Clause 4. — (Additional Provisions as to Charge of Import Duties.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough 12:00 am, 18th December 1957

I beg to move, in page 6, line 8, to leave out "chemically defined".

The Chairman:

It may be for the convenience of the Committee also to discuss the following three Amendments: page 6, line 10 leave out "either"; in fine 13, leave out "or (ii) saccharin"; in line 15, leave out "chemically pure".

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

I do not intend to spend much time on this matter, but subsection (2) appears to be one of unparalleled obscurity, and it would be valuable to have some clarification. As both the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of State have disappeared, I assume that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will reply to this debate.

I want, first, to know why the phrase "chemically defined" has been inserted. Apparently there is a discrimination against saccharin, dextrose, laevulose and hydrocarbon oils if they are separately defined organic compounds or a mixture of two or more isomers. There seems to be a certain amount of looseness in that, I can only recollect these things from my student days, and I have had to rely heavily on the scientific attainments of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), who has a more complete comprehension of these matters.

As I recollect it, an isomer is a substance which has the same molecular structure as another one, except that the atoms are arranged in the molecules in a different way. Suppose a chemically defined substance consisted of a mixture of two or more isotopes instead of isomers, would that alter the whole complexion of the subsection? I hope the Financial Secretary will make that clear.

Sub-paragraph (ii) of subsection (2, a) also appears to be a discrimination against saccharin. What is the purpose of that? We know that the sugar industry is a very powerful friend of the party of which the Financial Secretary is a member, but we should like an assurance that no undue pressure has been exerted on the Board of Trade to discriminate against saccharin, which is an obvious alternative to sugar. Saccharin is particularly valuable to people suffering that distressing complaint, diabetes, and very useful to many people in all walks of life who are conscious of their increasing weight and who wish to reduce their calorific intake. It would be helpful if the Financial Secretary could explain that apparent discrimination against saccharin.

Subsection (2, b) appears to be a discrimination against dextrose and laevulose if they are chemically pure. One is given the impression that it is a bad thing to be chemically pure and that if they are chemically impure they will not have this discrimination. We should be very glad if the Financial Secretary could make that matter clear.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) has asked me to explain the effect of subsection (2). Subsection (1) re-enacts the existing provision whereby import duties and other duties—in this case we are concerned with revenue duties—are not, generally speaking, imposed on the same articles. There are, however, cases arising under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, where a key industry duty is higher than the relevant revenue duty, and therefore we must retain the power to impose an import duty which will maintain that protective tariff on these articles. Subsection (2) therefore sets out the articles subject to a revenue duty which also are or may be subject to a higher key industry duty.

For this general purpose there are three classes of article which fall within that description. The first two are bracketed together in paragraph (a) and they both fall within Chapter 29 of the Brussels Nomenclature, Mr. Vaughan-Morgan: I beg to move and the reason for the adoption of the expression separate chemically defined organic compound is that that is the title of Chapter 29 of the Brussels Nomenclature into which all the articles on which paragraph (a) will bite are to be found. It was therefore convenient to use the same expression as occurs in the Brussels Nomenclature to pinpoint the particular chemicals in question. That is the reason for the choice of those words.

The hon. Member quite correctly explained the sense of the word "isomer" in this context. It is necessary to ensure that we do not exclude from the scope of the Clause a case in which instead of there being one such substance there are two, chemically identical, but structurally different forms of the substance included in the article in question.

There is no discrimination against saccharin. It is simply that there may be la case in which the key industry duty upon saccharin, so far as saccharin would fall within Chapter 29 of the Brussels Nomenclature, may be higher than the revenue duty and where, therefore, protection may require to be maintained. For a similar reason the words "chemically pure" are necessary as an addition to paragraph (b) since it is only where those two substances mentioned—which I gather to be forms of glucose—are chemically pure that the key industry duty could in any case be applicable to them.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Can the Financial Secretary explain his last point? As I understand it, dextrose and laevulose would be outside subsection (2) if they were chemically impure; in other words, it would not be possible to impose any import duty in respect of those substances under the Bill. It is only when they are chemically pure that an import duty can be imposed. Can the Financial Secretary explain why there should be this apparent discrimination against the chemical purity of these substances?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Because it is only if they are chemically pure that they attract a key industry duty which could be higher than the revenue duty. In no other case can that arise.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.