HC Deb 23 January 1918 vol 101 cc1049-91

  1. 1. That any director of the company or any partner of the firm, or the individual, or any manager or other principal officer employed by the company, firm, or individual, is a person who is or has been an enemy, or who was at any time before the fourth day of August nineteen hundred and fourteen the subject of a State which subsequently became an enemy State.
  2. 2. That in the case of a company, any capital of the company is or was at any time after the twelfth day of November nineteen hundred and seventeen held by or on behalf of an enemy, including any stock or shares of the company vested in the custodian by virtue of any order made under the Trading With the Enemy Acts, 1914 to 1916.
  3. 3. That the company, firm, or individual is or was at any time after the twelfth day of November nineteen hundred and seventeen party to any agreement, arrangement or understanding, which enables or enabled an enemy to influence the policy or conduct of the business.
  4. 4. That the company, firm, or individual is or was at any time after the twelfth day of November nineteen hundred and seventeen interested, directly or indirectly, to the extent of one-fifth or more of the capital profits or voting power in any undertaking whether or not in the United Kingdom, engaged in business of a kind to which this Act applies, in which 1050 enemies are also interested, directly or in directly to the extent of one-fifth or more of the capital profits or voting power.
  5. 5. That the company, firm, or individual, is by any means whatever subject, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of their or his business to enemy influence or association.
  6. 6. That, in the case of a company, the company has issued share warrants to bearer and has not given notice under this Act requiring the holders of the share warrants to surrender their warrants for cancellation.

For the purposes of this Schedule—

The expression "enemy" means a subject of an enemy State and. an enemy controlled corporation.

The expression "enemy State" means Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.

The expression enemy controlled corporation "means any corporation—

  1. (a) where the majority of the directors or the persons occupying the position of directors by whatever name called, are subjects of a State as aforesaid; or
  2. (b) where the majority of the voting power is in the hands of persons who are subjects of such a State as aforesaid, or who exercise their voting powers directly or indirectly on behalf of persons who are subjects of such a State as aforesaid; or
  3. (c) where the control is by any means whatever in the hands of persons who are subjects of such a. State as aforesaid; or
  4. (d) where the executive is an enemy controlled company or where the majority of the executive are appointed by an enemy controlled company.

The expression "capital" in relation to a company means any shares or securities issued by the company which carry, or would, if the necessary formalities were complied with. carry any voting power with respect to the management of the company and shall also include debentures and debenture stock and money lent to the company.


I beg to move, in paragraph 1, to leave out the words "any manager or."

I was under the impression that the Solicitor - General had accepted this Amendment on the Committee stage. At any rate, the Solicitor-General will see by referring to the OFFICIAL REPORT that he expressed willingness to accept it. I was under the impression that it was actually accepted and when I found the words in the Bill again I was very surprised. Without these words the condition will read

"or the individual, or other principal officer employed by the company, firm, or individual."

I do not know whether I am wrong in saying that the Solicitor-General said he would accept those words.

6.0 P.M.


My hon. and learned Friend's recollection is not quite correct. Friend's recollection is not quite correct. committee was so to amend Condition I as to make it read, "That any director of the company or any partner of the firm, or the individual, or any principal officer employed by," and so -on. It is quite true that in the course of the discussion upon that Amendment I said, on the spur of the moment, having regard to the particular phraseology of this condition, that the simpler thing would be to omit the words "manager or other," so as to make it read "any principal officer employed by"—because upon the phraseology of this condition it is assumed that the manager is a principal officer, hence the word "other" before "principal officer"—and I said that the manager was regarded as being a principal officer, whoever else might or might not be a principal officer. But if my hon. and learned Friend will refresh his memory by looking at what took place, he refused to accept that Amendment. I will not conjecture the reason, but the useful effect of his refusing to accept it was that we have had a little further opportunity for consideration, and although the word "other" in this condition may be somewhat incorrect, because it assumes that the manager is a principal officer, I am not any longer prepared to accept this Amendment, because it has been held in some cases that the manager is not a principal officer, and although no doubt the words in this Bill assume that he is, it is quite useful that the word "manager" should remain. My hon. and learned Friend probably remembers the little couplet, Those who will not when they may, When they would they shall have nay. There was a moment, no doubt, when an offer was made to put in these words, but the offer was not accepted. I am glad it was not accepted, because I think the word "other" is wrong and the word "manager" should remain.


I think the Solicitor-General is in a less satisfactory frame of mind than he was on the Committee stage. I think he was right then and wrong now. I do not think a manager is necessarily in fact a principal officer. After all, the word "manager" has no statutory meaning itself. It is a mere title which may be given to one man of a trifling character and withheld from another who is doing much more important work. Surely the words "principal officer" are sufficient to cover any case. The only case in which a manager would not be held to be a principal officer would be when he was in fact not a principal officer, and seeing that what you want to get at is a person who is in fact a principal officer, and not merely a person who may be called by the name of manager, I should have thought it was very much better to accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, after the word "person" "["is a person who is or has been"], to insert the words "not being a British subject."

I am sorry to take up time in discussing a matter which was fully discussed in Committee, but this Amendment raises a question not of administrative convenience, but of principle. I want again to raise the question on treating one class of British citizen in a different manner from that in which all other classes of British citizens are treated. It appears to me that there is a very great objection to introducing a thing which I believe is unknown at present in the law of this country—two classes of citizens, one of which has not got precisely the same civil rights as the other. A naturalised citizen, whether of enemy origin or not, is entitled to all the rights of any other citizen. He is allowed to have a vote for Members of Parliament, and he is entitled, if chosen by a body of electors, himself to sit in Parliament. He may even be a member of the Government or of the War Cabinet. But under this Bill it is proposed that a person so situated is not to be allowed to deal in non-ferrous metals unless he has some rather special licence or favour from the Board of Trade. That is really an intolerable state of things. It is a gross breach of faith on the part of the Government towards the citizen to whom naturalisation papers have been issued. If it is proper to make a distinction between citizens who become citizens by naturalisation and those who become citizens by birth, it ought to be made in the naturalisation laws, and it ought to be explained to the new citizen, when he accepts citizenship, that he is to have it on less favourable terms than those on which citizens by birth hold their citizenship. You have no moral right, having granted to anyone full citizenship, to take it away from him without the clearest evidence that he himself has committed some wrongful action. It is a very cruel case as regards many of these men. There are men who will have a stigma fixed upon them by this Bill, who have spent nearly the whole of their lives in this country, who have lived here as honoured citizens, and whose sons have fought and fallen on the battlefield for us, and they are to have this stigma fixed upon them without a particle of evidence adduced by anyone that they have been doing something wrong. This is also a very unsatisfactory proposal when you come to consider the case of any persons who may become British citizens by force. If we are to annex, as I hope we may, some of the German colonies and possibly some of the Turkish dominions, persons who have British citizenship forced upon them will be made to realise that they are not admitted into the British Empire on the same terms as other citizens. That is not a policy which is likely to be conducive to a satisfactory settlement of boundary questions which will arise in the Peace settlement. It is a policy which, if it had been adopted towards the last enemy with whom we were in conflict, would have prevented one of the most distinguished members of the War Cabinet from dealing in non-ferrous metals. This is a proposal for which there can be no defence, and, indeed, no defence has ever been offered. It has never been suggested that any public advantage is going to be derived from this proposal. It is unworthy of the greatness of the British Empire and ought to be rejected.


I beg to second the Amendment.

In my opinion this is by far the most objectionable Clause in the Bill, and it is made all the more objectionable by the attitude the Government has displayed towards the House. There have been many ways in which the Government might have eased the passage of the Bill and made this Clause less offensive, but on each occasion when they had an opportunity they always took the other line. There is a later Amendment on the Paper to-day which exemplifies the same spirit. The Government actually reaches this point now, that not only is it going practically to refuse the right to trade to anyone who has ever been a subject of any of these enemy States—that surely would have been enough even in this House of Commons acting under war influence—but it is actually telling the House that it is going to put the burden of proof upon these people to show that it is expedient that they should trade, and that is one of the reasons which made me move an Amendment earlier to-day. It seems to me to be as objectionable as anything can be that you are going to claim that the Board of Trade shall interfere in any way with the full rights of citizens without any case being proved against them, and it does not seem to me to be made very much better by what we were told on an earlier occasion by the President of the Board of Trade, that there were certain people whom the Board had reason to suspect and apparently could not convict. There is not an oligarchal Government in the world that does not say, where it cannot convict a man on evidence, "let us do it without." Not only does the Board of Trade now claim to convict people without evidence, but it has also been most industrious throughout the Bill to prevent there being any single appeal to anyone with any judicial experience from the exercise of their discretion in which they decide that these people, whom they cannot convict on any evidence, are yet to be held guilty without evidence, and from that conviction there is to be no appeal whatsoever.

