§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[Mr. Runciman.]
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill will give a few words of explanation in regard to a point I wish to raise. Under this Bill, and under the Bill which it amends, there is power given to prohibit the exportation of certain articles from this country, and to prohibit also the exportation of articles containing more than a certain percentage of sugar. One, of course, can understand the object of that. But what 90 I would like to know is this: Suppose a contract has been entered into by a confectionery firm for the supply of articles in the manufacture of which a considerable amount of sugar is employed. Suppose that contract was entered into by such a firm before the War broke out, and that the firm prepared and manufactured confectionery articles containing more than the given percentage of sugar, before the War broke out, for the purposes of complying with its contract, would the Department consider it reasonable, in such a case as that, to allow the articles so manufactured before the War to be exported, notwithstanding this Act? It does seem to me that articles so manufactured stand in a rather different position from articles manufactured after the War has broken out. The firm in the case I have put is presumably under a contract to deliver the articles abroad. It has already used the sugar necessary for the manufacture of the articles, and it would seem rather unreasonable to prevent it carrying out a contract entered into under such circumstances. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give some assurance that the powers conferred on the Board of Trade under this Act will not be used to prevent exportation in such cases as that I have named.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
The prohibition of the export of sugar is not covered by this Act. That is provided for in another Act. But I can assure the hon. Member, in regard to the special point he has raised, that where cases have been brought to our notice in which it is perfectly clear the contract was entered into for the supply of sugar articles, say, to Ceylon, before the War broke out, and they had been manufactured and are ready for sending out—in cases of that kind special licences have been issued, and every means has been taken to enable manufacturers manufacturing such articles before the outbreak of war to supply them to their customers.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I should like to ask whether there are to be any restrictions on the exportation of feeding-stuffs for 91 stock, and whether it is intended to use the Act to prevent the exportation of milling offals? As many hon. Members may be aware, the prices of milling offals were put up from anything from 10 to 20 per cent. at the outbreak of war, with the result that a large number of small stock-owners put immature stock on the market—a most undesirable thing to do at a period of national crisis. Since then I am conscious that these millers, some of whom have already made considerable profits as middlemen out of the national crisis, have used considerable pressure in order to induce the Government to allow them to continue to export milling offals, as they have done to a large extent in the past. I am sure the House will agree with me that, at the present time, it is just as essential to retain food for animals in this country as it is to retain food for human consumption, and I am confident the right hon. Gentleman will be meeting a public demand—not only amongst agriculturists, but amongst others—if he disallows the export of milling offals, whether bran, sharps, pollen, or middlings, from this country during the War. I hope he will be able to give me a satisfactory assurance on that point.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I wish to raise a point similar to that which I raised in regard to a former Bill, and I do so now in the hope that I may get an assurance that an Amendment will be accepted in Committee. In the first Clause of this Bill it is provided that this Act "shall have effect while a state of war in which His Majesty is engaged exists." I am only a layman, but it seems to me that this Bill will be revived and come into operation again should another state of war arise, and the consequence will be that, while the other Bills we are passing to-day will expire when the present War terminates, this one will partake of the character of permanent legislation, and be brought into operation whenever a state of war may exist. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to consider this point when we deal with this Bill in Committee.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I can only speak again by permission of the House. I may inform the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. C. Bathurst), that the Board of Agriculture and the Board of Trade have been in consultation on the very subject he has raised, and steps are proposed to prohibit the exportation if there is any sign of it increasing. But we are anxious not to put unnecessary obstacles, if they can be avoided, in the way of the trade. If this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament it will be possible at a moment's notice to put a stop altogether to the exportation of these stuffs. Meantime, these articles are not going out of the country at all. The danger has not arisen, but if it does arise we will immediately take action, because producers must realise while we have stock at home for which these feeding stuffs are required, we are not willing to allow them to be exported. In answer to the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), I have to say that the phrase to which he has referred is also used in the parent Act, and it has been thought desirable to use the same phraseology in both Acts. The object of the Bill is to extend the power of the Act beyond military and naval stores. It was thought, necessary to make it apply to other commodities of commerce and industry, and, therefore, the same phraseology was used in order that the two Acts of Parliament might be in harmony with one another.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]