§ It is hereby declared that where the fulfilment by any person of any contract not being a contract of tenancy is interfered with by the necessity on the part of himself or any other person of complying with any requirement, Regulation, or restriction of any Government Department, or of a competent naval or military authority, that necessity is a good defence to any action or proceeding taken against that person in respect of the non-fulfilment of the contract so far as it is due to that interference.697
§ Lords Amendment:
§ Leave out Clause 3 and insert Clause A:
§ Where before or after the passing of this Act the non-fulfilment of any contract (not being a contract of tenancy) was or is due to the compliance on the Hart of any person with any requirement, regulation, order, or restriction of any Government Department, or of a competent naval or military authority made, issued, or given or imposed for purposes connected with the present War, or with any direction or advice issued or given by any Government Department with the object of preventing transactions which, in the opinion of the Department, would or might be contrary to national interests in connection with the present War, proof of that fact shall be a good defence to any action or proceeding in respect of the non-fulfilment of the contract. A certificate by the appropriate Government Department shall be sufficient evidence that such direction or advice was issued or given and with such object as aforesaid.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ Sir G. HEWART
My hon. Friend appears for the moment to have forgotten that in Committee in this House Clause 3 was inserted with the object of giving a good defence in an action where the fulfilment of a contract, other than a contract of tenancy, was interfered with by the necessity of complying with a requirement, regulation, or restriction of a Government Department. It was proposed in that Clause to cover the whole ground, but inquiry made it plain that it did not cover the whole ground, and certain modifications were required in order to give effect to what I think was the undoubted intention of the Committee here. If that alteration had been made by the process of taking out particular words and inserting other words a good many Amendments would have been required, and therefore the course which was adopted, I imagine purely for purposes of convenience, was to leave out the Clause as it left this House and to insert the expanded Clause, which 698 went a little further. I will point out in what respect the new Clause goes somewhat further than the old. The new Clause extends the relief which the old Clause gave to cases where a person has failed to comply with a contract because he has complied with any direction or advice issued or given by any Government Department with the object of preventing transactions which, in the opinion of the Department, would or might be contrary to national interests in connection with the present War. If this Amendment had not been inserted there might conceivably have been controversy as to whether that which was done in the way of direction or advice amounted to a requirement. The insertion of these words puts that doubt aside and expands the previously existing words in a sense which this House would desire. There is an addition at the end of the Clause, which the House may think to be a useful addition, that further provides that a certificate from the appropriate Government Department shall be sufficient evidence that such direction or advice was issued or given. So that partly the new matter introduces a new ground of excuse, or relief, and partly it introduces a convenient way of dealing with any question of evidence with regard to that direction or advice.
§ Mr. KING
I thank my hon. Friend for his explanation and also for the last three lines which have been added, which are really something quite new. The issue of a certificate by the appropriate Government Department may be, and probably will be-, a quite useful and satisfactory solution, and I hope the Government Department will raise no difficulties at giving it. We are by this placing power in the hands of a Government Department in a way which was not considered and is quite new. It practically amounts to this, that in future a Government Department can give certificates which will enable firms to get out of their contracts. That may be good and may be necessary, and no doubt in many cases will act well, but there is a danger in it. I will not oppose the Amendment, but I think it is only right that this quite new principle ought to be shown up.
§ Question put, and agreed to.