Clause 3. — (Charge of Temporary Customs Duty.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen 12:00 am, 1st December 1964

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie) was quite right when he said that the surcharge would make the home market easier. That is its effect although it may not be its motive. But no one is interested very much in motives. What people are interested in is effects. The effect of this surcharge is to give protection to the home producer. Foreign or Commonwealth manufactured goods will be more expensive and thus a protective market will be given to the home producer. The surcharge is not put on for protectionist motives—we have been assured of that over and over again—but that is bound to be its effect. If it does not have that effect, the whole object of the exercise will have failed. The object surely is to make foreign and Commonwealth goods more expensive.

One Government spokesman, when the surcharge was first put on, cast doubt on that. In a pious speech, he expressed the hope that the prices of foreign and Commonwealth goods which came to this country would not be raised. This showed a degree of muddle-headedness which passed comprehension, because if the prices of foreign and Commonwealth goods are not raised the whole object of the exercise will be pointless. The object is to make people buy domestically produced goods, and they will be so persuaded only if the prices of foreign and Commonwealth goods are raised. This is symptomatic of the muddle into which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have got themselves.

Undoubtedly, every month that the surcharge continues there will be a sort of log jam. People who wish to buy foreign or Commonwealth produced goods will lay off buying because they have the word of several right hon. Members opposite that in a matter of months it will be taken off. Once that is said the surcharge loses its object to a large extent. People have only to hold off for a few months and to use up their stocks and not replenish them and they will be able o buy, as they have been doing semi-manufactured or completely manufactured goods from overseas.

So both in the speech made by a member of the Government when he said that he hoped that domestic prices would not be raised and in the remarks of several other right hon. Gentlemen when they said that the surcharge would be coming off in a matter of months, they have done their level best to ensure that the whole object of this surcharge is defeated. The only way to deal with it in that case is to take it off as soon as possible, certainly by May of next year, which is the six months' period mentioned by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland.