HC Deb 10 January 1918 vol 101 cc418-21

  1. (1) A company carrying on any business to which Section one of the Act applies may give notice requiring a shareholder 419 or debenture holder to make a declaration under the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835, as to the beneficial ownership of the shares or debentures standing in his name, and as to the nationality of such beneficial owner.
  2. (2) The notice shall be given by any method by which notices to or for the information of holders of shares or debentures are required to be given by the regulations of the company or the conditions of issue of the debentures.
  3. (3) Where such a notice has been given no person shall as holder of a share be entitled to attend or vote at any meeting of the company, and any dividends or interest which may become payable in respect of any shares or debentures shall be retained by the company until the shareholder or debenture holder shall have made such delaration as aforesaid.—[Mr. G. Terrell.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


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

This Clause has been recommended, and I have been asked to move it, on behalf of various employers' organisations. It is thought very desirable that the directors of companies should have some means of protection as to their shareholders. They may have enemy shareholders and not know it. They may thereby incur very great difficulties and penalties. By this Clause they can call upon any shareholder to make a declaration as to his nationality, and so ascertain their own position. I hope the learned Solicitor-General will see his way to accept it.


I entirely agree with what has been said, and the Government will be prepared to accept this new Clause.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.

The following new Clause stood on the Paper, in the name of General CROFT:

"No person shall without the consent of the Board of Trade be qualified to be a director or alternate director of any company carrying on the business of extracting, smelting, dressing, refining, or dealing by way of wholesale trade in metal or metallic ore to which this Act applies unless he is a British subject not of enemy origin, and has made a declaration and, if required, produced satisfactory evidence to the directors that he is a British subject and not subject to the influence of a foreign State, body, person, or corporation under foreign control."


With regard to this Clause, I have had some doubts as to whether it comes within the scope of the Bill at all, and, if it does, whether it should not come under the Schedule; but, on the whole, I think the hon. and gallant Member is entitled to move it here.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

General CROFT

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

This Clause does not require any explanation except this: that if we are to. effect the objects of this Bill it is quite evident we must also protect businesses from having directors who are of enemy origin, otherwise it seems you will simply be preserving these businesses for future trouble when your five years are over. The hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. J. M. Henderson), in referring to me just now with regard to this subject, said something to which I take no exception,. and it really applies to this.


May I ask whether this Clause is in any way an addition to the Bill? Does it really carry us any further than the Schedule?


That was: the difficulty in my mind, but the distinction I have been able to draw is that the conditions in the Schedule are optional with the Board of Trade as to whether they grant a licence or not. This is of a different character, being mandatory, and: because of that distinction I have allowed the hon. and gallant Member to move the Clause.

General CROFT

I was saying that it really is imperative, if we are going to get free from German influence, that we should get free from German individuals who might be able to exercise this influence.


This new Clause I fear is one which cannot be accepted. So far as it relates only to persons of enemy origin, it is already dealt with by the Bill, and dealt with, as I submit, in a way which. is to be preferred. But the scope of this Clause in one respect goes, if I follow it rightly, somewhat beyond the Bill because it will apply not merely to persons of enemy origin, but also to all aliens whatsoever. Now the object of this Bill is to prevent enemy influence in the non-ferrous metal industry, but it is not a part of the object of the Bill to prevent aliens from carrying on their business in this country. For those two reasons I cannot see my way to accept this new Clause.

Question put, and negatived.


With regard to the next new Clause [Re-election of Directors], that is clearly outside the scope of the Bill, and should be an Amendment to the Company Law.

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