§ 103. Mr. COWAN
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any Mini-max concern trading in Italy has at any time in 1915 or 1916 claimed to be a British-owned or controlled concern owing to its association with Minimax Consolidated, Limited, i.e., an undertaking enemy-owned and managed from Germany, hav- 1470 ing its main assets in enemy countries; whether any steps were taken to inform the British Consular officers as to the status of Minimax Consolidated, Limited; and whether, having regard to the conditions elucidated as to this company's enemy status, he would consider the advisability of preventing the future abuse of British prestige conferred upon any undertaking registered as a British company, by strengthening the existing enactments so that companies, enemy-owned and managed from enemy countries, could be wound up by the Board of Trade, even if not now trading in or having any considerable assets in the United Kingdom?
I am not aware of any such claim having been made by a Minimax concern trading in Italy. No representations have been made to British Consular officers as to the status of Minimax Consolidated, Limited. This company is in liquidation, and, as at present advised, I do not think that any amendment of the trading with the enemy legislation is necessary to meet such a case.
§ 104. Mr. COWAN
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the judgment of the Berlin Court of October, 1915, which is being circulated in neutral countries indicates in its second paragraph that interests to the value of 300,000 marks (say £15,000) in the London Minimax concern, namely Minimax, Limited, and to the value of 500,000 marks (say £25,000) in the German Minimax manufacturing concern, had been transferred to W. Graaf, of Berlin, on the 9th November, 1914, so that the transfer of interests related not only to an undertaking in Germany, but also to one in England; whether it is a fact that there had been no change in the directors of Minimax Consolidated, Limited, in 1914 and 1915, and that the two German directors in Berlin, or one of them, had been given powers prior to the War to dispose of any assets of the company without consulting the two English directors in London; and whether he will consider the desirability of amending the Trading With the Enemy Acts in order to give the Board of Trade power to wind up companies which, although not actually now trading in the United Kingdom or having any considerable assets in this country, rank as British companies and can conduct business as such whilst in fact almost entirely owned and controlled by enemy subjects resident in Germany?
In the judgment of the Berlin Court, which I have seen, reference is made to the transfer of the interest of Minimax Consolidated in two German undertakings to W. Graaf, but there is no indication of any transfer of that company's interest in any undertaking in this country. No change has been made in the directors of the company since the outbreak of war except in so far as the offices of the German directors may have been vacated owing to the War. I have no information as to the powers of the German directors to deal with the assets of the company in Germany without consulting the English directors. The company is in liquidation, and, as at present advised, I do not think any amendment of the law is necessary to meet such a case, for no action taken in this country can prevent persons in Germany dealing with assets there over which they may have control.
We have a copy of it in the Department, and I saw it this morning. It does not bear the interpretation, as I am advised, put upon it by the hon. Gentleman.