HC Deb 08 April 1914 vol 60 cc1955-7

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the powers of his Department over parties in the United Kingdom who issue or assist in the preparation and issue of fraudulent prospectuses; whether he is aware of what happened in the Whittaker Wright and Jabez Balfour cases, which furnishes a precedent for taking action against the parties in London who were responsible for obtaining £157,000 of British money from 745 shareholders in the Union Life Assurance Company of Canada under circumstances of fraud, for participation in which criminal prosecutions have been instituted in Canada against certain of the directors of this company?


When it appears desirable from the results of the investigation conducted by the Official Receiver into the affairs of a company which has been ordered to be wound up by the Court, a statement of the facts is submitted by the Board of Trade to the Director of Public Prosecutions for his consideration. In the cases to which my hon. Friend refers in his question, the companies in connection with which criminal proceedings were instituted were being wound up under an Order of the Court, and the Official Receiver had full power to investigate the transactions on which criminal charges were based. No Order has been made in this country for the winding up of the Union Life Assurance Company of Canada, and the Board of Trade have no jurisdiction to conduct an investigation into the facts connected with the issue of the prospectus or the conduct of the business of that company. On the information at present before me, I am not aware of any grounds on which criminal proceedings could be instituted against any person in this country, but if my hon. Friend has any evidence in his possession he should lay it before the Director of Public Prosecutions.


Is the hon. Member aware that prosecutions have taken place in Canada against directors of this company? Is he also aware that an advisory board was constituted in London, and that this body assisted in the preparation of a fraudulent prospectus? Has the Department no control over these people?


As to the hon. Member's statement with regard to the advisory committee, I was not aware of the fact.


In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I shall raise the question on the Adjournment.


Are we to take it that the Board of Trade in this country is not so particular in the matter of prosecutions as the Canadian authorities are?


This company, as far as we are aware, did no business in this country, and therefore it is no affair of ours.