§ As amended (by the Standing Committee) considered.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)
said he wished to move the following new clause—In the application of this Act to Scotland, all jurisdiction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts is hereby conferred on sheriffs.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that Clause 1 was practically the entire Bill; and he submitted that an Amendment which was inconsistent with or contradictory to a Bill as agreed to by a Committee was not in order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That rule does not often apply, bat it may apply in this particular case. Clause 1 is the entire Bill with the exception of a few sections which refer to the application of other Acts.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said that the inconvenience arose solely from the operation of putting the whole Bill into one clause. It was always convenient to move the omission of the clause in order to discuss it generally before proceeding with the Amendments. If he were not permitted to move the omission of the clause, he would only have to move the omission of each sub-section separately; but that would be inconvenient, as the sub-sections depended on each other, and it would not be possible to have a general discussion as to the merits of the Amendments.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I will not take the course I am invited to take, and rule this Amendment out of order, so the hon. Member may proceed with his Amendment.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said it was very much more convenient to deal with the 376 clause as a whole, as they would be able, in that way, to compare the existing law with the change proposed in the Bill. By the Customs Act of 1842, Section 59, it was declared that all gold and silver-plate which was not battered, and which was imported from foreign ports, and which was sold, exchanged, or exposed for sale within the United Kingdom, should be of the respective standards, as regarded quality, as was required for any ware, vessel, or merchandise of gold or silver, wrought or made in the United Kingdom. That was to say, that the plate should be imported for commercial purposes, and I not for the importer's own private use. It was also provided that no gold or silver-plate not battered, which was imported, should be sold or exchanged or exposed for sale within the United Kingdom until it had been assayed, stamped, and marked, either in England, Scotland, or Ireland, in the same manner as any ware, vessel, or merchandise of gold or silver, wrought or made in the United Kingdom. It was further provided that any person who offended against the Act should be liable to penalties and forfeitures in all respects to be coverable in the same manner as if they had been imposed on a goldsmith or silversmith who sold ware or merchandise wrought or made in these countries which was not assayed, stamped, and marked, as required by law. Then followed an important proviso which showed that equal treatment was given by Parliament to foreign and home plate. The 1842 Act treated foreign plate imported into this country precisely in the same way as home-made plate, and then it said "provided that no article or ware of gold or silver to be imported shall be liable to be assayed, stamped, or marked, which would not be liable if it had been wrought in Ireland." In every respect under that Act foreign gold and silver-plate was treated as home-made plate, and in order to entitle foreign plate to the benefit of the hall-mark, it had to be of exactly the same standard, and to be assayed in the Assay offices either in England, Scotland, or Ireland, and in regard to this obligation was under the same penalty as home-made plate. Section 60 provided that in order that such imported gold or silver may be 377 assayed, stamped, or marked, it is allowable for any person to send to any Assay Office in the United Kingdom gold and silver to be assayed, stamped, or marked, and when foreign plate was brought to this country there was an obligation on the part of every Assay Office to stamp the foreign plate, which was to be submitted to the same charge, with the same hall-mark. The object of the Act of 1842 was to protect the public, who were entitled to know if the plate imported from abroad was of the same standard of quality as the home-made plate. Here the hall-mark was a great convenience. It was necessary for the stamp used for foreign plate to be the same, because, after all, that was the stamp the public knew, and one that told them that the material on which the stamp was placed was of the same standard of quality as the material represented by the ordinary hall-mark. All the hall-mark did was to protect the public and to certify the quality. People were not deceived as to the difference in workmanship. It did not matter to them where it was made. They took the design as a whole and there could not be any possibility of fraud so far as that was concerned. That was the position of affairs under the Act of 1842.
