HC Deb 31 October 1916 vol 86 cc1629-32

Order for Second Reading read.

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


This is a short Bill which we introduce in accordance with the wish of the Commonwealth Government. The origin of the word "Anzac" is well known to us. It is a word which has become almost sacred from its being associated with deeds of heroism and sacrifice. It is not right or fitting that a word associated with hallowed memories of brave and gallant men should be used for trade purposes and as a trade mark, and that we should have "Anzac soap," and an "Anzac Motor Company," which, by the way, is not a British company at all. Worst of all, everybody will recollect that the word "Anzac" was used in the "Anzac-on-Sea" case where it was certainly put to a very base and improper use. No doubt there is a very strong feeling on this subject in Australia and New Zealand, and the Commonwealth Government expressed the wish to the Government here that its use for trade purposes should be prohibited. The Government gladly give effect to that wish by complying with it at the earliest possible date, and therefore we are introducing this Bill, which simply enacts that, "As from the commencement of this Act, it shall not be lawful in connection with any trade, business, calling, or profession to use the word 'Anzac,' or any word closely resembling that word." Suitable penalties are imposed for any contravention of the provisions of the Bill. The matter is one which I am quite sure the House will receive with sympathy, and I hope hon. Members will be good enough to give the Bill a Second Reading without any dissentient voice.


The hon. Gentleman has said Anzac is a name which is of hallowed memory, and I myself think it ought to be protected from being used in certain directions. I submit, however, that this Government did nothing to prevent the use of this word in the manner to which objection is now taken, and it was not until the Commonwealth Government expressed their wish, and made a representation on the subject, that the Government took action; it was not until the Commonwealth Government pointed the matter out to them that the Government woke up to their duty and sought to give expression to the wish of the Australian Government. This measure raises a very important point, apart altogether from its merits. It raises the question whether the House is justified in fresh retrospective legislation. The House is very chary with regard to such matters. In regard to this Bill, I would point out that the Government did not intervene or object to money being spent by firms who used this word, and it was for the Government to have made up their minds a year or two ago not to allow to take place what ought never to have been permitted at all. I therefore protest against this retrospective legislation, and I submit that once you open the door to it the result may be all kinds of possible injustices and anomalies. If a person obeys the law today and is to suffer financially or otherwise later, I do not know where the business community is going to be at all. I trust, therefore, that the House will not pass this retrospective legislation, unless those whom it will affect are properly reimbursed. There are persons who may have incurred financial responsibilities and obligations which they would not have undertaken unless the Government had given them permission.

What is the position with regard to this matter? The Government have taken money from British traders or firms for registration purposes and to protect them, and now they propose, by this Bill, although they have taken this money, they want to alter the law. I submit that they ought never to have given permission. Take the case of the Anzac Motor Company, which was registered some time ago-a company which the hon. Gentleman says is not a British company, though every shilling of its capital is British. The point I press upon the Government is, having received this money for registration purposes, are going to enter upon a course which would mean confiscation if continued. The hon. Gentleman the other night, when he was being pressed upon the importance of winding-up speedily enemy firms in this country, said we had never heard of confiscation in the history of this country, and he was not going to begin it now with the Germans. I only ask him to show the same tenderness to Britishers that he is ready to show to Germans. I submit that the Bill which you are asking the House to consent to means confiscation. Is that true or is it not? Is the hon. Gentleman going to return the money which the Government have received? I contend that if this legislation is carried the people who have acted under the authority of the Government and spent their money ought to be properly compensated.

It is not a crime using the word Anzac; it is a popular name, and as long as the Government received money for its registration it was not criminal or otherwise to use it. Therefore I submit that the Government ought to compensate those who acted in reliance on its good faith, and spent money amounting to large sums in endeavouring to popularise the name. But this Bill does not stop the use of the word Anzac at all; it only removes the authority to the Secretary of State, and no one in future will be allowed to use the word Anzac in respect of any company, or any motor company, or any production, without first applying to the Secretary of State, who might give authority to use the word, and all these provisions would be of no avail. If you stop the use of this word it should be stopped altogether. You ought not to use backstairs methods to bring things before the Secretary of State in order that he may authorise something which you yourselves suggest is against the public wish. The Bill, so far as it is retrospective, is most objectionable, and sets a bad precedent that would probably be followed in the future. If you confiscate the goodwill of people who, under the licence of the Government, have been permitted to carry on their business affairs in a certain way, then all I ask is that you should make proper provision in the measure that, after due examination, those who have spent their money with the permission of the Government shall be properly reimbursed. Let the House note what an extraordinary state of things prevails in regard to legislation as regards the Coalition Government. Those people who have been using the name were asked, without any compensation, to give up the word which they had registered, and the threat that was made to them was that "unless you do so we will carry a Bill through the House of Commons to carry out our wishes, and you will get nothing at all." That is a curious state of things, the Government going down and threatening an Act of Parliament through this House, before the House is consulted, to deprive them of their goodwill and property. Those are rather shady methods of legislation. I urge the Government that in justice and fair business dealing they should insert a Clause to provide proper compensation to those who spent their money on the faith of the good will of the Government.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Rea.]

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