Orders of the Day — Clause 4. — (Annual Duties (Continuation).)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1952.

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Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East 12:00 am, 24th July 1952

There are other reasons beyond those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) why we should just give a moment or two to Clause 4. I am sorry that the last of the four Amendments on the Order Paper for amending the Clause was not called, but I can quite understand that that was at the exercise of your discretion, Sir Charles.

I want to draw attention to the very curious effect of the second half of the Clause, because as it stands this is the effect of continuing in force certain powers which are given by the Acts set out in the table to the Governor. As I understand it, under the Customs legislation of the Isle of Man some of these Acts give the Governor power to make orders varying or repealing Customs Duties and also give him power to impose new duties on goods.

It is an entirely novel conception for us that Parliament should give the executive power to impose new duties, and the effect of continuing the operation of subsection (2) is that in all the Acts which confer these powers on the Governor this executive power can be continued for another year. I hope when the Financial Secretary comes to reply he will he able to tell us that one of the matters which will be engaging the attention of himself and the representatives of the Isle of Man in connection with these financial arrangements is whether it is reasonable, whether it is desired in the Isle of Man—I am quite sure it is not desired here—that there should be this quite anomalous power given to a non-elected Governor to impose completely new Customs duties. It is true that they are limited in operation to a year.

I hope the Financial Secretary will agree with me that in the new arrangements which are being worked out with the Isle of Man it will be realised by their representatives that in these days it is quite anomalous, quite contrary to all democratic conceptions, that the Governor of the Isle of Man should have the sole and uncontrolled right to impose new Customs duties. When I read this it struck me with surprise that the right existed, but it strikes me with even greater surprise that the Government should ask the House to continue in operation a very curious and undemocratic regulation of this kind.

This seems to me to be another of the quite out of date and obsolete regulations which, I suppose, have been inherited for several decades, and I feel that in this debate, which the Lord Privy Seal thought was inopportune and so contrary to all precedent, this is another, and by no means the least important, of the matters which could quite fruitfully be amended and put on a modern basis in the new arrangements that are being worked out.