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Import Duties (Import Duties Act, 1932).

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 12th November 1936.

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Photo of Mr Edward Burgin Mr Edward Burgin , Luton

I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend—principally carried on. I am not for a moment making any exhaustive survey of the question, but principally tiles are, of course, made at Stoke-on-Trent. That is the home of the pottery industry, and that is where the tiles are principally derived from. Order No. 24 deals with endless band knives, which are used mostly for splitting hides and skins, and the Committee expresses the view, which I think the House will probably wish to endorse, that it is desirable that there should be some manufacture in the United Kingdom of an essential machine tool for assisting such a trade as the splitting of hides and skins, which is a trade of a very large character. The Order imposes a duty of 7d. per foot length or part of a length on band knives of a certain width, the previous duty being an ad valorem duty and now being replaced by a specific duty. If there is any question on endless band knives, I will deal with it when it has been raised.

Order No. 25, I apprehend, is an Order about which the House may like to know a little more. It came into force on 4th September, 1936, and altered the existing tariff with regard to typewriters in four particulars. It removes an ad valorem duty of 20 per cent., because the specific duty which it imposes is always more than 20 per cent. It increases the duty on typewriters of a weight exceeding 22 lbs. where the cost of the machine is more than £6—in other words, where it is a new machine—and it increases that duty from £3 10s. per typewriter to £4 10s. In 1935 there was a very considerable improvement in business conditions, and yet there was a reduction in the sale of ordinary office or standard typewriters of British manufacture, and the Import Duties Advisory Committee has come to the conclusion that it is essential for the United Kingdom manufacturers to be placed at a greater price advantage than at present, in order to attract the British purchaser to change over from the foreign machine to the United Kingdom machine, and so the duty is increased on a new foreign typewriter of standard character. The House will understand that a standard typewriter weighing more than 22 lbs. cannot be bought new for £6, and therefore the classification of a typewriter costing more than £6 means a new typewriter.

The third way in which this same Order alters the tariff is that it reduces the duty on typewriters of a weight exceeding 22 lbs., where the value does not exceed £6, from £3 10s. to £2 10s. a machine. That reduction of duty on machines that are sold at less than £6 is to help the rebuilding industry in this country. There is a very considerable industry in what is known as a rebuilt typewriter, that is to say, a machine which has served its day and generation but which is built up to become a machine selling at less than a new article normally worth a little over £20. Machines which are imported at £6 or less are second-hand machines intended to be rebuilt in the United Kingdom before being placed on sale, and the committee expresses the hope that the reduction will mean an increase in the import of machines which need rebuilding at the expense of the machine which has been rebuilt abroad.

The fourth alteration in the duty increases the duty on parts of typewriters. Hon. Members in many parts of the House know something of the way in which the United States export to this country not merely the entire typewriter, but the parts from which a typewriter can be made, and it is a maxim of the Import Duties Advisory Committee that if it places a duty on an imported article, it does not mean that the article is to be imported in pieces and assembled here without paying the same duty as the entire machine would pay. So there is a duty put up from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per lb. on cases and parts. With a higher duty on the complete machine, an increased duty is obviously necessary on the parts, and the Committee thinks that the increase of 6d. will be sufficient, but that will not apply to electric motors, where the specific duty on a weight basis bears rather hard, and they are to be charged as electrical machinery. That is a refinement, however, with which the House need not be troubled to-day.

Having dealt with Orders Numbered 25 and 24, I pause to point out that Numbers 22 and 23 deal with the duties on lace and felt hats, neither of them increased duties, and, therefore, they do not require affirmative resolutions of the House. Number 26 deals with hot-water bottles. [Laughter.] They are very desirable articles in anybody's luggage in an English climate.