I know perfectly well that it is merely beating the air to repeat the protest that one has already made. I am perfectly aware of the fact that they intend to treat naturalised subjects in this way, for the first time in modern English history, without giving any reason to the House, and then—because their case on every one of these metals, as far as I am able to understand, has been absolutely riddled—merely because they desire to have this power, as they say, in the public interest, they give no reason for it, and they proceed to treat these people just as though they were enemies, and further than that, they treat them infinitely worse than if they were foreign subjects who were now in hearty sympathy with the Germans. You have this position, that the Government says a man who was naturalised thirty or forty years ago, and has every way done his duty as a British citizen, may not trade in non-ferrous metals unless the Board of Trade thinks it expedient. Take the case of a Dutchman whose sympathies are and have been entirely pro-German throughout the War. He can trade in non-ferrous metals whether the Board of Trade think it expedient or not. What we are actually going to do is to put penalties upon loyal naturalised subjects which you have never dreamed of putting upon others who are flagrantly and openly and confessedly hostile to this country. That is certainly a new method of administration of the law in this country. What on earth we think we are going to gain by bringing such principles into our law I cannot imagine. You are going to describe these people in these terms, as

"any director of the company or any partner of the firm, or the individual, or any manager, or other principal officer employed by the company, firm, or individual, is a person who is or has been an enemy."

I understand that it is the intention of the Government that the words shall stop there. In other words you are going to say boldly that any person who has ever been or is a subject of one of these States is a person who is or has been an enemy.


The fact that this matter was argued at great length in Committee is, I know, not a reason why it should not be argued now. But that fact is a reason why what was said in Committee should not be restated in full on Report. My hon. and learned Friend was made aware in Committee, if he was not aware before, that the object of the words in the Bill is not to disqualify a naturalised British subject, who was formerly a German, but it is to bring the case of such a person under review. In the remarks made by the President of the Board of Trade it was, I think, made abundantly clear that, in the case of such a person as has been described by my hon. and learned Friend, who is a naturalised subject, who has lived in this country for a long time, and whose behaviour has been not only free from suspicion, but positively and actually good, the effect of the review would be that, notwithstanding that he had been a German subject, he would be granted a licence. What is of importance is that the person occupying that position should be a person whose case shall be reviewed. No doubt, as my hon. and learned Friend has observed, the policy of this country in relation to naturalisation has been an. extremely liberal policy, and nobody desires to detract or subtract from it. But we are dealing here with a special emergency, and with a particular and, single matter. The object of the Bill is to secure, if we can secure, and as far as legislation can secure, that these particular industries shall be free from enemy association, influence and control. I quite agree that the Bill is not perfect. It does not go the whole length, but within its limits, is it not idle to suggest that where legislation of that kind is introduced you can close your eyes to the fact that there are in this country a large number of naturalised British subjects. who formerly were Germans. I am not going to say a word against them, and I desire to make no imputation upon them, but there are plain facts of origin and of race which no certificate of naturalisation can obliterate. Where the object is to bring persons of a certain type under review and give the Board of Trade, in a proper case, the power of preventing those persons from carrying on a particular business, I submit that it is idle to say that at some earlier date, under circumstances quite different. they were naturalised as British subjects. My hon. and learned Friend will remember as well' as I do the assurance given by the President of the Board of Trade as to the mode of treatment which might confidently be expected in the case of naturalised British subjects whose conduct had been such as it should be.

My hon. and learned Friend argued, for the purpose, I suppose, of reductio ad absurdum, that, although the Bill brought in a loyal British subject who had been a German, there were many other persons omitted. He said that it omitted a Dutchman. Does he propose to bring in a Dutchman? The fact that a Dutchman is omitted is no reason why former Germans should not, in a proper case, be included. I cannot understand the arguments against the Bill, so far as it contains what it should contain, based upon the ground that there are other things which it omits. Finally, my hon. and learned Friend committed himself to the argument that the omission of certain words in the Schedule had qualified the meaning of the words "enemy State," and that it was intended to be, and would lave the effect of being offensive.


I did not say it intended to be offensive.


Well, that it would have the effect of being offensive. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the Clause, he will see that in consequence of an Amendment, which was accepted in Committee, the definition of "enemy State," in paragraph 6 of the Schedule has been altered. The expression, "enemy State," is no longer defined in general terms. It is defined as particular countries—Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. That change having been made, it became totally unnecessary to continue the, general words in proviso 1. It is for that reason and for no other reason that the words have been omitted. If the policy of this Bill is right, if the object at which the Government is aiming is an object which we ought to aim at, it is essential not only that we should disqualify former Germans from carrying on this trade in proper cases, but that we should bring the cases individually before the Board of Trade for review.


The Solicitor-General has said that this matter was dealt with at length in Committee, and that it was not necessary to repeat the arguments now. As I did not take part in the Debate on this particular Amendment in Committee, I must allow myself to say a few words now, because in many ways I regard this as the most important part of the Bill. I think it involves a departure from the agreement made with these men and women when they were admitted as citizens of this country. The arguments which the Solicitor-General has used might be directed against the naturalisation of Germans or of foreigners generally. There would be a great deal of force in what he said if it is true that all foreigners retain sympathy with the country of their birth, and cannot adopt the feelings and habits of the people with whom they are naturalised. That is a very strong argument against naturalising them, but it is no argument. for breaking your agreement with them when you have naturalised them. These things should have been foreseen. The right hon. Gentleman argued that circumstances have changed. Is not that the argument invariably used by every man when he wants to break a bargain into which he has entered? Was not that the very argument used by the German Chancellor, that a country in danger of its existence could not be bound by agreements? You made these agreements with these foreigners, and you have no right to disregard the agreement because it is inconvenient for you and it is difficult for you to carry out your intention if you do not disregard the agreement. You should have thought of that at the time you admitted them. No argument that I have heard has given the slightest justification for this Clause.

Party is dead in the country, but I cannot forget that it is a Liberal Minister who has addressed the House. May I remind him of another Liberal Minister who spoke many years go in this House in regard to the treatment of a naturalised alien? Lord Palmerston spoke in House for five hours on his famous Civis Romanus Sum, and he interpreted that as "I am an English citizen." The person in question was Dom Pacifico. I do not know how he became to be naturalised, but he was a naturalised British citizen. That was good enough for Lord Palmerston, and he spoke here for justification and for reparation in regard to the attack upon Dom Pacifico. That is how Liberal statesmen in the past felt in regard to naturalised British subjects, and I do protest that the President of the Board of Trade should profess that this is a small matter. It is very regrettable that they should have so little regard for the traditions of this country, and for the pledged word of this country, in regard to these naturalised aliens that they should try to draw a distinction between one kind of British citizen and another. It has been, and it ought to have been, the proud boast of this country that a man was a British citizen and that that gave him all the rights of his British citizenship. That will be so no longer after this Bill. I do not envy the. Government the part they are playing in this great breach with the traditions of the past, and I think we shall all live to be thoroughly ashamed of having been party to such an attack upon a people because we are at war with them. It is quite true we are at war with the Germans, the Austrians, the Bulgarians, and the Turks to-day. We have Allies to-day. With our present Allies we have been at war in the past. With our present enemies we have been alliance in the past. Thank goodness the world does not always maintain its enmities! Unfortunately it does not always retain its friendships. It is deeply regrettable that you should betray the honourable traditions of this country because you are in a particular difficulty. I regret what the Government. are doing, I protest against it, I have no share in it. and I say that they will be ashamed of it.


The Solicitor-General said that we are not disqualifying these men, but only making them come under review. Is not that disqualification?


And putting the burden of proof upon them.


