Empire Wines (Duty)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 1950.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin 12:00 am, 7th December 1950

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider increasing the margin of preference for Empire wines and reducing the duty, particularly on Australian heavy wines, so as to absorb some of the surplus production which was based upon the much greater pre-war imports into this country.

Photo of Mr John Edwards Mr John Edwards , Brighouse and Spenborough

Any increase in the present margins of preference in the rates of duty on wine would be contrary to the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. So far as the question of reducing the rates of wine duty is concerned, I am afraid that I cannot anticipate the Budget statement.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that before the war we took something like four-fifths of the Australian wine production, thus encouraging expansion in that industry, but that many small growers are now faced with ruin by the change of policy? Will the hon. Gentleman further bear in mind that we should really make Empire trade a two-way traffic and do the best we can to help these people in the Dominions and Colonies, who have always done so much to help us?

Photo of Mr John Edwards Mr John Edwards , Brighouse and Spenborough

I assure the hon. Member that we are fully aware of the circumstances, but I do not think that either he or anyone else would suggest that we could break the conditions of this general agreement.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that owing to the general rise in duty, the preference rate is now infinitely smaller in proportion to the general duty than it was before the war, and that it is almost true to say that there is no useful preferential rate at all?

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

Will the Minister take steps to ensure that in future no agreements are made with foreign Governments which restrict the free flow of Empire trade?

Photo of Mr John Edwards Mr John Edwards , Brighouse and Spenborough

I do not accept the suggestion that the free flow of Empire trade is being restricted.