Orders of the Day — Customs (Import Deposits) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1969.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe 12:00 am, 17th November 1969

The company I quoted started about 10 years ago and has expended very rapidly in that time, but has to get a very considerable market indeed to justify a capital investment of several millions of pounds before making itself independent of imported raw material. As it is, I must say that the company has made quite amazing progress in that 10 years—I am one of the managers.

That example is certainly not unique. Many people have been affected. The greatest damage has been done by the Measure's long-term effect on the cash flows of companies caught by this import deposit. If the scheme is to work as it is said it will in the coming year, certain amendments are needed. I would not necessarily disagree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), who suggested a Statute which would enable us from time to time, as necessary, to introduce various checks and restrictions designed to correct our imbalance.

Where I do disagree, and violently, is with the way in which the Measure has been introduced and operated. That has done a great deal of harm. The whole thing should be reviewed. During the last 12 months investigations should have been made to see how the scheme was affecting the various interests that were most hard hit by the payment of import deposits. So far as I can gather from what we have heard from the Government today, no such investigation has taken place. There have been vague remarks about its effect on the rate of imports but we have had no information about the very serious effect that the scheme can have on certain industries most affected by it.

If we are to put on the Statute Book a Measure designed to introduce certain checks to redress balance of payments, we must endeavour to ensure that it is reasonably fair in its impact on industry as a whole; and that that impact does not fall only on one small section of industry. My criticism is that the impact does fall on a small section. It has been said that the Measure as a whole is not of great importance, but it is of great importance to those companies most affected by it. We should review the list of imports affected, and see whether it should not be brought up to date.

If our economy is as strong as the Government Front Bench would have us believe, a continuation of this scheme is unnecessary. If it is not as strong as they would have us believe, the scheme, by making capital expansion more difficult, is sacrificing long-term advantage for a short-term benefit. I am sure that those of my hon. Friends who suggested earlier that removal of this import deposits scheme would have more impact on the electorate next year were quite right.