Oil Duties

– in the House of Commons on 25th April 1944.

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There is one other matter which I can conveniently mention at this point. When reviewing the steps which I might take to ensure that, consistently with Revenue needs, methods and scope of taxation are not inimical to the growth of industry after the war, I turned my attention to the chemical industry, so far as it is based on products derived from oil or coal. Here there is a vast field to be opened up, of which plastics are one, but only one, example. I regard it as of the first importance that this country should play a large part in these new developments. In the main, the existing Customs Duties on imported oil have been framed primarily with a view to raising substantial revenue from the use of oil as fuel, whether in internal combustion engines or otherwise. It should be possible, without unduly sacrificing revenue, to make sure that the tariff offers no obstacle to the chemical industry in obtaining the necessary raw materials from oil. I am not, however, in a position to lay specific proposals to this end before Parliament, for the reason that, although the main objective is clear, there are various aspects needing close expert scrutiny before the exact form of legislation to be introduced can be determined. In particular, investigation is needed of the inter-relationship of raw materials derived from oil and from coal respectively. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power and I, accordingly, intend shortly to arrange for an inquiry to be set on foot, in order that we may be supplied with the necessary data on which specific proposals can be based. I have reminded the Committee that we are still at war, and that the needs of the war must be our chief immediate preoccupation. But I have also said that I have felt entitled to look forward. In my remarks about our internal financial policy and our external financial position, I have indicated the problems. I hope, and believe, that, in the account I have given of my policy with regard to the incidence of taxation upon industry, I have drawn in firm outline a not unimportant contribution to industrial recovery after the war and to the policy of full employment, to which the Government and the community have pledged themselves.