Then, in 1876, under the Customs Act, there was a change. Up to then both kinds of plate were treated exactly alike, and the only change that was made by the Act of 1876 was that imported plate should bear the impress of the letter "F" on an oval escutcheon, in order that it might be identified as imported plate, and it provided that that additional mark was to be impressed before it was delivered by the Assay Office. Could anybody conceive that anything more could be done in order to prevent even the possibility of any one who knew the hall-mark from knowing whether it was made abroad or whether it was made in this country? He did not see that any possible change could be made, although they proposed to make a change in this Bill, which would make the matter clearer. The great public convenience of this method of hall-marking would be noticed. He did not object to their catering for the home trade in this respect by using the letter "F" to 378 distinguish between home-made and imported goods, but, as he had pointed out, there could be no fraud in regard to hall-marking. The object of hallmarking was to determine the quality of the material. But what was the proposal of the Bill. It was that foreign-made plate should not bear the same hall-marks as home-made, and the reason for that was given in the Memorandum attached to the Bill, in which it was alleged that the letter "F" was often taken to be the manufacturer's initial, and did not afford a sufficiently ready means for distinguishing foreign plate; therefore legislation was necessary to provide such means. But surely any one who had any knowledge of hall-marks knew well enough that imported plate was distinguished by the letter "F." Where was there any evidence of anyone having been misled on that point. No inquiry had been made into the matter and no evidence taken since 1842—a period of over sixty years—this hall-mark had been used for all plate, and there had never been any Select Committee appointed to inquire into this grievance. In 1876 a Conservative Government, in its desire to protect the home market, provided for the use of the letter "F" for imported plate, but kept the other hallmarks unchanged. It was only people who were interested in Birmingham plate who wanted to throw this matter into confusion.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
The Bill is promoted by the manufacturers and workpeople of Sheffield, Birmingham, and London.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said it was always useful to put in the workpeople, but it was well known who was at the back of this movement. The Bill would put the whole thing into confusion and cause a serious revolution with regard to the hall-marking of foreign plate. It would do injury to the trade and commerce of the country. What was the necessity for knowing whether the workmanship was done in this country or abroad, in Scotland, England, or Ireland, in Birmingham, Sheffield, or the East End of London. So far as the workmanship or pattern was concerned there could be no fraud. Fraud could only arise in connection with 379 the material. The sole purport of the Assay Office was to prevent fraud in regard to material. They did not assay furniture; they only assayed that in which a standard quality was demanded. The Bill could only introduce confusion into the public mind. He did not object to helping our manufacturers in their competition with the foreigner, but it was not fair to do it by confusing the public. He wanted to point out another hardship the Bill would cause. At present any person could take gold and silver plate imported from abroad to the Assay Office without any restriction, or having to make any declaration, but this Bill provided that he should state in writing where the article was made, and he would be liable to a penalty for any error in his statement. Was it possible to conceive anything more harmful or hurtful to a trade than an impediment of that character. It was not the foreigner who would suffer the inconvenience, it was the importer, one of our own people, and he thought it most unreasonable. He must point out too that, under the Merchandise Marks Act, a person making a misstatement as to imported watch-cases rendered himself liable to a prosecution for perjury; in this Bill the penalty was a pecuniary one. He had so far only dealt with the general argument against the clause. When they came to the Amendments he would deal more with details.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
To leave out Clause 1."—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words of Clause 1, to the word 'in,' in page 1, line 11, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
said he had no desire to enter into the various arguments which the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark had brought forward in what was really a Second Reading speech. He could answer every point the hon. Member had used against the Bill. Very great stress had been laid upon the fact that no evidence had been adduced in favour of the change. But it so happened that the workpeople of Sheffield had met and passed certain resolutions which had been sent to every 380 Labour Member of the House calling attention to the very great abuses in regard to the present law on hall - marking and urging them, as Labour Members, to support the Bill. He noticed that not a single Labour Member was present to oppose the Bill. He claimed, therefore that he had their support. The President of the Silver Trade Affiliation Society of Sheffield wrote a letter in which he said—Only those in the trade have any idea of the extent to which foreign countries are trading with the reputation of Great Britain by the use of our hall-mark and our corporate