You are not bringing other people under review. Why bring them under review'? The fact is that it is a very cowardly trick. Our men at the front are not afraid to meet the Germans, but there is a feeling amongst our commercial and industrial men that they are frightened to death of the Germans in competition. and this is an attempt to tie up the intelligence of these people and grip it so that it shall not come in competition with them in the future. Why are you doing it now? You have complete control of all these metals, and this Bill is going to be for after the War—for five years. Most likely the terms of peace will be against anything of the kind, and you will have to tear up your Act. In the meantime you will have appeared to the world, and to those who take the trouble to make themselves acquainted with facts, as having cast this slur upon the great integrity of your own country. Naturalisation was not easy thirty or forty years ago. The conduct of a person and his life are to be inquired into very strictly. He took the oath of allegiance. It is not suggested for a moment that he has ever broken that oath. Why should you come down on him? We are all angry with the Germans, and, naturally, I am as angry as anyone else, and then it is said, "We cannot get at the Germans over there to punish them. We will get at you here, whom we have admitted to citizenship, perhaps thirty or forty years ago, and we will penalise and disqualify you." We cannot get at the real offenders, the Metallgesellschaft, and these men are to be punished instead.

The object is that these metals shall be free from all enemy association and control, but the metals are impersonal things. They are under control wherever they are. found. It is where they come out of the ground that you can control them. You. will never control them in any other way, by saying that you will only licence certain men. It is a most stupid thing. The very stupidity of it is abysmal. To do that you are going to put a stain on the honour of Great Britain, whose word is its bond.. I know some officers who have come from internment in Germany. They have told me that the Germans hate us more than they hate either the French or the Russians, but the Germans will take an English officer's word where they would not take the word of the others. That is the standard of character that we have had in the past, and even if you are going to lose a little control of a little wretched spelter, is that going to compensate you for breaking your word? I would rather lose control of the whole thing. But we have never lost any control through the Germans, but only by our own folly in not securing it when we could do so. But we have got it now. There is something else which may be said on the Third Reading,. but which I need not say now, but I regret that even for all that you think you are going to get out of this you should lay this. stain upon the escutcheon of the British Empire.


Before saying one or two words with regard to this Amendment, I should like to correct a mistake which I made in the Committee stage of the Bill when referring to the difficulty of getting rid of enemy associations and influence. I illustrated what I had to say in the case of copper by a reference to some of the great controllers of copper in America. I referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellington (Sir C. Henry), whose firm is probably the greatest in the world in this business of copper, as representing Messrs. Guggenheim in this country. My hon. Friend has since corrected my information on that subject. He tells me that this is not correct. I feel that it is due to him to make it clear that in the illustration which I gave, which was not at all to his detriment, I introduced the name of Messrs. Guggenheim under a misapprehension. I join with my hon. Friends in their protest against the form of the Schedule. It is a matter of general agreement that naturalisation is one of the obligations which in this country have always been held to be sacred. The accident of birth gives to a man who is British born privileges which are enjoyed by probably no other citizen in the world, and, although we have been liberal and even generous in extending naturalisation to men who have been born outside the British Empire, we have up to the present, until this Bill was introduced, bound ourselves honourably by the obligations into which we entered. The supposition which is apparently in the minds of the promoters of this Bill, is that a man who has been naturalised is more likely to be in close association with the metal brokers and metal financiers of Frankfort than a man who has been born here and obtains his citizenship by natural right.

There has been no evidence in the whole course of the Debate of that being based on any one fact or on any group of facts. I am sure that if there had been either my right lion. Friend the President of the Board of Trade or my right hon. and learned Friend the learned Solicitor-General would have adduced it. They have done all they could to support their arguments by statements of fact. There has not been given a single case of the kind. They have omitted to give any instance of naturalised British subjects behaving, or having been under suspicion of behaving, as though they were in close association with enemy controllers or financiers of metal. But even if they had. surely that would not have justified any amendment of the naturalisation law, as provided for in the first Clause of this Schedule ! The question of national obligation is much too serious to be dealt with merely in a single Clause in the Schedule of a comparatively trivial measure. If the Government are not satisfied with the patriotism of those who have been naturalised, let them come to the House and straightforwardly amend the naturalisation law. Let them do it as covering the case of all naturalised British citizens. and riot merely those who have been in the metal trade. I have listened carefully, both in the Committee stage and to-day, to the case made by the Government for dishonouring a national obligation, and, as far as I can gather, the only reason for that is that now or during the next five years those who have been naturalised will behave dishonourably or unpatriotically.

I do not hold a brief for any naturalised British subject. I have received communications from those who claim to be patriotic British subjects, and many of them state their case with great dignity. To some extent their case was met in Committee. It is not their point of view I am thinking of, but at the same time I think it would be well if you would have enough imagination to realise what must be the feelings of a man who accepted British citizenship on the undertaking, given in a most solemn State paper, that lie was to be regarded for all future time as though he were a natural - born Britisher, if he is to be under suspicion which is cast. on no other citizen, and also is cast on no other foreigner except those who are citizens of Germany, Austria, Turkey, or Bulgaria! A very large number of these men have proved their patriotism in a hundred ways. Most of them have given the most complete pledges of their devotion to this country. Many of them are now mourning sons who have been lost in our cause, and to cast a stigma on these people, without any notice and in direct breach of the obligation into which we entered, appears to me to be such a mean. and dishonourable transaction that I can scarcely understand that the Ministers who are responsible for it can have realised how profound is the disgust—I can use no weaker word—with which some of us, who believe that the obligations entered into by a nation ought to be observed, a thing for which mainly we are fighting now, at the way in which in this Bill an effort is made to amend the naturalisation laws. The phraseology which I have used is much stronger than any which I would think of indulging in in reference to any other part of the Bill, because I think that the Bill is a very weak and feeble way of dealing with the control of metals. I believe that the proper way is to control the metals and not to bother about the nationality of those who are in business in these commodities. This amendment of our naturalisation laws is a thing which no member of the Government can be proud of being a supporter.


It is to be regretted that certain Members representing, no doubt, as they do, a group in this House and a certain body of opinion are the only persons to speak here in a Debate of this kind, as they are, I believe, entirely out of touch and out of sympathy with 99 per cent. of the people of this country. What mountains have been made out of a molehill! The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushcliffe, in an almost impassioned oration which preceded the speech to which we have just listened, in which the right hon. Gentleman admitted that he was speaking very strongly on this question, dealt with it from the point of view of a breach of faith or a breach of contract. This condition is only one of six conditions. The Bill deals with companies who are trading under all these conditions and brings them within the purview of the Board of Trade in a particular matter. I am convinced that people generally in the country would think it a perfectly proper thing that persons who are of alien enemy origin, no matter whether they are naturalised or not, should come within the purview of the Board of Trade before they are given a licence and should only be given a licence if the Board of Trade think it expedient. That is what the public understand as being one of the main objects of this Bill. They do not share the views of those who draw this exaggerated picture in order to throw discredit on the whole of this Bill, and the whole effort of the Government to deal with this question, and make these accusations of breach of faith.

There is no analogy between what is proposed in this Bill and the historic pronouncement to which reference has been made, as if the Board of Trade and its representative did not make it perfectly plain that in the case of these oft-quoted naturalised persons, who have been many years in this country, and whose sons have been fighting for us and all the rest of it, that in all such cases where the Board of Trade are satisfied they would be treated as British subjects, and not placed under any disadvantage. But right hon. and hon. Members are blinding our eyes to the facts of the case. It would be perfect folly on the part of the Government to assume that all persons who were naturalised even within a few months of the outbreak of the War are such whole-hearted British subjects, without the slightest connection or sympathy with the country of their origin, and that it would be perfectly safe in a Bill which purports to try to remove from alien control the metal resources of the Empire and the metal trade of this great city, if in such cases as that we were to say, "We have given to these people. under wholly different conditions, full citizenship, and, therefore, we shall go so far as to say that we shall not even look into the question whether they are persons who are wholly British in sentiment, or whether they are persons who are largely, if not entirely, enemy and alien in sentiment." There is no question of the Government coming here to alter the whole naturalisation law, and, as I said, the whole thing is a most absurd mountain made out of a most ridiculous molehill.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in paragraph 1, to leave out the words "or who was at any time before the 4th day of August, 1914, a subject of the State which subsequently became an enemy State."


