HC Deb 17 September 1914 vol 66 cc989-91

I beg to move, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent the disposal or pledging of Certificates, Naval Uniforms, or other property; and for purposes connected therewith."

This is a very small Bill, and I can safely say that it is entirely non-controversial. In one sense, I do not think I ought to say that it is strictly an Emergency Bill, because, from representations made to me recently, I think it would not have been a bad thing if it had been passed long ago. Nevertheless, it is very desirable, I think the House will agree, that we should pass it now. It appears that certain pawnbrokers, moneylenders, and others, take pension identification certificates, allotment certificates, and Royal Naval Reserve certificates as a security for sums of money advanced to sailors' wives and to members of the Royal Naval Reserve. When the pensions, allotments, and retainers in connection with which these documents are issued become payable the pawnbroker or moneylender recovers the advance made on the security of the documents, together with interest which, not to put too fine a point upon it, cannot by any manner of means be said to be on a modest scale. A case was brought to my notice in which a woman received from a pawnbroker in consideration of depositing an allotment certificate the sum of 10s. per month, and in return she had to pay 12s. 6d. Section 156 of the Army Act provides that any person who

  1. "(a) Buys, exchanges, takes in pawn, detains, or receives from a soldier or any person acting on his behalf on any pretence whatsoever; or
  2. (b) solicits or entices any soldier to sell, exchange, pawn, or give away; or
  3. (c) assists or acts for a soldier in selling, exchanging, pawning, or making away with "
certain property, shall be guilty of an offence punishable by a fine or, in the case of a second offence, by fine or im- prisonment, with or without hard labour, for a term not exceeding six months. And Sub-section (9) further provides:—

"Every person who receives, detains, or has in his possession the identity certificate or life certificate of a person entitled to a military pension, or to reserve pay, or to any bounty as a pledge or security for a debt, or with a view to obtain payment from the pensioner or person entitled to the pay or bounty of a debt due either to himself or to any other person, shall be liable on summary conviction to the like penalty as for an offence under Subsection (1) of this Section, and the certificate shall be deemed to be property within the meaning of this Section."

This is a one-Clause Bill which provides no more and no less than that Section 156 of the Army Act shall apply to persons serving in the Naval Forces of the Crown. It is quite true that these certificates are of no value as securities for money advanced or payment of the debt, but nevertheless it appears that they are used for these purposes without any penalty attaching to the persons receiving or holding them. Having regard to influential representations made to us during the last day or two, we think it to the interest of the poor persons concerned that they shall be protected against excessive usury, and all we ask is that it shall be made illegal for a pawnbroker or moneylender or any person to take and retain these naval documents, just as it is illegal in the case of the corresponding Army documents.


I am delighted that this is at last being done, but I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to have given some reason why it has not been done before.

Question, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent the disposal or pledging of certificates, naval uniforms, or other property, and for purposes connected therewith," put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Churchill, Mr. Lambert, and Dr. Macnamara.

Presented accordingly; read the first time, and to be printed. [Bill 408.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Resolved, "That this House doth immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[The Home Secretary.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.