marks. Tons of foreign-made silver-plate are imported into this country with but one condition, that is that it is marked with the letter 'F' This finds its way to the London, Birmingham, or Sheffield Assay Office, and receives the ensign indicating that it is of sterling quality and has been marked in England and in a particular year. After that because of the fragility of the mark supposed to indicate its foreign origin, it is contorted and otherwise used or misused until it is impossible for the most sagacious expert to detect the fraud. As a result of this, tons of foreign-manufactured silver goods are being sold in this and other countries, bearing the British hall-mark, as of British manufacture without the faintest trace of the letter 'F' which the goods originally bore.Trade unionists knew very well of these abuses, and they claimed that they should be rectified by Parliament. The object of the Bill simply was that instead of the letter "F" the Privy Council should be authorised, as they were in the case of watch-cases, to stamp a distinctive and separate mark different to that placed on English goods. They were asking the House to follow the precedent of Section 8 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, which left it entirely to the discretion of the Privy Council to say what mark should be placed upon watch-cases, and they asked that the same discretion should be extended to all plate. He did not propose to detain the House any longer because they were anxious to get on with this Bill.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
thought the promoters of this Bill ought to have given a much better reason for passing it into law. The hon. Member opposite had told them that the workpeople of Sheffield were in favour of the Bill, but that only applied to some particular firm, and they did not know that that was the unanimous voice 381 of the workpeople of Sheffield. Under the law as it stood at present all foreign goods were marked distinctly with the letter "F" The promoter of this measure said that frequently this letter was obliterated, but he failed to see how they were going to prevent the obliteration of any other letter which might be placed upon foreign goods after the passing of this Act. If a person was such a rogue as to obliterate the letter how were they going to stop him doing it? He had gone most carefully into all these proposals, and he could not for the life of him see the use of this Bill. He was as anxious as anyone to see that British trade was protected, and that all materials from abroad should be stamped, but there could not be any large amount of deception practised under the law as it stood at present. This Bill gave power to the Privy Council to alter the marks as often as they liked. At the present moment everybody understood that the letter "F" indicated foreign manufacture, but if this Bill became law they might in future have half-a-dozen different marks, and where would the public be then? They would indeed be in a fog. The public might reasonably conclude that these new marks were the marks of English manufacturers, and not those for foreign articles. For the last sixty-two years the letter "F" had been stamped on foreign articles, and everyone knew what that mark meant. There was actually very little fraud under the present system, but the danger of fraud would be considerably increased under this Bill. He did not know whether the hon. Member in charge of this Bill knew anything about the manufacture of these goods or not, but he would remind him that a very considerable quantity of articles supposed to be made in this country had parts of them made abroad, and were really only made up in this country. A good many small parts of articles were imported from France, Germany, Belgium, and America. In America, in particular, they produced most delicate work by machinery, and every manufacturer here could rely upon every part being precisely alike. The House should remember that a large quantity of gold and silver articles were produced in India, and they came to this country as foreign goods, and yet they had not heard one word as to how 382 these articles were to be treated. There was precious little plate produced in London, it was mostly produced in Sheffield and Birmingham, the home of protection. This was purely a protectionist Bill. If this Bill passed, the public would be more confused than ever. They had at present a good genuine mark for foreign goods, and he hoped the House would refuse to allow any chopping and changing about merely to please a small clique in Sheffield and Birmingham.
The promoter of this Bill had referred 'to watch-cases, but they were only one of many articles the parts of which were manufactured abroad. What about the interior parts of watches? He could mention at least 500 articles the parts of which came from foreign lands, and were not manufactured in this country at all. The hon. Member opposite said the letter "F" was being obliterated and fraud was being perpetrated, but, if frauds were now going on amongst unscrupulous traders, that fraud would be magnified one hundred times by the plan proposed in this clause. He had no desire to take up the time of the House because there was a great deal more business to follow, but he fell in with the views of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark upon this question. This clause was a bad clause, and the promoters of the Bill had failed to give satisfactory reasons to show how either the public or traders would be benefited or protected. This clause, in his opinion, was absolutely worthless and unworkable and would have the effect of allowing the people of this country to be defrauded more than ever they had been in the past.
§ SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)
said that on the Second Reading of the Bill he believed he took the only logical view of the matter possible, which was that this measure was absolutely unnecessary and would do no good whatever. Now that the Bill had emerged from the Grand Committee, he found that the view he then expressed was rather strengthened, because the measure only made confusion worst confounded. Parliament in its wisdom had already legislated for a distinguishing mark—the letter "F"—which' told a purchaser what he was buying. If 383 that mark was obliterated on any article of foreign manufacture it was a fraud under the Act and the offence was punishable as a fraud. He was surprised that this Bill, which had no ground whatever for its existence, should have been introduced. Under these circumstances, if a division was taken he should certainly vote against this clause.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W. R., Keighley)
said he thought this Bill would have just the contrary effect to that which was intended. The great probability was that it would make a market for foreign articles which did not exist at the present moment. They were asked to institute a new system of marking without being given any definition of what the new mark was to be, but they were simply told that it must indicate the place of origin. The stamp would give a value to these articles in the market which they would not otherwise possess. This Bill would give a real value to that which before had a very uncertain value. He should have been better satisfied if some definition as to intrinsic value had been proposed to be indicated by the stamp, for then they would have known what they were doing. He saw no reason whatever for the introduction of this Bill, and he did not see any good that was likely to accrue from passing it into law.
§ MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)
said this Bill was a measure to amend the law with reference to the marking of foreign plate, and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark proposed to leave out Clause 1. It had been stated that the trade of Birmingham and Sheffield was very much affected by the present system, which permitted fraud. He was going to suggest that instead of amending the law in the interests of the manufacturers of Birmingham and Sheffield, the proper course to adopt was to abolish the absurd method of hall-marking altogether, and get rid of these antiquated methods. What would happen if they omitted this clause altogether? They would then have the same procedure in regard to silver-plate as in regard to any other article. He thought manufacturers ought 384 to put their good name behind their productions, and that would be a guarantee to the public that they were getting what they paid for. Look at the proceedings which would go on under this Act? A manufacturer would have to take every little bit of silver to some Assay Office to be treated by a chemical process at enormous cost, and this would impose a serious restriction upon manufacturers and hinder them from freely carrying on their trade. In regard to his own business, it had been laid down that every bag should be branded in the presence of an inspector. He regarded such regulations as that as monstrous, and they undoubtedly had the effect of increasing the cost of production. They ought to get rid altogether of all these hall-marks. They might let inspectors go about taking samples and testing them, and that would be far more effective. This was a Bill which, in the interests of those who brought it forward, ought not to be passed. There ought to be a clause inserted in this Bill which would get rid of hall-marking altogether, for it did not serve any useful purpose. They had had some experience of the Merchandise Marks Act under which articles had to be marked "Made in Germany" or "Made in France, "with the result that the manufacturers who first sought this protection were now heartily sick of it, because it had had the effect of increasing the number of those articles manufactured and had increased their sale. It was ridiculous to talk about protecting home industries at the expense of the foreigner, and this was a sort of protection which ought not to be passed by Parliament. He recommended the House to postpone this Bill, and when they decided to protect home industries in another way then they might also consider what would be the best means by which foreign silver might be kept out and home silver more largely used. He thought this Bill proceeded along the wrong lines altogether.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
thought they ought to have some answer from one of the promoters of the Bill to the speech which the hon. Member for Accrington had made. The hon. Member had made a strong attack upon this 385 clause and had said that it was no use, and no reply whatever had been given to that accusation. He was in favour of the principle of the Bill, for they all wanted to prevent fraud in this matter; but his hon. and learned friend said that, so far from closing the door by this Bill, they were opening it to fraud. He hoped that one of the promoters would explain for the benefit of those who did not
§ understand this question, exactly what the effect of this clause would be. If they did not do so he for one, although he was favourably disposed to the principles of the Bill, would be obliged to vote for the proposal of his hon. friend.