I just want to draw attention to one point in connection with this Amendment. It may appear a small point, but it seems to me one of some importance. The paragraph will now read with these words left out, "is a person who is or has been an enemy." I suggested that it would be much better that the Clause should read, "is a person who is or has been a subject of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, or Turkey." Anyone looking at the Clause would see that the words "is or has been an enemy" might be regarded as a somewhat offensive phrase, and if the words I suggest were adopted the Clause would have precisely the same effect and would achieve the object in a less offensive way.


It might be that there would be some advantage in the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but by the form in which the Bill stands at present it will be seen that the provision is explained by the definitions given in a later paragraph.


I am not asking that the principle of the provision should be altered, but merely to make the paragraph read, "where the person is a subject of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, or Turkey," which is a less offensive form than that contained in the Bill and would do no harm in any way to the measure. It is a mere drafting point.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in paragraph 2, to leave out the word "any" ["any capital of the company"].

I move this Amendment, in connection with another which follows, to insert the words "carrying in the aggregate one-fifth of the voting power," so that the paragraph would read, "that in the case of a company, capital of the company carrying in the aggregate one-fifth of the voting power." I made a similar proposal in the Committee stage of the Bill, and the Government objected to it because the holder of one share might have control of the voting power. I am endeavouring now to meet that objection by proposing the Amendment in a different form, and so get rid of the objection. I have put it at one-fifth, but I do not care if it is a tenth, or a twentieth, if that would satisfy the Board of Trade. I want to deal with the case where a very small portion of the shares pass through enemy hands. There was a case in the Law Courts the other day, and I saw by the report of it that several trustees, one of them a member of this House, asked permission to pay money in connection with the settlement of a daughter of a Peer who had married an Austrian. They were successful in their application in regard to a part of the shares from which the settlement was derived. If the company in which these shares were held was trading in nonferrous metals then the company would be obliged to get a licence. I know the case of a lady, a widow, who was married to a German, her second husband. So far as I can make out, when a lady under those circumstances marries a German the automatic effect of that is that any company dealing in non-ferrous metals in which she has shares would have to get a special licence from the Board of Trade. I do not think anybody contemplates that. That is not the sort of case the Board of Trade wants to make a special inquiry about. I therefore submit that if the Government accept my Amendment it will remove from the Schedule all cases in which the enemy ownership is negligible.


I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment. There is a good deal more in this provision than the hon. Member seems to think is in- volved. Even less than a fifth might give control, but possibly one share might practically carry the whole of the voting, or control the management of the company. A mere fraction might carry with it, not necessarily the whole of the voting power, but a majority of the voting power, and carry with it, through the property, control of the management. We have given careful consideration to this paragraph, since the Committee stage, and if we could have found words to meet this particular Amendment, where only a mere fraction of the capital is involved, we should have met it. I think the hon. Member may rest assured that the Board of Trade will deal fairly with these cases to which he refers, but where a part of the share capital is under enemy control, that in itself is a disability.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in paragraph 3, after the word "agreement" ["any agreement, arrangement"], to insert the words "or contract for delivery."

I have always said that one of the main reasons for this Bill is that we do not want contracts for delivery far ahead to be made for the produce of mines within the British Empire, and such contracts practically take the whole of the products of certain of these. mines for use in what are enemy countries. If the Lord Advocate tells me that any agreement would certainly include contracts for delivery, and that the Amendment I am moving is unnecessary from that point of view, that will satisfy people outside this House, who have been looking into the whole of this Bill and who do attach a certain amount of importance to having the matter specially emphasised by the words "or contract for delivery."


I think I can without hesitation give the hon. Gentleman the assurance which he asks for. There is really no doubt at all that in the conditions covered by any agreement would be included contracts for delivery.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.0 P.M.


I beg to move to leave out paragraph 4.

I say with the greatest confidence that I shall offer a very sound reason, and one which I think is unanswerable, why this paragraph should be omitted. It puts upon everyone who wishes to have a licence, or is licensed, a constant watching that he may not be tripped up by something which even the most careful watching may not prevent. On the Second Reading I pointed out to my right hon. Friend that in English companies the bulk of the shares would be 90 per cent. registered shares, and 10 per cent. bearer shares. My right hon. Friend saw the effect of bearer shares; he saw that you could not tell who might be the owners of that form of shares, and he has accordingly put a provision in the Bill by which the company is entitled to give notice in the "Gazette" or otherwise, to call in bearer shares and grant certificates of registration. In so far as that method is adopted, it may be enough, but the fact is, in regard to British companies, that you cannot tell from the register who are the owners of the shares. Possibly shares might be bought and put in the banker's name, that being a very common practice, for the obvious reason that the owner may borrow and pay off on the security of those shares. That method of nominating bankers to hold the shares enables the owner to avoid certain formalities in obtaining loans on the security and in paying them off. A very large proportion of the shares held in public companies stand in the names of bankers, so that it is impossible to find out who the real owners are. My right hon. Friend has put in a provision that any company carrying on business to which this measure applies can give notice requiring the shareholder or debenture holder to make a statutory declaration as to the beneficial ownership of the shares. That does not get over the difficulty. I may want to take shares in a company, and I find a great many names, but if I call upon the company to obtain a declaration as to the beneficial ownership of the shares in some names, they may tell me to go about my business, and how am I to compel them? Therefore, it is impossible for me to take such precautions as will prevent me incurring penalties. or perhaps have the licence revoked. Take the case of foreign companies. In America the practice is the reverse of that which obtains here, and the bulk of the shares are bearer shares, and it is impossible for me to find out who those shareholders are. I cannot ask the company then to call in the shares and issue certificates, because that is not the law there. Suppose I want to get control of a supply of ores for smelting in this country, and take a certain number of shares in an American company, how am I to find out before I do so that I am not putting my foot in a trap, or whether those bearer shares are held by a German company, which may also require certain ores? Yet the obligation is put on me that if I am to retain my licence or not have it revoked, I am not to take shares in an American company unless I am satisfied that the Germans have not two-fifths of the capital of that company. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose that I am to protect myself in that case? I do not think it is possible in the instance I have mentioned to do so, and as for ordinary shares, I do not see how anybody can compel a company to obtain these declarations before he takes an interest in that company. I think the Government would be very well advised to strike out this proposal altogether.


It seems to me not to be a Clause which does our enemy any harm, but one which directly injures us. I cannot conceive how the holding of shares in a company in South America in which Germans also hold shares can possibly do this country any harm. If a man wishes to acquire a company in South America, or anywhere outside the Empire. in which Germans are registered, I should think that is a good thing to do. But under this proposal you cannot do that, as you may lose your licence and the whole of your business. I think it is a monstrous and stupid Clause to put in the Bill. It seems to me that the Board of Trade have not thoroughly considered this matter. I would ask them to reconsider it, and in another place perhaps they may come to a different decision and take the Clause out. It is not only that it is quite unworkable, but in the sense in which it does work it injures British trade.


I am afraid, notwithstanding the very strong expression of opinion to which the hon. Gentleman has just given vent, that we could not accept this Amendment without serious risk of impairing the efficiency of the Bill. The hon. Member took the view that this could be of no use and would be productive of harm. The purpose of it is to prevent arrangements by which influence is effected not directly by a German concern taking an interest in a British trade concern, but indirectly by establishing effective control in the form of a third company in which both Germans and British are interested. If those who have knowledge about the way in which these things are done, think that that experience is inaccurate or exaggerated then they may say that a proposal of this kind would do no good. But, after all, one can only proceed on the advice which the Department supplies, and with the information on which no doubt that advice was based, and the fact, therefore, I am afraid must be taken, certainly so far as I am concerned, that German influence on British trading concerns for German purposes was by no means effected only by direct and immediate participation either in profits or in voting power in British concerns on the part of Germans, but not infrequently was by means of a third concern in which both were interested and the affairs of which were so managed as practically to be in the interests of the German influence. That being so, those who hold those strong views will at least see why it is, T am bound to tell them, that the Board of Trade could not do without this Clause. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. J. M. Henderson) tells us not only that he does not think this proposal is necessary, but he asks, "How are you to make it operate?" He put the complaint not of a company, but of somebody who desires to take shares in a company. I am not sure that that has very much to do with the question before the House. I quite see that somebody who wants to take a share in a company of the constitution or association of which he is not cognisant. may find himself in difficulty, but that is always so. A person may be desirous, for instance of taking shares in a company which turns out to he in German hands and association. It may be very hard for the shareholder to find out, hut I do not think it is the business of Parliament to help that shareholder in that respect. But it is the business of Parliament to help such a company, because the company may lose its licence.


