§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:—
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
said he wished to leave out "purpose" from line 5 and insert the words, "purposes of Section 2 of this Act." He explained that the object of putting down the Amendment was to elicit from the Chancellor of the Exchequer some statement as to whether the object of dispensing with the requirements mentioned in the sub-section was to enable stock which had not been issued under the Act to come within the operation of the Colonial Stock Act, and whether there was no intention in any way to give relief to stocks already under the Act, but 792 which had not complied with its requirements. If that correctly described the intention of the clause, then he doubted if the wording sufficiently carried it out; hence his Amendment. Still, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer was satisfied with the clause as it stood, and assured them it would not relieve stocks of their existing liability under the Act, but would only affect new stock brought in, then he would not press the Amendment. Pending the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, however, he begged to move.
In page 1, line 5, to leave out 'purpose,' and insert 'purposes of Section 2 of this Act and.'"—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
The intention of the clause is precisely as the hon. Member says. It merely affects stocks which have not hitherto come within the operation of the Act. I do not think the Amendment would in any way improve it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:—
§ MR. CALDWELL
I have to move the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Poplar, namely—In page 1, line 16, to leave out from 'observed,' to end of paragraph, and insert 'the conditions as set forth in the Schedule to this Act.'
§ Sir M. HICKS BEACH
I think the Amendment I have to propose will meet the views of the hon. Member.
In page 1, line 21, at end, to add, 'The Treasury shall keep a list of any Colonial stocks in respect of which the provisions of this Act are for the time being complied with, and shall publish the list in such manner as they think fit.'"—(The Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. CALDWELL
said this Amendment introduced a novel procedure. 793 Hitherto the conditions under which trustees were allowed to invest in certain stocks had been laid down by Act of Parliament. But by this Bill the Treasury took the place of Parliament, and assumed the responsibility. It was to fix the conditions under which trustees might invest in certain Colonial stock, and it was practically to grant a certificate that certain conditions had been complied with. That might or might not be a good thing, but it certainly was an entire departure from the principles which had hitherto characterised the legislation of this country. Now the Treasury he noted was to "publish the list in such manner as they think fit." This he thought was too wide a power, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would substitute some more definite instruction.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said this sub-section seemed to him to be an attempt to put the Treasury above every Act of Parliament. It proposed to empower it to impose conditions contained in no Act of Parliament, and which might not necessarily be of a cognate nature with it. It was an extremely dangerous thing to give the Treasury power to make provisions which would practically override an Act of Parliament; yet here it was proposed to enable it to impose any mortal condition it pleased, in addition to those insisted upon by Act of Parliament. They knew that the Treasury had far too much power already in regard to prescribing the form in which accounts should be rendered, and the result of the exercise of it in the past had been altogether unsatisfactory. The Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed that the Treasury should keep a list of any Colonial stocks in respect of which the provisions of this Act were for the time being com-plied with, and should publish the list in such manner as they thought fit. They might, in fact, publish it in any method, or in any newspaper they pleased. It might, if the Treasury were corrupt, be reserved exclusively for one publication. He objected to all that part of the clause which followed the word "Act." But if it was to be passed and this addendum made, then it must be amended, and he would move to leave out all the words after "in" in the Amendment in order to insert the words "the London Gazette."
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
To leave out all the words after the word 'in,' in line 4, in order to insert the words 'the London Gazette.'"—(Mr. Gibson Bowles.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'such manner as they think fit' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
pointed out that the list might, as it stood, be altered and amended on grounds not altogether financial. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was aware that pressure was brought to bear by the Colonial Governments to obtain facilities for placing their stocks on the London money market in return for favours done by them for the Imperial Government. Colonial communities were very anxious to get an official recognition of their stocks, and were prepared to offer inducements in return not of a financial character. It would be most desirable to secure that the proposals relating to the application of this Bill when it became an Act should be wholly based on financial grounds.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
was understood to say that he was not aware that any inducements had been offered of the kind suggested by the right hon. Member for Thanet. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for King's Lynn, he was prepared to accept it.
§ MR. CALDWELL
did not consider that the Amendment was an improvement. The document was not well or widely known, and if these words were to be added it ought to at least be in such a way as would ensure the document being laid before Parliament so that people might be able to see it. If it was intended that these stocks should be well taken up, the procedure should be made as simple as possible. People could not lie expected to turn up the London Gazette time after time to see what stock was authorised and what not. A better way would be to let the certificate be recorded in the books of the registry of the particular stocks, and place the general registry in the Land Registry, where trustees, who were personally responsible for the investments they made, were in the habit 795 of making searches in such matters, so that people could go and see it at once. To have to look up the London Gazette every time one wanted to make an investment to see if a stock was authorised and when it was authorised, and whether it had since been cancelled, would be an interminable task. And it was quite impracticable. He would rather take the right hon. Gentleman's word upon such a matter, because in the course of time the right hon. Gentleman would give some tangible information. He hoped some more satisfactory arrangement would be made which would give the public good information.
§ *SIR. HICKS BEACH
suggested that the clause should read "in the London Gazette, or in such other manner as will give the public full information."
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked leave, in the face of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Amendment of Sir M. Hicks Beach, altered as just indicated, agreed to.
§ Clauses 2, 3, and 4 agreed to.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said that this Bill ought not to apply to Scotland. There was already power in Scotland for investing in Colonial stocks, that power being vested in the Court of Session. In England power in this matter was vested in Parliament, in Scotland it was delegated to the Court of Session.
New clause—This Bill shall not apply to Scotland."—(Mr. Caldwell.)—brought up, and read a second time.
§ Motion moved, and Question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ *Sir M. HICKS BEACH
complained that no notice had been given by the hon. Gentleman of his intention to move this clause. He pointed out that the Colonial Stocks Act applied to both kingdoms alike. It was possible at present for the proper courts in England to give trustees authority to invest in Colonial stocks. It 796 had been done in Scotland but not in England, because the English courts did not desire to act in the matter without an Act of Parliament. This Bill, when passed, would strengthen the hands of the Court of Session in Scotland. He could not agree not to extend the Bill to Scotland, which had quite as much need for the Bill as England.
§ MR. CALDWELL
admitted that he had given no notice of his motion, but drew attention to the fact there would be a conflict of jurisdiction in Scotland which was not desirable if this Bill was made to apply to Scotland.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
undertook, if the hon. Member for Mid Lanark did not press the motion, to consider the matter between this and the Report stage.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill reported, with Amendments. As amended, to be considered To-morrow.