§ Question put—
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 95; Noes, 68 (Division List No. 156.)387
|Acland-Hood, Capt.Sir Alex. F.||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Agnew, Sit Andrew Noel||Forster, Henry William||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Allen, Charles P.||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.)||Pym, C. Guy|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Galloway, William Johnson||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Gardner, Ernest||Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-(Linc.)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon G. W. (Leeds||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gunter, Sir Robert||Russell, T. W.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Mich. Hicks||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Knowles, Sir Lees||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Spear, John Ward|
|Butcher, John George||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Stroyan, John|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A (Worc.||Macdona, John Gumming||Tennant, Harold John|
|Chapman, Edward||Malcolm, Ian||Tomkinson, James|
|Charrington, Spencer||Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Tuff, Charles|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Mount, William Arthur||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H (Sheffield|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Wason, Jn. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Myers, William Henry||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Emmott, Alfred||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc' r||Pemberton, John S. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Pilkington, Colonel Richard||Samuel Roberts and Sir|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Pirie, Duncan V.||William Holland.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Harwood, George||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Black, Alexander William||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Boland, John||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid.)|
|Brigg, John||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Horniman, Frederick John||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Cameron, Robert||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Joyce, Michael||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Kennedy,Vincent P. (Cavan, W.||O'Shee, James John|
|Combie, John William||Kilbride, Denis||Palmer, Sir Chas. M. (Durham)|
|Cullinan, J.||Leamy, Edmund||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Delany, William||Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)||Priestley, Arthur|
|Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway||Leng, Sir John||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||Lundon, W.||Rigg, Richard|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Mooney, John J.||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert Jn.||Murphy, John||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Slack, John Bamford|
|Hammond, John||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R(Northants||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||TELLERS FOE THE NOES—Mr.|
|Sullivan, Donal||Weir, James Galloway||Caldwell and Mr. Alexander|
|Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)||Cross.|
|Wallace, Robert||Young, Samuel|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ Clause 1.
§ MR. CALDWELL
moved to amend Subsection 2 of Clause 1, which provided that any person who brought plate to be assayed and marked at an Assay Office should state in writing whether it was imported from foreign parts, by providing that it should not be necessary to make a statement in writing when the plate was brought to the office in charge of an officer of Customs under the Revenue Act, 1883. He pointed out that under that Act, when gold or silver—plate was brought from abroad it was at once warehoused with the Customs and could not be moved without the assent of the Assay officers. When that consent was obtained, it was taken to the Assay Office in charge of an officer of the Customs, and it could not be taken out of the Customs House until it was marked. He thought this Amendment was absolutely necessary in order to prevent annoyance which might otherwise be caused in connection with the importation of foreign goods into this country. He was sure there was no wish on the part of anyone to create what would be absolutely unnecessary annoyance in this matter, and, therefore, he hoped the Amendment would be accepted. He begged to move.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 1, line 21, at end, to add the words 'but it shall not be necessary to make such statement in writing where any plate or other article is brought to an Assay Office by au officer of Customs under the provisions of the Revenue Act, 1883, for the purpose of being assayed, stamped, or marked as having been imported from foreign parts.'"—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
said he had pleasure in accepting the Amendment. He explained that the promoters of the Bill had followed the precedent of the 1887 Act by which when foreign watch—cases were taken out of the Customs warehouse a declaration had to be made before a magistrate before they were 388 assayed. The Amendment would relieve importers of the necessity of making a declaration or statement.
§ MR. CALDWELL
moved an Amendment in Clause 1 with the object of making the meaning clear in regard to its application to Scotland and Ireland. There was a rather peculiar state of the law in regard to summary jurisdiction in the three countries. In the case of England it was provided in the Summary Procedure Act, 1876, that wherever the words "summary conviction" were put in they were understood to imply the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, but in Scotland and Ireland there was no such proviso. The consequence was that, unless these words were inserted, this clause would not apply to Scotland and Ireland. This was a technicality, but he supposed there would be no objection to the Amendment. He begged to move.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 5, after the word 'conviction' insert the words 'under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts.' "—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4.