A licence holder may desire to get shares in a similar company.


I quite apprehend he is quite at liberty to get shares in any company he likes, but no doubt like any other person he must take his chance of what kind of company that is, and must, like every other person, make up his mind whether it is wise or not to do so. But there is 'no difficulty, as far as the com- pans is concerned, because by Clause 8 all the company has got to do is to give notice requiring shareholders or debenture holders to make a declaration as to the beneficial ownership. If the ownership is innocent there is no difficulty or trouble; if the ownership in point of fact involves German influences or association, or is of such a kind as to bring the company within one of the other conditions, then no doubt the company will either have to alter that state of affairs, or it may lose its licence. So far as the shareholder is concerned who wants to satisfy himself beforehand whether a particular concern runs any risk of being refused a licence, I do not think that is any business of Parliament, and we certainly would not be prepared to put anything into this Bill as to that. Where the hon. Member speaks as to the necessity to enable the company to find out where it stands, then under Clause 8 the company has complete power to discover who holds anything, be it bearer share or otherwise. Unless the power of limiting and excluding German control of British concerns is to he made illusory you must retain power enough to enable you, if necessary, to make inquiry. It is true that there is preserved and must be preserved to the Board of Trade a wide field of discretion.

It is true, and always will be true, that that discretion can only be exercised where the facts are placed before the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade can only reasonably be asked to exercise discretion where the facts are properly disclosed by the person who wants the licence. After all, if there is no harm connected with a concern, there will be no difficulty in that; under the Bill they are absolutely entitled to have their licence. For these reasons, therefore, I think we could not do without paragraph (4), and I am afraid, therefore, we could not accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in paragraph (4), to leave out the words "whether or not" ["in any undertaking whether or not in the United Kingdom"].

Suppose a person wants, for some object or other, to get some interest in a company in America which has issued bearer shares. He buys a certain number of bearer shares, but before he does that, if he is going to run no risk, he must find out whether the Germans have a one-fifth interest in the American company. He cannot find that out, because the shares are bearer shares, and he has no power to compel that information. Therefore, he must either take that risk or abandon his enterprise. Let me give a simple case. There is an amalgamated company in America who have three sets of shareholders. The Germans hold one-third, the Americans one-third, and the British one-third, and each hold that one-third for the express purpose of getting a certain quantity of ore to smelt. Those shares are all bearer, and may change and chop about at any moment. If I want to get one-third, how can I be sure that in doing so T am not destroying my licence in this country? If I take an interest in any company in America which issues bearer shares, how am I to protect myself against being disqualified from a licence? That is the sole point.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I think I have already said, but, at all events, I will try to make it plainer, that the question whether or not anybody should put his money into an American or any other concern outside this country is, and necessarily is, a question for him to determine before he does so whether it is safe or wise for him to do it. If the hon. Member proposes, as I think he does, that this Bill should give a proposing investor in a certain concern some means of assuring himself of its real character, I can only say I do not conceive it would be possible to secure that.

Amendment. negatived.


I beg to move, in paragraph (5), to leave out the words "or association."

In Committee I had an Amendment down to change the word "influence" to "control." The President of the Board of Trade assured me that the word "control" did not go far enough, and insisted on the word "influence." Another hon. Member moved to leave out the word "association." I then took the liberty of asking the Solicitor-General for an explanation of the word "association" and what was the legal meaning of it. This was the answer given by the learned Solicitor-General: I find it difficult to substitute better words. What it means is a protection against businesses being directly or indirectly subject to enemy influence or association."—[OFFICIAT, REPORT. 16th January, 1918, col. 458.] Of course, that does not carry us any further. We all knew that association meant association, but we wanted to have something better than that. If this word remains in the Bill, I think it will be very unfair to any metal merchant or metal broker, because he ought to know what he may or may not do at the risk of having his licence revoked and losing his livelihood. We have never yet been told plainly whether any merchant, after this Bill becomes an Act, and after the War, of course, will be allowed to deal with German merchants or not—whether he will be allowed to buy for Germans or to sell for them or not. We have never had a plain statement as regards that question. As far as I can read the Bill, he will be allowed to do so. There is nothing in the Bill which can stop him, but we ought to have a clear explanation. Then let us carry our minds to what is likely to happen three or four years after the War. Are we to be allowed to associate with Germans and Austrians, to receive them and to meet them? All this, I suppose, is association. If we associate with them, it will clearly come under association. Is that forbidden three or four years after the War? Are we allowed to take an interest in any Austrian or Turkish mine, and, if so, is that association? Do we lose our licence if we do so? Surely we ought to come to a clear understanding as to what a metal merchant or a metal broker is or is not allowed to do, and as to what the Board of Trade may think comes under the definition of association. As we have had no such explanation, and as the word "association," in my mind, may mean anything and everything three or four years after the War, I think it is far safer that this word should be omitted, especially as the previous paragraph really embodies everything which is necessary for the object in view. The word "association" is far too wide and far too indefinite, and, in my opinion, ought. not to appear in this Bill without. anyhow. further explanation being given.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that this is much too indefinite a term. It is impossible for anybody to know what it really means, as it might mean anything, and a man might be deprived of his licence if he happened to associate with a German, if he happened to marry a German lady, or if he happened to have one share, I take it, in a concern with which Germans were interested, as it might be considered to be association with Germans. It is certainly not to the interests of British trade that this sort of thing should be carried too far, because we know companies exist in which English money has been invested with a view, not of helping Germans, but of helping British trade, and bringing raw material to this country. Are you going to prevent those things, which have been done with a view to helping British trade? It is a suicidal policy, surely It would have been well if the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill had studied it before he submitted it to this House, rather than submitted things which are disastrous to the interests of British trade. In the case of the Coal Bill he gave an undertaking on the floor of this House which was absolutely broken.


I think it is a great pity the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made an attack on my right hon. Friend in regard to another Bill. There is no substance whatever in the attack. With regard to the particular Amendment now before the House, it cannot possibly be accepted. The word "association," one is bound to admit, presents some difficulty, but it is a word which is quite well known. It has its meanings, and those meanings, of course, will have to be interpreted, but it has been interpreted now, because it is taken from the Trading With the Enemy Act, and we have found no difficulty in defining and applying it. The idea has been put forward that speaking to or marrying a German would come within the meaning of association under the Bill. The mere association of marriage would not constitute a ground under this Bill. There might be a ring with another enemy company. There might be a ring or a body with financial associations established. But it is the ordinary sense in which the word is used. I do not think there is any necessity to argue the question. We must have some word, because it is necessary to have the association of such a character as to bring it. within the Schedule.


I cannot associate myself with this particular Amendment. I have listened practically to every word of these Debates, and these are the only three lines of the Bill which have met my cordial approval. If they had been the only condition in the Schedule the Government might have made quite a good Bill. I hope there will be nothing done to destroy this one little blossom in an arid wilderness.


Arrangements are made by certain firms in Germany and certain firms in England who have their agencies in each country as to the regulation of their products, and as to what they shall sell and what they shall not sell in the way of certain goods. if the Germans were to sell their goods in England, would not that be association

Amendment negatived.

The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. PETO:

At end of paragraph 5, to insert the words:

"That a person is, without the consent of the Board of Trade, a director or alternate director of any company to which. this Act applies who is not a British subject not of enemy origin and who has not 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.

"That every director of any company to which this Act applies who is not a British subject or who is of enemy origin shall present himself for re-election at each annual general meeting of shareholders and be re-elected by a resolution to that effect passed by a majority of not less than three-fourths of such members entitled to vote as are present in person or by proxy at the general meeting at. which the resolution is proposed before he is entitled to continue to act as a director."


The Amendment of the hon. Member for Devizes is, as to the first paragraph incapable of being construed; and, as to the second paragraph, is wrongly drafted.

