HC Deb 22 November 1916 vol 87 cc1528-31

In the application of this Act to Ireland, the expression "trustee in bankruptcy" shall be construed as including an assignee in bankruptcy and a trustee of the estate of an arranging debtor.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The object is to adapt the Bill to the state of the Irish law of bankruptcy, which differs in detail from the English law, The Clause will have the effect of making the practical operation of the Bill the same in Ireland as in England.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.


I beg to move to leave out the words at the end of the Schedule "specifying the nationality of the firms."

The reason is that a man in this country may be acting as agent for people of whom he knows comparatively little, his agency having been procured through a foreign branch. It is, therefore, not always easy for him to give the nationality of the people concerned in the foreign firm. I hope the Government will accept this Amendment. May I take the opportunity of thanking the hon Gentleman in charge of the Bill for having given such careful consideration to various points brought to his notice by myself and other hon. Members.


I thank the hon. Gentlemen for his suggestion, which I think is a very valuable one. I propose to leave out the words he suggests, because it is quite obvious that a person acting in this country as a agent for foreign firms cannot really know the technical nationality of the members of the firm. What is really intended is that he should merely state the countries in which those firms are actually carrying on business. If he is only acting as agent for two firms, he has to give the names of the members; but if he is acting for more than two firms, then he must give the nationality of the firm. I would suggest that the Amendment be altered to read, to leave out the words "nationality of the firms," and to insert instead thereof the words "countries in which such foreign firms carry on business."


I am pleased to accept that altered form of Amendment.

Question, "That the words 'nationality of the firms' stand part of the Schedule," put, and negatived. Words, "countries in which such foreign firms carry on business," there inserted.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Schedule, as amended, be the Schedule to the Bill."


This Bill, as we know, will apply to a good many firms, not only important firms but various small traders, and anything the Government can do to facilitate its operations ought to be done. There are a great many small traders in Ireland who do not follow very closely the proceedings of this House, and who may be unfamiliar with the terms of this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament. The Bill is to come into operation very soon after it reaches the Statute Book, and the penalties will also be enforceable soon after the Bill is in operation. I do not know what arrangements the hon. Gentleman is making for this country or for Scotland, but I do suggest that, in regard to Ireland, he should communicate with the Chief Secretary and suggest to him to issue from the Irish Office a short summary of the terms of the Bill and to communicate it to the police in each district, as the members of the force will know the firms that are concerned and effected. The operation of the Bill would thereby be considerably facilitated. There are many small traders with names over their shops which are not their own and which they have never taken the trouble to alter. This is not a very large request to make, but I am sure, if it is acted upon, it will greatly help the smooth working of the Bill.


I should like to support the observations of my hon. Friend and colleague, and I would make a further suggestion, i.e., that the information be given to the chambers of commerce and to the Dublin Mercantile Associations, which are in close communication with the traders. I am speaking not so much for country districts as for the City of Dublin, where we think the less we have to do with the constabulary the better for ourselves and for them. If this information can be conveyed through commercial sources to various parts of the country I certainly think it would be most useful.


I hope the Government will do all they can to give the fullest publicity to the passing of this Bill, but I trust, at the same time, they will carefully consider the advisability of doing nothing which will convey the impression that no one who commits an offence against the Bill is liable unless he has had his attention called to the fact that it has been passed and has some knowledge of its provisions. If that is done you are not going to get at the men against whom the Bill is aimed, and who will really want to escape from its operation. I should have thought it would have been sufficient if the attention of the Board of Trade were called to the desirability of giving publicity through the usual channels, which they know so well, such as technical journals which desire to convey to their readers the latest information which concerns them. I hope nothing will be done that will lead anyone to think that they should be served with some notice or that there is responsibility on the part of some public officer to call their attention to the Bill; if that is done we shall do a great deal to minimise the effects of the Bill.


May I point out with regard to Ireland that these technical journals have really no circulation in the small towns in Ireland. With regard to chambers of commerce I know that some of them in Ireland for the last twenty-five years have been vainly trying to get a Bill of this nature passed into law, and, therefore, I am sure they will heartily welcome it and do their best to facilitate its working.


I fully agree with what the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Field) has said, and I would take this opportunity of thanking hon. Members opposite for having assented to this Bill. I am perfectly well aware that it has probably less applicability to the people in trade in Ireland than in any other part of the United Kingdom. It might easily be that a larger burden proportionate to the benefit actually derived by Ireland is placed upon Ireland than upon any other part of the United Kingdom. I quite recognise that. I would readily accept the suggestion the hon. Gentleman has made, and if he will write to me on any points that occur to him, I will communicate with the Irish Office and do everything possible to see that full publicity is given, so that people shall not be caught unawares. With reference to the point raised by the hon. Member (Mr. Glyn-Jones), we will certainly guard the point, if it does require guarding, that our moral obligation to make this as public as possible does not relieve people from their legal obligation to register under this Bill.

Question, "That the Schedule, as amended, be the Schedule to the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 126.]