be found that economic conditions will have to be taken into consideration. At present the boundary is over 200 miles long, and if economic conditions are to be taken into account there must be some considerable modification of the boundary in order to make it more convenient to administer the economic conditions arising out of the Customs duty. I do not propose to pursue this question any further, but I ask some Member of the Government to explain what is meant by this Clause, and how it is proposed to put it into operation.