Motion made, and Question proposed; "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I am not going to inflict a long speech at this moment, but there are just two or three things I do wish to draw attention to in making this, my final protest against a Bill which, in my opinion, has been introduced without any justification and for which no justification has been put for ward in the course of these Debates This Non-Ferrous Metal Industry Bill deals with certain non-ferrous metals. I will just say, shortly, dealing with those metals, that no case has been made out for any one of them. As regards zinc we know perfectly well that the Government have already got over the difficulties raised by the Australian situation. As regards copper no one has suggested any possibility of the Germans, or any of our enemies, cornering that. As regards tin no one would be foolish enough to suggest any danger. As regards lead, no one has made any suggestion in the direction indicated. As regards nickel and aluminium I have never heard any serious objection made. There is one metal, wolfram, I do not notice in the Bill. I am rather surprised at that not being in the Bill. I need not say anything at the moment. I do not want to go into any detail as to these metals, but there are two or three points in the Bill to which I desire to draw attention.

In the first place, I hoped to have had the opportunity to-day to move an Amendment to give some sort of appeal from the Board of Trade on matters of discretion. Unfortunately at the moment it came on I was out of the House for a short while, and I did not have the opportunity I desired. I do, however, wish to say that I regard the whole of this question, giving the Board of Trade uncontrolled discretion, as being most dangerous. I admit that the President has given us a good many assurances and reassurances on the subject. That makes the Bill, certainly during his tenure of office, probably much less dangerous than otherwise it would be; but I would ask him—and I wish the Law Officers were present, so that we might have their opinion—how it is that an appeal is given to the High Court of Justice only as to whether a company comes within a certain Section, as to whether a company comes within paragraph 5 of the First Schedule or not. That paragraph says

"That the company, firm, or individual is by any means whatever subject, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of their or his business to any influence or association."

Upon that question, as to whether a company comes under that condition, there is an appeal, and the discretion of the Board of Trade on this subject, apparently, is controlled by the High Court. Upon all ether questions there is no appeal what- ever from the decision of the Board of Trade. I think it is made doubly objectionable in that the Board of Trade has resisted every attempt to put the burden of proof in this case upon themselves. I think the Bill would have emerged far less offensive at the present time if the Board of Trade had accepted my very simple Amendment to the effect that no licence should be granted if the Board of Trade are of opinion that the issue of a licence is inexpedient. We end this Bill as we began it. The position is this: no charge is made. against certain people of having enemy influence—no charge whatever is made—but the President of the Board of Trade says—and we are told the same by the Solicitor-General—"Well, we want to spread our net wide." Minister after Minister has got up and said this—and with one or two exceptions Ministers are the only people who defend this Bill—and one is not surprised they get up and say, "We are not going to deal harshly in this matter, but we want to bring everyone under review." If the Board of Trade really only wanted to bring everyone under review, why could they not have drafted the Bill in such a form as to bring people under review by saying to the people, "If you come under all these conditions, we shall not grant you a licence if we think it inexpedient"? The Government have put it upon the person claiming a licence to show that it is expedient to grant it. The position at the present time is that the Board of Trade in ordinary cases has to grant a licence, while in cases that come within the conditions they will not grant a licence unless they think it expedient. We do not know what ground they will take. It is not whether they think it expedient or otherwise on national grounds! Upon what ground will they say, "We find it inexpedient that this man should have a licence? If the only inexpediency is that he is an honest trader, there is no particular reason why he should not be trading. I am quite sure that the President thinks that if a man can come forward and say that he is not in any way subject to enemy influence, in spite of coming within these conditions, that the licence will be granted. I do not feel any such confidence. It may be so. so long as the present President occupies his position. It seems to me that putting the burden of proof on the claimant undermines all the assurances that are being given to us on this subject.

I would ask the President of the Board of Trade, even at this late stage of the proceedings, to see whether he cannot, in consultation with his legal advisers, have such small change made in the Bill before it emerges as an Act, which, I do suggest, will make such a vast difference! It is most unfair to say that people who have not committed any offence, and whom you simply want to bring under review—that because of some accident—some accident of birth, it may be—they happen to come within your net, "You have got to prove your case to us." I say that the Govern-ought to be prepared to say, "We will grant you a licence unless we think it inexpedient; if there is any ground which we think inexpedient we will refuse it." I think that would be a most excellent thing. Consider, you are dealing here with the case after the War as well as the case during the War I would suggest the alternative I have put forward, that you should allow an appeal to a judicial Court, such as you give in Sub-section (5) of Clause 1, on the question of this wide discretion now taken by the Board of Trade.

Some members of the Government, and one or two other Members who have spoken, take altogether too low a view of this great invasion of the trading rights or the country. I have listened most patiently to all the Debates on this question, and I can only say that at the end I have the most profound mistrust of what has been come to. Let me give one case. Let me draw the attention of the President to the grave danger of giving officials uncontrolled discretion in matters such as taking away the right to trade. In the course of the last month a case came to my notice from which I think I can show the grave danger to which we are subjected at the present time by the giving of this wide discretion to public Departments. The case I allude to is a case which has been brought before the President, and he will recognise it, though I do not want to go into particulars. Some time ago very violent attacks were made in this House upon a certain firm of diamond merchants. Subsequently they were actually refused a licence, and their business wound up on the ground of some technical trading with the enemy. I do not want to go into the merits of the case at all. Only to-day, however, I heard that the Belgian Minister had actually stated it as his opinion—the President will correct me if I am wrong—that the whole ground upon which these people had been attacked was an attempt by the citizens of another country to torpedo the trade of these Antwerp merchants and to get control of the diamond industry after the War. I want just to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the grave danger that you have got of conditions arising where, under the guise of patriotism, you are going to get rival traders suggesting all sorts of accusations, openly or covertly, against different firms. You are going to get that in all directions. I think that the Board of Trade are acting most injudiciously in their own interests to take under their control matters that they are not in the least competent to deal with They think that because people get up in the House of Commons and ask questions that they have got some ground for those questions. They are not the people who are in the position to weigh the niceties of evidence and to weigh questions as to whether evidence is tainted or not. I am not making any suggestion about this Bill or against any single person, but I do say you are going to put the Board of Trade in a most invidious position in connection with this Bill—as to when the Bill is to be enforced and when there is the question of granting or not granting a licence. We shall have all sorts of suggestions from all quarters against this firm and that firm, suggestions that will never be weighed by men who are competent to deal with evidence, suggestions that will never court publicity of a Court of Law, and that, without the publicity of a. Court of Law, in view of the questions dealt with—the liberty of the subject to trade and so on—will never be really fairly treated at all. This is the whole idea of having a sort of pseudo law in the proviso of the Board of Trade, for whomever they may appoint to deal with these questions of fact or right, affecting the rights, almost the liberties, and the whole fortunes of individuals, without any appeal whatever to the High Court. I think it is an absolute outrage. We ought not to permit it.

I make the most emphatic protest against this, that at a time when the most skilled lawyers would find it difficult to disentangle motives, because certain information to be brought before certain people, the Board of Trade officials, I admit, are probably the most competent lot of officials there are in any Government Department, they should take upon themselves the burden of doing what skilled lawyers in the country would very much hesitate to do. I ask the President whether he cannot before this Bill ultimately passes into law do something to reassure the public that ultimately before great firms and important individuals or small firms and small individuals lose their rights of trading, that they should have some appeal to the Law Courts even on the question of discretion. This question of discretion, being left to Government Departments, is a grave danger. You are going to find that under the guise of patriotism all sorts of injustices are going to be done, and the good will and the honest intention of the Board of Trade officials to do justice under this Bill is going to be put to a very serious strain. I do not suggest for one moment that they are not going to do their very best, but I am sure it will be a very great relief to the trading public if they find that there is going to be some sort of judicial control over all this tremendous discretion that is given by the Bill. The President of the Board of Trade very much softened the opposition in the later stages of the Bill by saying that, although the conditions were stringent, it was only because he wanted to bring everyone within his net for review. To that I raise no objection, but I do think there is the strongest objection to that part of Clause 1 which affects naturalisation rights. We might have run the slight risk involved in abandoning that particular proposal. There are, possibly, a few people the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind when he moved this Clause, but I think he could have got them all under Condition 5. I cannot allow this Bill to go on without making one protest more on that point. I do not want to go exhaustively into the matter, but I will ask, is it too late still to abandon this first condition?

