HC Deb 10 September 1914 vol 66 cc713-5

(1) Any person who during the present War trades or has, since the fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and fourteen, traded with the enemy within the meaning of this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall—

  1. (a) on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, be liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to a fine not exceeding five hundred pounds, or to both such imprisonment and fine; or
  2. (b) on conviction or indictment, be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding seven or less than three years or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine, or to both such penal servitude or imprisonment and fine;
and the Court may in any case order that any goods or money in respect of which the offence has been committed, be forfeited.

(2) For the purposes of this Act a person shall be deemed to have traded with the enemy if he has entered into any transaction or done any act which may have been prohibited by or under any Proclamation issued by His Majesty dealing with trading with the enemy for the time being in force, or which at common law or by Statute constitutes an offence of trading with the enemy:

Provided that any transaction or act permitted by or under any such Proclamation shall not be deemed to be trading with the enemy.

(3) Where a company has entered into a transaction or has done any act which is an offence under this Section, every director, manager, secretary, or other officer of the company who is knowingly a party to the transaction or act shall also be deemed guilty of the offence.

(4) A prosecution for an offence under this Section shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Attorney-General:

Provided that the person charged with such an offence may be arrested and a warrant for his arrest may be issued and executed, and such person may be remanded in custody or on bail notwithstanding that the consent of the Attorney-General to the institution of the prosecution for the offence has not been obtained, but no further or other proceedings shall be taken until that consent has been obtained.

(5) Where an act constitutes an offence both under this Act and under any other Act, or both under this Act and at common law, the offender shall be liable to be prosecuted and punished under either this Act or such other Act, or under this Act or at common law, but shall not be liable to be punished twice for the same offence.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "traded" ["traded with the enemy"], to insert the words "directly or indirectly."

My point is that a great deal of trade is done indirectly through other agents. It is a very common system to employ a Dutch agent to carry out the business of a trading company when the goods are being carried ultimately to the German Empire.


If my hon. Friend has got a copy of the Proclamation, he will see, I think, that these words are not needed. There is a distinction. Trading with the enemy in the Bill so far as it depends upon the common law cannot be altered. I cannot alter the common law, but, so far as it depends upon the wording of the Proclamation, it says not only directly or indirectly, but trading for the benefit of.


I have not seen the Proclamation. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the words "may have been" and to insert instead thereof the words "was at the time such transac- tion or had." This is merely a drafting Amendment. The words "may have been" would, perhaps, prove to be ambiguous, and I think it would be much more precise in the way I have suggested.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (4). I wish we had in this country a procurator-fiscal, whose duty it is to take action instead of having to persuade him. A great many prosecutions are dropped altogether by reason of the difficulty of persuading the Attorney-General to take action.


If I consulted my own convenience I should accept the Amendment forthwith. It is true that it throws an extra burden upon the Attorney-General, and, of course, I should be very unwilling to add unnecessarily to the list of offences which can only be prosecuted with the consent of the Attorney-General. I ask my hon. Friend, however, to consider that the accusation which would be made under this Bill is the very serious one of behaving treacherously to your own country at a time when everybody is anxious to act in a public spirited way. In such times is it right to allow any malicious person who is able to find a man of straw to start a prosecution, the mere suggestion of which may be sufficient to destroy the reputation and connection of a firm for the time being? Therefore I could not consent to there being no kind of test before such proceedings could be taken. It is for that reason that I think this condition should attach. I am quite certain that in practice there would be no difficulty in getting the consent of the Attorney-General in any case which is based upon a reasonable and businesslike basis.


After my right hon. Friend's eloquent address in regard to the duties of the Attorney-General I am convinced against my better judgment. Everybody knows that it is a very difficult matter to get the Attorney-General to move. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.