§ MR. CALDWELL
moved to omit that part of Clause 4 which repealed Section 8 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887.This was a very instructive Amendment from the fact that those on the other side had found it necessary to repeal the section referred to. He thought it was a very awkward thing from the point of view of order to introduce in the Bill now before the House a proposal to repeal a section of the Merchandise Marks Act which related to other matters. If 389 that section of the Act were to be repealed at all he would personally prefer that it should be repealed by an amending Act of its own instead of by a clause in such a Bill as this where they would never think of looking for it. The supporters of the Merchandise Marks Act were very anxious to put in as many penalties as they could in connection with the, importation of foreign-made articles. What was now proposed to be repealed had reference to the marking of watch-cases, and the clause was of a much more stringent nature than that they were now introducing. He supposed that the promoters of the Bill of 1887, after about eighteen years experience, had come to the conclusion that the clause had done more harm than good, and were most anxious to have it repealed. He predicted a similar fate for this Bill. When watch—cases were in question the man had to make a declaration before an officer of the Assay Office, or before a Commissioner with power to administer an oath in England, Ireland, or Scotland. That was a solemn and serious statutory declaration fenced about in every possible way. And then followed the penalties. Every person who made a false declaration was liable on conviction on indictment to the penalties of perjury, and on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20. Why were the promoters of this Bill asking that that protection in the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 should be removed? Were they anxious to protect the foreigner in these matters; for the section only applied to the foreigner. Was that the way to protect British trade and commerce? In 1887 those interested in the watch-making industry in this country could not get a clause severe enough against the foreigner; and, if it was necessary then, why was it not necessary now? Section 8 of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 ought not to be repealed by a species of side wind in a Bill of this sort, where nobody was likely to look for its repeal. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would cut the matter short by agreeing to the Amendment, and if it was necessary to repeal that section of the Merchandise Marks Act it should be done by a separate Bill.
In page 2, line 18, to leave out from '1876' to the word 'hereby' in line 19, and insert the word 'is.'"—(Mr. Ceddwell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
said he quite agreed with the hon. Member that it would have been more convenient if the repeal of Section 8 of the Merchandise Marks Act had been introduced in a different way; but the clause now objected to was put in at the request of the Birmingham Assay Office in order to make the practice uniform.
§ MR. WEIR
said that the attitude of the Government towards this Bill seemed to him unaccountable. If a man were guilty of fraud, let him bear the punishment. He was astonished that the promoters of this Bill should ask that these fraudulent persons should escape from any penalty whatever. If they were guilty of fraud, let them be fined in £200 or £2,000, in order to protect honest British traders and British workmen. This Bill dealt with plate, and not with watch-cases at all. Watch—cases had been introduced into the discussion almost within the last quarter of an hour. The hon. Member for Ecclesall said that the clause had been introduced at the request of the Birmingham Assay Office; but had he consulted the authorities at the Assay Offices in London, Edinburgh, or Dublin? Were these Asssy Offices of the same opinion as the Birmingham Assay Office? For his part, he declined to be led by the nose by Birmingham, and he supported the hon. Member for Mid.-Lanark in his objection to the repeal of the eighth section of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 in this manner.
§ MR. ALEXANDER CROSS
said he must say that the situation exposed by the hon. Member for Mid.-Lanark required some explanation. Hon. Members on the Treasury Bench were the custodians of the commercial law of this country, and was the Board of Trade going to permit the repeal of one of the most important sections of the Merchandise Marks Act 391 by the terminal clause of a Bill for another purpose? He did not argue whether it was wise or unwise to repeal that section; but he insisted that it should not be repealed in the manner proposed. He strongly urged the President of the Board of Trade to carefully consider this matter, and find some means to rescue the House from the anomalous position in which it was placed. They were asked to repeal this section of the Merchandise Marks Act at the behest of the Assay Office of Birmingham. What had that Assay Office to do with the matter? The Assay officer in Birmingham was a public officer, and it was not for him to say whether it was convenient, or inconvenient, to make a statement in writing when plate was brought to the office in charge of an officer of Customs under the Kevenue Act of 1883.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
said that this did not appear to him to be a matter of great importance one way or another. He understood that the Grand Committee had carefully considered the subject and had inserted the words objected to by a large majority. He did not believe that there would be any practical inconvenience in repealing the 8th section of the Merchandise Marks Act which, as he understood, ought never to have been in that Act at all, but ought to have been originally treated as an Amendment to the Customs Act. The hon. Member for Mid-Lanark had given a practical illustration of the difficulty of passing special amending Acts.
