§ Motion made, and Question proposed.
§ That the Import Duties (General) (No. 2) Order 1973 (S.I., 1973, No. 393), a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th March, be approved.—[Mr. Emery.]
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
My curiosity is awakened by the order and my general question is to ask why orders of this kind are being what one can only call dribbled out from the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry. Is it satisfactory that night after night we should have these orders dribbling out from those two major Departments of State without any real coherent discussion and, as far as I am aware, without any prior warning. I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) is not here, but my suspicion is that when he went to Manchester for the weekend he did not know about this order.
Is it really satisfactory to deal with two or three of these orders a night on very minor topics? I would quite happily have them discussed in the Committee on the Finance Bill but it looks as though they are being slipped through at inconvenient times and at the shortest of notice. That is not satisfactory.
I am further slightly curious about the order because it talks of:the purpose of igniting gas for domestic use ".How does one define gas for domestic rather than for industrial use? There should be something to cover all users. Again, although it may seem quibbling, we deserve to be told precisely what the following words amount to:whether complete or incomplete (including stems of electrical lighters and rigid or spring frames of flint lighters).
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). Not only are these orders being slipped through the House but we are not even being given the courtesy of the most perfunctory introduction by the Minister. Even at this hour we might have a few words of explanation 1054 I do not know whether the Minister is upset by what appeared in the Sunday Express about the Government and himself—that may well have upset him a little—but at least a brief explanation should be given to us now.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
I can well appreciate why some orders are coming before the House so quickly and at short notice, but it is incumbent upon the Under-Secretary of State to give us an explanation. It may be because of certain utterances by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech that the order has to go through so quickly.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Emery)
I understood that it was agreed between the normal channels that it was quite acceptable that the order should go through "on the nod", but I am only too willing to give any explanation that any hon. Member wants.
These orders are not being dribbled through. This order was made by the Treasury on the recommendation of my right hon. Friend under the Import Duties Act 1958. It imposes a duty of 2½p each on domestic gas lighters, more precisely defined asPortable lighters constructed solely for the purpose of igniting gas for domestic use".This is a phrase which has been used over a number of years and there is nothing new in it.
The order comes into operation on 1st April. The reason for it is that one of the Budget resolutions—No. 9, I believe— provides for the abolition of the Revenue duties on these lighters from midnight on 31st March. These duties, which were 20p on each home-produced lighter and 22½p on each imported lighter, provided a slight element of protection for United Kingdom manufacturers.
I am ready to explain all the technical reasons underlying the order, but the House will see that the outcome is that we still keep the 2½p domestic protection by the order. It is not very much. Indeed, it is not of great importance in terms of absolute numbers, but to the manufacturers it is of some use and for that reason we have laid the order.
§ Mr. Dalyell rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. I take it that the hon. Member does not propose to make a second speech.
§ Mr. Dalyell
No, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to ask a question. This is an example of the Government's attitude, and it is extremely unsatisfactory—
§ Mr. Dalyell
I should like to know precisely what was the nature of the discussions through the usual channels which led to the conclusion that the order would go through "on the nod"
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Import Duties (General) (No. 2) Order 1973 (S.I., 1973, No. 393), a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th March, be approved.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Kenneth Clarke.]