HC Deb 22 November 1916 vol 87 cc1459-61

Where a firm, individual, or corporation having a place of business within the United Kingdom carries on the business wholly or mainly as nominee or trustee of or for another person, or other persons, or another corporation, or as agent for any foreign firm, the first-mentioned firm, individual, or corporation shall be registered in manner provided by this Act, and, in addition to the other particulars required to be furnished and registered, there shall be furnished and registered the particulars mentioned in the Schedule to this Act:

Provided that where the business is carried on by a trustee in bankruptcy or a receiver or manager appointed by any Court, registration under this Section shall not be necessary.


I beg to move, after the word "or"["or as agent"], to insert the words "wholly or mainly."

This is rather a difficult point. There are many businesses in England that act as agents now and again for a firm, and then that same foreign firm gives work to someone else as its agent. There are foreign firms who employ several people here and employ somebody quite casually, perhaps once a month. Therefore I think it is desirable to define the position of the agent. It is obvious to the Committee that firms could not always, if they are acting only casually or for a great many people, give all the particulars of those foreign firms that might be called for under the Clause as it stands. I do not think there can be any objection to include these words which I think are necessary.


I am afraid I cannot see my way to accept these words. The words "wholly or mainly" are not intended to cover an agent. They were intended to cover a nominee or trustee. It sometimes happens in case of death that a business is carried on by trustees or executors, and then it is desirable that we should have the words "wholly or mainly." When we deal with the word "agent" my hon. Friend must read the words as they appear in the Clause. If a man carries on business as agent, what it is desirable to avoid is that a man who is carrying on an ordinary business here under his own name should be rendered liable to registration. This Clause not only prescribes that certain particulars should be furnished which are mentioned in the Schedule, but actually renders any firm liable to registration. These words therefore will render a man not only liable to enter certain particulars in his register, but they actually render him liable to registration. I do not think it is desirable that if an English business man or firm were merely to act as agent in some single transaction or odd transactions occasionally for a foreign firm-that he should be rendered liable to registration by that fact. But where an English firm, even if it is not wholly or mainly its business to act for a foreign firm, does habitually act, it is desirable that he should be registered, and that that fact should be stated. That is the dividing line we wish to draw7. Whether these words exactly do that or not may be doubtful, but I think they do; but perhaps my hon. Friend will allow this point to be considered before the Report stage, and I will consider whether any other words are necessary. I do not say that the words "wholly or mainly" would achieve what we desire, and we want words to indicate that the person must be carrying on business as the accredited agent properly appointed and not acting in regard to some odd transactions. If it is necessary to add any other words, I will consider that point for Report.


May I point out to my hon. Friend that as the Clause is drawn it looks as though the words "wholly or mainly" did apply also to agents as well as to the nominee or trustee? I hope this point will also be considered by my hon. Friend.


We will consider that point.


I think the words "wholly or mainly" should not apply to the agent.


I think the words "wholly or mainly" do apply to the agent as the Clause is drawn, according to the ordinary rules of construction. A man may act as agent on one or two occasions-now and then and perhaps only once in his life. What you want to deal with is somebody who acts as representing a foreign firm or is the accredited agent. If other words are put in on the Report stage I think the difficulty will be met.


There may be a case where only perhaps one-third of the total business is with a foreign firm, and that is not "wholly or mainly." It seems to me that these words are necessary.


The difficulty is what is intended by the Government. I know the law of agency is rather difficult, but my difficulty as a practical business man is that we are constantly asked to do services for some foreign firm, and I want to know, are we, in regard to those people who ask us to do work now and again, to furnish particulars of those firms and have them registered? That is really our difficulty. We do not want to do that, especially with all the nationalities suggested in the Bill. If the Government will really consider this matter and meet our difficulties as far as they can, I need not trouble the Committee with my Amendment, and I ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, after the word "as"[or as agent"], to insert the word "sole."


I do not think we could accept this Amendment because, if we did, then a foreign firm would only have to appoint a second agent and would then be able to contract entirely out of the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.