HC Deb 18 December 1916 vol 88 cc1218-22

(1) Where any securities are held on trust by more than one trustee, the securities may be deposited with the Treasury, or given to the Treasury in exchange for Government securities, or sold to the Treasury, for the purpose of and in accordance with, the conditions of any Treasury securities deposit scheme if, where there are two trustees, one trustee and the persons entitled to the income of the securities, and where there are more than two trustees, one-half or more of the number of the trustees and the persons entitled TO the income of the securities, are willing that the securities should be so deposited or given in exchange, and any action taken by any such trustees or beneficiaries for the purpose of such deposit or exchange shall, notwithstanding anything in the terms of the trust, or any rule of law to the contrary, be as valid and effectual in all respects as though all the trustees had consented thereto and joined therein.

(2) No notice of any trust, express, implied, or constructive, in respect of any securities deposited with the Treasury, given in exchange for Government securities, or sold to the Treasury shall affect the Treasury or any person holding the securities on behalf of the Treasury, but any rules of the Supreme Court for the time being in force relating to notice in lieu of distringas, shall apply to the Treasury in respect of such security as they apply to a company in respect of stock.

(3) It is hereby declared that the expression "securities" in Section two of the Government War Obligations Act, 1915, and in any other enactment relating to any Treasury securities deposit scheme includes stocks, shares, and other securities.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the ord "exchange" ["securities should be so deposited or given in exchange"], to insert the words "or sold."

I think this must be an omission on the part of the draftsman. In the first part of the Clause the securities are to be deposited, given or sold, but at this point reference is only made to securities deposited or given in exchange. There is no reference to their being sold.


I think the hon. Gentleman is quite right, and I am much obliged to him for pointing the matter out. I would ask the Committee to accept his Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In Subsection (1), after the word "exchange" ["or the purpose of such deposit or exchange"], insert the words "or sale."— [Mr. Watt]


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "but any Rules of the Supreme Court for the time being in force relating to notice in lieu of distringas, shall apply to the Treasury in respect of such security as they apply to a company in respect of stock."

When I saw this provision I made inquiries of many distinguished lawyers in the House as to the meaning of distringas, and not one of them knew. I even went, through an intermediary, to the Attorney-General, and the reply was that he was a little hazy on the subject. No doubt the Home Secretary will be able to tell us what is meant exactly by a notice in lieu of distringas, what are the privileges it confers, whether Scotsmen have this privilege, and, if not, what arrangement is to be made whereby they will get the advantage of distringas? I understand that this is an advantage which is given to Englishmen. As we have no distringas in Scotland, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us the privilege which is given to Englishmen under this particular Sub-section.


I cannot help thinking that my hon. Friend hardly made himself quite clear to the lawyers to whom he applied, because there are many lawyers, indeed most of them in this country, who are quite familiar with the practice relating to notice in lieu of distringas. The practice is this: At present the Treasury is in a difficult position. They get offers of securities, and anybody who claims the securities may give them notice of that claim. That hampers the Treasury in dealing with the stocks. We intend by this Sub-section to get rid of that and to make the Treasury quite safe in disposing of the stocks, subject to this: that if a person has a claim upon the stock he can give to the Treasury what is called in the Rules a notice in lieu of distringas, distringas being a proceeding which was abolished. The effect of the notice is that before dealing with the securities the Treasury must give notice to the person who has put a caution upon the stock and tell him that they are going to deal with it and must wait for a limited number of days. During those days the claimant may bring an action against the nominee of the Treasury and move for judgment, so that he has time to assert his claim in a Court of Law. If he does not come within that period ho is bound, and the Treasury may sell The effect of notice is to make sure that the stock will not be disposed of without giving notice, so that the claim may be dealt with in a Court of Law. That is the effect of the practice which is embodied in the Rule. As regards a Scotsman, of course he can come or can send to London and follow the same proceeding. The nominees of the Treasury are in London, and there is nothing in the world to prevent a Scotsman having the same privilege. I hope with that explanation that the Clause will be accepted.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, after the word "distringas" ["notice in lieu of distringas"], to add the words "and in Scotland to interim interdict."

I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of distringas. It clearly shows that the equivalent of it in Scotland is an interim interdict. I regret that the new Secretary for Scotland has not thought it worth his while to put in an appearance to-day. The Amendment has been on the Paper for some days. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar enough with Scottish law to know that interim interdict is the exact equivalent of distringas in the English Courts.


I regret more than anyone else that the Lord Advocate is not here to-day, but it is not until the Royal Assent has been received to the re-election of Ministers Act that he can take his seat in this House. I do not in the least pretend to be familiar with Scottish law. It is an exceedingly difficult subject for any of us, but I am told these words would not operate at all. They purport to import into the Act the rules relating to interim interdict I am told there are no such rules in Scotland, therefore the Amendment would be meaningless. I am informed, I have no doubt correctly, that the proper equivalent is an Act of Sederunt, and I am told that even if those words were adopted the Amendment would still be meaningless, because there is no such Act relating to the matter. Interdict in Scotland is the equivalent of injunction in England. There are no relevant rules as to injunctions here, and there are no relevant rules as to interdict in Scotland. There is no Scottish equivalent of a notice in lieu of distringas, but there is no reason why a Scotsman who is interested should not take the proper steps in London.


I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman's exposition of the law. I think after what he has said it is quite clear that no Scotsman need fear that he is going to be prejudiced by this apparently preferential treatment who is subject to English jurisdiction. At the same time, I am not sure that the Home Secretary has stated the respective laws of the two countries correctly. As I understand it, the equivalent of the rules of the Supreme Court in Scotland is an act of sederunt, and I think they have acts of sederunt relating to interim interdicts. Had my hon. Friend introduced the words "act of sederunt" before the words "interim interdict," I think his Amendment would have been quite in order, although, seeing that the Treasury is in London, and can only be affected by process in the English Courts, obviously a Scotsman has a right of resort there, and does not require his own procedure in Scotland.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 (Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Wednesday next.