People talk about it as if it were a slight matter. They do not realise the tremendous strength of the feeling there is in all quarters of this House, and I believe right through the country, against any attack on the laws of naturalisation. It is not true to say it is merely a case of naturalised citizens being brought under review. You go beyond that, you say that not only shall cases be brought under review, but that these people shall have to establish their right to have a certificate to trade. It would not be half so objectionable if the Board of Trade simply reserved the right to review, and it is for that reason that I am pressing this question very strongly on the Government. That we should, for the first time in the history of the country, have tampered with rights we have given in a most solemn form under our naturalisation laws is a most deplorable instance of the way in which Parliament is being defrauded of its right to be regarded as the champion of the liberties of the individual. For a man to suddenly find some detraction from his rights of citizenship because other people have behaved badly seems to be an absolute innovation, and I cannot understand why the Government have proposed it. Surely, when we give letters of naturalisation we make a contract under which if we win we win and if we lose we lose? But, under this new system, while we have made a contract, while we have given these people the benefits of citizenship, we now wish to vary the contract, and that seems to me to be absolutely contrary to every idea of British fair play. I therefore cannot allow this Bill to go without making this final protest against any tampering whatever with the rights of naturalisation. The only condition under which such a thing would be justifiable would be if the naturalised person had himself or herself departed from his or her allegiance, for then you could say, "You have broken faith, and we take away your rights." It is all very well to say you are merely bringing the cases under review: you are doing more, you are putting these people in a different category, and you are throwing a slur upon them. I do not think the Government have ever given us a satisfactory answer on this point. Condition 5 is the one we really want, but these other conditions are merely aggravating ways of interfering with British trade. I ask the Government to see if they cannot do anything to alleviate the very strong feeling which has arisen on this naturalisation question. 1 entirely dispute what was said by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) about our not representing the opinion of the country upon matters like this. I do not believe that the Government represents the opinion of this country when it proposes to tear up any document in which the honour of the British nation is concerned. Although it seems impossible now to interest this House of Commons in any question affecting the liberty of the subject, or in national obligations, because there seem so many other matters to distract them, I claim that we do speak for the vast majority of the people in this case. I ask the Government to reconsider their attitude. I ask them also, as a matter of elementary fair play, not only to the country, but to the Board of Trade, to see that matters that no layman can possibly fairly deal with without appeal shall be dealt with in future with some sort of appeal to the High Court. If the Government can, at this eleventh hour, when the Bill gets to another place, make some concession on this point, although it may not remove our complaint that the Bill is an irritating and improper interference with trade, it will have done a great deal to moderate much of the resentment which it has given rise to.


I wish first to acknowledge the patience and reasonableness of the President of the Board of Trade, and to frankly admit that, so far as I am concerned, the Bill has been immensely improved by the concessions he has made to the views which have been put forward from this quarter of the House. When I have said that, and when I have admitted, further, that he has removed, to a certain extent, the atmosphere of suspicion which has surrounded the initiation of this Bill, and when I remember that he has repudiated quite frankly the idea that the Bill was proposed in any vindictive spirit against any particular firm, I am afraid I have said as much as I can in commendation of the measure as it now stands, because while he has told us quite frankly that the Bill is not aimed at any particular person or firm, the right hon. Gentleman has not told us that the result of this Bill will not, and is not perhaps intended to, have for one of its objects the creation of syndicates in this country, which would have just as harmful and crippling an effect upon internal trade, owing to the advance of prices and the restriction of competition, as would the action of any German firm on the external trade of this country. The right hon. Gentleman has shown a remarkable and satisfactory ignorance of some of the allegations which have been advanced inside and outside this House as to the existence of these suspicions—remarkable because of the rumours so r generally current—and satisfactory because I hope it is an indication that there is no foundation for those rumours. should, however, like a frank and full repudiation of the idea that behind this Bill there is the creation of these syndicates as the right hon. Gentleman gave us of the intention to strike at one particular firm. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Hemmerde) has dealt with the atmosphere of suspicion which this Bib creates, and I think he was fully justified in every word he said upon that head. Undoubtedly hereafter persons may be condemned upon suspicion and not upon proof, upon belief and not upon certainty, and the result of that upon firms may be just as disastrous as in the ease to which my hon. Friend referred, a case of which a good many of us in this House have some knowledge.

But these are minor points. There really are two objectionable principles in regard to this Bill, and I suppose they animated the President of the Board of Trade when he formulated the measure, so that he was therefore unable to make any concessions upon them. The first is that it does interfere for the first time in a new fashion and to a considerable extent with the internal trade of this country. It obliges people to take out a licence for the carrying on of a perfectly innocent and harmless trade. It affects small operations as well as big; it interferes in minute matters; it requires a trader to produce his books, to throw them open to inspection and investigation, and perhaps hostile investigation, on the part of the Board of Trade. That is a circumstance which must cripple and harass trade, however kindly the investigation or the inquest may be conducted. There is undoubtedly the risk which the Government is now going to take that this Bill may result in the formation of syndicates which are favoured by the operation of the measure, however unintentionally, and then prices to consumers in this country must be raised. I have always regarded this Bill, not from the point of view of one engaged in manufacture, but from that of one interested in consumption—one who has to buy and is not going to sell. I am afraid that the result of this Bill will be that to consumers the prices of articles in this country are going to be raised without any compensating advantage. This may be merely an isolated Bill affecting only one group or set of trades, but even if it be only that its effect will be spread over a very wide area, and it will get so many people into its net with such a result in regard to certain manufacturers, that I am afraid it may be only the precursor of similar Bills affecting other industries—it may be the forerunner of a whole series of Bills based on the same objectionable principles. It encourages the speculator and the occasional dealer in the market in non-ferrous metals, while it regulates and hampers the regular merchant engaged in the business. It operates adversely, it interferes to the extent that it hinders the transactions of the home manufacturer and merchant, but it has no control over and places no restrictions upon the business conducted by the foreigner or the hostile trader and merchant.

Over and over again in the course of these Debates the President of the Board of Trade has had to admit that he has no control over the German or Austrian firm operating outside this country, and that this Bill only extends to the British merchant. I say the measure will only accentuate hostility all over the country to the continued control by the Government of and its continued interference with British trade. That is a sentiment which is spreading widely. I am sure the President of the Board of Trade is not ignorant to the growth of that feeling. While the opposition to this Bill has been confined to a comparatively small number of Members, and while the House has assented to proposals on the part of the Government repugnant to the whole spirit of our previous legislation, I am pretty certain, when the trading and commercial community become aware of the great interference with their trading transactions which this Bill permits, there will be very strong feelings which may adversely affect other Government proposals which are really required, and which, if they are rejected, will have serious influence upon measures which are badly wanted in consequence of the opposition which has been raised by proposals that are not really necessary for the national advantage.

8.0 P.M

General CROFT

I do not intend to detain the House for more than one minute, but I do desire to make a personal explanation with regard to a statement I made on the Second Reading of this Bill. I then was referring to certain exports of zinc ore from this country, and I quoted a case of which I had been informed of a certain firm in this country exporting zinc ore. The firm I referred to was the Societe Anonyme des Mines de la Vieille Montagne, of Nenthead, in Cumberland, now known as the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company, and I am very glad to say that I have heard from them that my informant was entirely wrong, and that they have not exported any zinc ore from this country during the War, and, further, that they are free from all enemy influence. I simply desire to place that on record, and I regret extremely that I received this inaccurate information from someone who, I considered, had authority to speak. I desire to make that perfectly clear. With regard to the Bill, I heartily congratulate the Government on bringing in this measure. I think that right through the length and breadth of the country they will receive the congratulations of everyone who desires to see, at least for a short time after the War, German influence eliminated from our trade. I can only say with regard to what the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Hobhouse) has just said that it is true that traders are having to suffer great. inconvenience, and I believe traders will be only too ready, for this short period, to undergo this small inconvenience in order to see that we give an opportunity to British trade in these nonferrous metals to establish itself firmly without German penetration at the conclusion of hostilities.