§ MR. CALDWELL
asked how many he had helped to pass? He had given more help than obstruction to pass such Acts.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said he had listened with some interest to the statement of the President of the Board of Trade, but the right hon. Gentleman had not convinced him that he was justified in supporting this clause in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said it did not matter whether this clause was taken out of the Bill, and he asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would not be well advised to agree to the deletion of this clause which 392 raised so many controversial matters. This clause was not originally in the Bill, but certain intelligent and far-seeing gentlemen from Birmingham seized the opportunity of introducing this repealing provision in the Grand Committee, although it was absolutely foreign to the character of the Bill; and the division to take away a very important section of the Merchandise Marks Act was of a closely Party character. In dealing with a Bill for one purpose, they ought not to introduce a matter which dealt with a question altogether foreign to the character of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said that this section ought never to have been in the Merchandise Marks Act at all. But who was responsible for that? The hon. Member for Sheffield was one of the enthusiastic supporters of that Act, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman was not going to sit silent under the condemnation of the President of the Board of Trade, who said that that Act was badly drawn, and contained a clause which ought not to have been in it. He understood that the hon. Gentleman himself was anxious to repeal other clauses in the Merchandise Marks Act; and he believed that the hon. Gentleman had got a Bill before the House which was to do away with his grand idea of the mark "made in Germany," which, instead of helping British trade, had been the best advertisement in the world to assist German trade. He submitted that the Merchandise Marks Act ought not to be amended on a side issue like this.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
said that as there seemed to be a general feeling in the House that the eighth section of the Merchandise Marks Act ought not to be repealed by this Bill, he was willing to accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Word "is" inserted.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Bill be read a third time."393
§ MR. CALDWELL
said he acknowledged the handsome way in which the hon. Member had given way on his Amendment, and he was not going to interpose any objection to the Third Reading. He, for one, was quite in favour of protecting British made goods by every legitimate means; but they had had experience before that these measures of protection, which interfered with foreign goods coming into this country, put needless impediments in the way of interchange of commerce between this country and other countries, and really did far more harm than good to this country. That had been shown in various ways. He contended that to introduce a different mark for foreign plate would lead to great confusion in the public mind. Foreigners coming into this country had access to our Assay Office. He did not know whether there were Assay Offices abroad, but he presumed that, if there were, by the reciprocity of nations, British manufacturers would have access to these foreign Assay Offices. If restrictions of this kind were to be introduced on foreign-made plate, it I would soon be spread all over the Continent that Britain was afraid of foreign competition; and no greater stimulus could be given to foreign competition with the home trade than the passing of an Act of this kind. Who were the parties to suffer owing to the necessity of a statement in writing that plate was imported from foreign parts? It would not affect the foreigner; because he brought goods into this country in bond. It was the home manufacturer alone who would suffer. The home manufacturer would now have to make a declaration on every piece of plate which he took to the Assay Office, and that would interpose an obstacle to the home trade, and in its effect it would be as disappointing to the promoters of this Bill as the Merchandise Marks Act had been. Watchmakers and jewellers sold foreign-made as well as home manufactures; but if they found themselves annoyed by the home trade insisting on these new regulations, the effect would be that they would avoid the home trade as much as possible, and go in for the foreign trade. In one sense he did not object to this Bill being passed, and for this reason, that if the 394 Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 had not been passed, the hon. Member for Sheffield, and others of his way of thinking, would always have felt that they had a grievance, and they would have alleged that their trade was being ruined. After that Act was passed, it was found that instead of benefiting trade, it had wrecked business. In the same way he believed that this Bill, when it became an Act, instead of benefiting business, would be a positive hindrance, and, moreover, would create a prejudice against British-made goods.