HC Deb 23 August 1894 vol 29 cc346-8

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if the recent seizure at Leith of 6,000 German chisels, falsely marked with English wording and as Sheffield made, was under the 16th section of The Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, and duly reported to the Board of Trade, to whom the duty of prosecuting under it has been expressly confided by Parliament; why no proceedings were instituted, and if it is too late to repair the omission; if the Customs Authorities at all ports will be directed to search very strictly all consignments from and to the same parties for similar contraband; and if, in directing the sale for £25 on Government account of a large line of contraband foreign edge-tools, he considered the effect on the operatives in Sheffield, the placing among whom of such an order would have set £112 10s. into industrial circulation?


The seizure by the Customs at Leith was not reported to the Board of Trade. Section 16 of the Act referred to assigns the duty of dealing with imported goods to the Commissioners of Customs only. Seizure was the appropriate penalty, and it was applied; no other proceedings were possible in the present case. The directions given by the Board of Customs as to search were effective in this case, and I know of no reason why their officers should be directed to be more vigilant. With regard to the last paragraph of the hon. and gallant Member's question, I must point out that foreign-made goods are not prohibited from being sold in this country on account of their origin unless they are illegally marked. Illegal marks are always removed prior to the sale of seized goods. The Board of Trade did not direct the sale of these chisels; they were sold by order of the Commissioners of Customs.


As the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the administration of the Merchandise Marks Act, will he communicate with the Board of Customs and arrange that any future seizures of a similar nature shall at once be notified to the Board of Trade?

MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

What became of the chisels?


They were seized and sold by the Inspectors of Customs in the market. The administration of the Merchandise Marks Act is only in the hands of the Board of Trade in so far as statutory provisions put it in their hands.


Is it not a fact that prosecutions for offences under the Act have been specially intrusted to the Board of Trade? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the name of the importer of these fraudulent goods?


Is it the case that these chisels were sold in the English and Scotch markets; and are they being re-sold to British workmen with the brand of Sheffield manufacture upon them; are not the chisels so branded at the present time being purchased and used by British workmen under the false impression that these are British-made goods; and is the Merchandise Marks Act capable of being interpreted so as to permit such a state of things?


It is the duty of the Customs Authorities before selling goods so seized to remove the marks; and I understand that as a matter of course that provision of the Statute was complied with in this case. It is true that the prosecution of offences under the Act has been intrusted to the Board of Trade, but, in the present case, there could not have been any prosecution.


I will call attention to this matter on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill.

In reply to Mr. MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe),


said, the object of the Merchandise Marks Act was to prevent the use of words which were calculated to give a false indication of the origin of articles so branded. These chisels which were seized were marked "Warranted cast steel," whereas they were of German manufacture, and such words were not properly applicable to them, hence they were seized.