HC Deb 06 May 1925 vol 183 cc951-2
Commander WILLIAMS (by Private Notice)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he proposes to take any steps to prevent abnormal importations of goods covered by the McKenna Duties in the interval before they come into force?

Captain BENN

On a point of Order. Are these duties correctly described as "McKenna Duties "? Is the term known to Parliament? Would they not be more properly described as "Churchill Duties "?


There are certain phrases which come into common use, though they may not be found in the dictionary. It would not be very easy for me, I think, to prevent the use of these after they have come into common use.

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Churchill)

My attention has been called to this matter. In making my estimate of Revenue from these duties—these so-called McKenna Duties—for the current year I made allowance for some increase in importations between the Budget statement and the date of the operation of the duties. The matter is being carefully watched, and I shall not hesitate to come to the House for authority to ante-date the operation of the duties should my esti- mate of Revenue show signs of being prejudiced by excessive importations. Meanwhile the Customs authorities are keeping careful record of all importations so as to be in a position to collect the duty retrospectively should such a course be found necessary.


Is there any precedent for retrospective taxation of this sort? Is there any reason to believe that any of this importation is dishonest or fraudulent?


These are matters which will have to be taken into consideration by the House, in the event of it being necessary to ask for further powers.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that he is doing much more harm by this uncertainty and threatening than even the mischief that the duties themselves will do?


That is a matter for argument.


If the right hon. Gentleman was putting a duty on tobacco, sugar or tea, would he not make it from the date of the announcement of the duty? Why should there be a different procedure adopted in regard to these duties?


That is due to the law of the land, which only allows duties already in existence to be reimposed, or varied, as from the date of the passing of the Resolutions by the House. The Resolutions do not afford a basis for the collection of these duties which, as in this case, are new subjects of taxation, and therefore require to be treated by a different procedure.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say on whom he proposes to levy the duties, in the event of these articles having changed hands?


It will be time to consider that point when the matter arises in debate.