Import Duties (Import Duties Act, 1932).

– in the House of Commons on 21st May 1935.

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10.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Burgin Mr Edward Burgin , Luton

I beg to move, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 12) Order, 1935, dated the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved. This Order raises the duty on dead turkeys from id. a lb. to 3d. a lb. They were originally subject to 10 per cent., and in September of 1933 the duty was increased to 3d. a lb. on fowls, ducks and geese, but turkeys were left out. In November, 1933, the 10 per cent. duty on turkeys, for convenience of sale, was altered to ld. a lb. The additional duty now brings the duty on turkeys, in common with other poultry, up to 3d. a lb. The turkey trade is a curious one. Some 70 per cent. of the consumption in the United Kingdom comes from foreign birds. These foreign birds are mainly small ones of between six and 13 lbs., whereas the British birds are mostly between 12 and 17 lbs. I have all the particulars of imports, their quantities and the countries from which they come. The United Kingdom production of turkeys is about 1,500,000, and there is no doubt that with the aid of this duty the United Kingdom turkey industry will be encouraged to produce a smaller type of bird, which is a great advantage.

11.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the House why he thinks that this duty will procure smaller birds in this country Merely because he says that it will, does not make it so. It may be prophetic optimism on his part, but it is so easy for the producers of turkeys in this country to get first a specific ad valorem duty, and then by simple application to get a 200 per cent. increase of the duty. I do not see why the home producer of turkeys should worry about a small bird, a large bird or an intermediate bird. All they need to do is to make another application for an increase from 3d. to 6d., promise the hon. Gentleman that they will produce smaller birds instead of larger birds, and he will agree to put on 6d. per lb. duty. I am not concerned about the duty on turkeys so much for 11 months and three weeks in the year, but I do think it is a grave imposition upon the working class people that during one week in the whole year when they may desire to purchase a. turkey for a family gathering they should have to pay an increased price.

It may be that 3d. a lb. duty is not very much to the hon. Member in charge of the Order or for hon. Members opposite, but on a 10 lb. turkey it would mean a duty of 2s. 6d., which to many poor families would make the difference between having a turkey or not at Christmas. For 11 months and three weeks of the year I suppose the turkeys will be consumed in the large hotels or the large cafes. I am not interested in them. If they have to pay the main proportion of the extra amount which this duty is expected to raise one will not shed any tears about them, but when the hon. Member asks for a 200 per cent. increase in the duty, at least he ought to give some justification before he expects the House to accept his figures. It is generally understood that the foreign bird is smaller, more usable and desirable, and that the English producer has not attempted to meet the demand of a well-known market. If they continue to get increase upon increase, as has been the case in a very short space of time, two changes within about six months, I do not see that the optimism of the hon. Member about the production of smaller birds is likely to be realised.

These orders are taken late at night when hon. and right hon. Members are not really interested in what is happening, and it is simply imposing burdens upon large sections of the community without their knowing exactly what is taking place. If the hon. Member can satisfy the House that as a result of this duty home producers will try to meet a known demand for small birds it may be that there will be no hostility or opposition to the Order, but when this kind of Order keeps going through, increasing duty after duty, the matter will have to be dealt with by the Government sooner or later; otherwise, we shall find ourselves in a position where the simple process of asking for an increased duty upon any article will be so easy that there will be 10,000 applications, and we shall meet ourselves coming back.

11.5 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland , Canterbury

As one who raises turkeys I am very glad to bear the Government have been asked to come to our help. It was by an oversight that the 3d. per lb. tax on turkeys was not raised to the same extent as fowls at the beginning. You cannot speak about a 200 per cent. increase as the last speaker did. It is raising the duty on all poultry to the same extent, and, if we had not this protection, I am confident that in a year or two's time, considering the competition with foreign turkeys which we have to face, the turkey industry in this country, if it had not died out, would certainly have been most severely hit. We do raise heavier turkeys than producers on the Continent, and we know that at the present day there is a demand mainly for turkeys of about 8 to 12 lbs., and I believe that the English turkey raisers intend with this protection to compete not only in weight with the foreign raiser. The small turkeys which come from the Continent contain more bone in proportion to flesh than the English and though sold at the same price are in the end much dearer.

11.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

I only intervene to explain why it is that the English turkey is bigger than the foreign one. Because of education carried on at shows and elsewhere we have raised turkeys of a higher standard. We have also fed them better, and they have become unduly heavy compared with the demands of the market. I have no doubt that now that the Minister has pointed out the value of small turkeys—and I hope he will draw the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to it—the English producer will be able to change the position. I would remind the House that very largely the English turkey is bigger because it has been rather too much overfed.

11.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Burgin Mr Edward Burgin , Luton

Two points have been raised, whether the English grower can be persuaded to grow something else if the market desires it and whether the price will be unduly raised against the consumer. The Import Duties Advisory Committee say that the home producers who have hitherto specialised in the larger birds are now conscious of the changing demands of the market. I can only repeat the same assurance. With regard to price, it is a delusion to think that the turkey is a universally desired article of food. The total supply of turkeys in this country would only supply about a third of the families in the country if everybody wanted one. But the fact is that there are other general demands for Christmas dinners. The price of turkeys after the increase in duty is not likely to be as high as the average December price between 1925 and 1932. There is therefore nothing in the objection either that the growers will not grow the right kind of bird or that the prices will be unduly high.

Resolved, That the Additional Import Duties (No. 12) Order, 1935, dated the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the said thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved.

The remaining Orders were read and postponed.