§ 8. Mr. NIELD
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, whilst members of English firms engaged in the diamond trade are serving this country in the trenches, their German competitors, operating from Holland, are permitted by English law to import goods into this country through the intermediary of members of the Diamond Import Committee acting in their private capacity and to dispatch the same to subjects of alien enemy countries resident in India, receiving a commission for their services; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?
I am afraid the hon. Member has been misinformed. It is not the case that German firms operating in Holland are forwarding diamonds to enemy firms in India through the intermediary of the exports appointed by the Foreign Trade Department to examine diamonds imported into this country.
§ 9. Mr. NIELD
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the injury which has resulted from the acts of the Departments and in view also of the complaints arising from the past action of the diamond committees by which such Departments are, guided, ho, will introduce legislation at an early date to afford parties considering themselves aggrieved by the decision of the Departments to appeal to a Court, or judge of the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, with power to award compensation to those who may sustain loss consequent upon complaints which prove not to be well-founded or to have been recklessly undertaken?
If the hon. Member is referring to the export of diamonds and 1665 intends to suggest that the decisions of the competent Departments with regard to -applications for export licences should be made subject to review by the Courts, I do not think it desirable that this course should be pursued. Questions relating to the import of diamonds are dealt with by the, Foregn Trade Department, who inform me that any importer who is dissatisfied with the seizure, under Section 6 of the Customs (War Powers) Act, 1915, of diamonds imported into the United Kingdom has a legal remedy, and that no further provision seems to be required.
§ 10. Mr. NIELD
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the diamond import and export committees, against the protest of diamond dealers, require that the latter should furnish to them the names and addresses of their customers as well as the prices paid or charged for goods; whether this disclosure of information by traders to their competitors in trade was necessary; and whether, to prevent injustice, he will direct that the goods, the subject of investigation, should be identified by numbers to be assigned by an approved authority or other methods which will preserve trade information not necessary for the discharge by the Departments of their public duty?
It is necessary, for the due performane of its duties, that the Diamond Exports Committee should be in possession of the information referred to by the hon. Member, and the Foreign Trade Department inform me that their experts who examine diamonds imported into this country must be in possession of similar information, in order that they may give a considered opinion as to the origin of the goods. I see no reason for any change in the present practice.
§ 11. Mr. NIELD
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the injustice which permits of an alien trader getting direct advantage from the absence on military duty of members and staffs of English firms and the impropriety of members of the diamond import and export committees being engaged either 1666 personally or as members of a firm, or through agents, so that in the result they derive pecuniary advantage in competition with traders whose goods they have to adjudicate upon, he will consent to the appointment of a Committee of this House to investigate the constitution of the diamond import and export committees with a view to their reconstruction on a representative and totally impartial basis; and whether such committee should be directed to consider and report upon measures for the further and better coordination of the various Departments and authorities concerned in the import and export of diamonds, so as to ensure that an impartial administration should be had wherever an offence has been committed or reasonably suspected by traders in this country, irrespective of nationality, and proceedings taken?
No, Sir, I am not prepared to consent to the appointment of such a Committee. The diamond exports committee was appointed by the late President of the Board of Trade, and I am convinced that it has performed its difficult duties to the best of its ability in an impartial manner and without regard for the pecuniary or personal interests of its members. I understand from the Foreign Trade Department that the experts appointed by them to examine diamonds imported into this country have rendered valuable and devoted service. It is regrettable that any suggestion should be made that their experts have used their position for their private advantage.