I do not intend to waste the time of the House by saying very much on the Third Reading of this Bill, but I do wish before it goes through to record my strong protest against the whole principle and details of the measure. The apparent object of the Bill, as we were told, was to obtain control of certain metals, and to put an end to the alleged control of these various metals by the Germans. There was riot a single one of these metals that was shown to be in any way under German influence. There was. some talk about spelter, and the Minister of Reconstruction made a statement which he afterwards reconstructed. He said that there was an absence of spelter that we found ourselves without any spelter when the War began, and that thousands of our young soldiers were shot, and so forth, in consequence. He. amended that afterwards because he found that spelter was offered in large quantities. after the War broke out, in September and October, to the War Office and the Navy, and was turned down because it was not required. It was only, of course, after wards, when every nation began to see the necessity of enormous armaments, that the great demand for all of these metals began. There is not the slightest justification for the assertion that any of these metals were at the beginning of the War refused to Great Britain because they were under German control. So much for that. I have said my say with regard to the injustice to naturalised subjects, and I need not. repeat my views on that point.

What is the effect of this Bill which, of course, does not begin until after the War? The Government at the present time, and until after the War, have full control of all these metals. None of us can buy any of these metals without going to the Government and getting them, and so this Bill only comes in for five years after the War. I think it is a very great pity that all this trouble has been taken, and all this bad faith shown to our naturalised British subjects. I think it is very unfortunate, because I am very certain in my own mind—at least., I shall be very much surprised if it is not so—that when the War is over this Bill will be torn up. The Prime Minister has said, the President of the United States has said, the Noble Lord at the head of the Ministry of Blockade whose name is on the back of this Bill has said—they have all said—and lastly, the Labour party have said—the right hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Henderson) wily the other day—that there is to be no economic boycott after the War. Then what is the meaning of this Bill? If there is to be no economic boycott after the War this Bill is futile. The real genesis of this Bill has not been told to this House. I hinted at it on the Second Reading, and it has been practically admitted that the Government have entered into heavy financial obligations and have lent large sums of money to a company in Canada, the British-America Nickel Company. I am told also that they have entered into huge obligations for large supplies of nickel.

The House will remember what happened with regard to the British Trading Corporation, or whatever the Board of Trade called it. They appointed Lord Balfour's Committee; then there was a Report which advised that a certain company should be formed, and the extraordinary thing was that the directors of this company were mostly the members of the Committee which advised its formation. Hon. Members know how the House dealt with that; but a similar thing is on the tapir for this very thing. A Report was obtained from a certain Committee, and they advised—we do not know what they advised; we have never seen the Report; that is kept back; but, let the House mark my words, the same operation will be repeated in another way. The board of directors of this syndicate will be very largely composed of the members of this Committee who advised It is suggested that. they should get up a large sum of money to start a smelter. This American company is building a large smeller in the town of Sudbury, Ontario. This syndicate is going to start a new smelter here. That is the proposal. Some of them say, "We will not put up a penny-piece until you protect us in this country from the operations of all these naturalised Germans." That is the understanding, and it is the genesis of this Bill.

The protection in this Bill, I am very glad to say, when you come to look at it, is of the poorest kind, and I should not trouble myself to say any more about it, because it is quite futile. I believe it will never come into operation or give them an atom of control. Those who care to go for licences will be able to get licences, and in the case of those who do not get them the want of those licences will not give the British Government or any smelter any more control of the metal than they had before. Do what you can, you cannot stop Germany having control of metals if she cares to go abroad, pay the money, and get the mines. The way to get control of metals is to get control of them at the fountain head; but if you cannot get them at the mines, you may be able to get them in the market. This Bill does not stop them going into the market. It does.. not stop Germany or any German agent going into the market and buying up all. the lead in the market and creating a scarcity. It is open to anybody to speculate. The licence in an open licence, and I drew from the right hon. Gentleman that. he did not propose to prevent the licensee selling to or buying from Germany. The idea is absolutely ridiculous on these lines. The whole genesis of it is outside. It is not an Imperial measure, and it is not a Governmental measure, except in so far as they are passing it; it is for the benefit of a particular syndicate, and there is no doubt about it. Whether it will benefit them, I very much doubt. in fact, I do not believe it will benefit them in the least, because in operation the grant or refusal of a licence to A, B, or C can never affect the trade of this country if the British people choose to get control of these metals at the fountain head. They have, though. Zinc concentrates come from Australia; nickel is French and Canadian; copper is American and Japanese. Germany has no means of controlling them except by buying them up. There is only one way in which you can -hold out the German—education. Education and improving your banking facilities. Improve your banking facilities and have your technical education so high and advanced that the manufacturer can start on his business knowing that he cannot be beaten anywhere. If you are going to face the future, all this increase of licences is -poor stuff. You have to go higher and better than that. Our soldiers are not afraid to meet German soldiers in the field, and let our commercial and industrial men so educate themselves and those who support them that they will not he afraid to meet the Germans anywhere in the field of commerce and industry. That is the only way. I do not propose to take or support a Division, because I know there is a large body of Members who will go into the Lobby and out-vote a great number of those who have taken a great interest in this Bill. Generally, I am sorry to say, they do not understand about it; but the one comfort I have in uttering my protest is that I am perfectly certain that when peace comes the Bill will be dead.


I think the Leader of the House on the Second Reading of this Bill told us that this measure for the first time introduced a very big question. I do not remember any Bill attracting such a small House as this during the Committee stage and Report stage. It went forth that this Bill was introduced for the purpose of doing away with enemy influence and enemy control in nonferrous metals, and that was quite sufficient to secure support for it outside and of most hon. Members here. If, however, hon. Members had only taken the trouble to read the Bill or if only they had listened to the Debates upon it they would have known that this Bill was nothing of the kind and that the statement that it was going to do away with enemy control was simply a sham. There is not a single line in the Bill which really destroys enemy control, and if people had only known that I think we should have had a much larger audience and more discussion upon this measure than we have had. The Bill will go forth under the same pretence, and it may turn out to be an example to the Government when they want to bring in an obnoxious Bill just to give it a show of excellent motives, no matter what it contains, in the hope that the public and the House will not object to it.

I take this opportunity of giving sonic information to the President of the hoard of Trade. I am fully convinced that the right hon. Gentleman in bringing in this Bill is animated by the very best motives, but he has not the slightest idea of helping any particular individual or acting vindictively towards any firm. There are, however, certain things that perhaps he does not know, and I hope he will not take it amiss if I give hint a little information. We were told by the Leader of the House that this Bill was recommended by the Non-Ferrous Metals Committee. That Committee consisted of a certain number of gentlemen, including sonic metal merchants. It was not appointed for this particular purpose, but they thought fit to commend the Bill and the Government took their advice. There is a suspicion that this Bill has possibly been brought forward to assist the various members of that Committee in bringing forward a syndicate to control the metal trades under the name of the British Metals Company. We were told by one of the Ministers distinctly that the object of this Bill was to assist such a syndicate as was in contemplation without any names being given. We have had a similar history in Australia, where a Bill was passed not quite as drastic as this Bill but on similar lines, and, strange to say, the people who recommended that Bill in Australia were the very people who are mixed up in the control of the Metallgesellschaft. One of them owned the concentrates sold to the Metallgesellschaft. When the Australian Legislature passed that Bill, which prevented all enemies from having any interest in the mine, the very men whose advice the Government have taken over those mines, formed a company called the Broken Hill Company with £1,000,000 capital, and they are now doing the business which the Australian Legislature has more or less confiscated.

It is strange that the very gentleman who formed that company in Australia with £1,000,000 was called in as a member of this Non-Ferrous Metals Committee, and he was one of those who recommended that the Government should bring forward this Bill. He is the very gentleman who is supposed to have established that syndicate, and he is supposed to have already collected £5,000,000 sterling to bring out this British Metals Syndicate. That is the gentleman who has been advising the Government, and he said that he could not establish that syndicate unless he was rid of all this competition, and he is trying to act here exactly as he acted in Australia. I do not know whether the President is aware of all these facts. I do not suppose he can be, because his mind is occupied with too many branches of trade. I mention these things because the Board of Trade will have some difficulty in exercising their discretion when the Bill becomes an Act, and they may probably be advised by some members or the Non-Ferrous Metals Committee, who have a personal interest in getting rid of any competition. I would strongly urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, in exercising his discretion, that he should not take the advice of any members of the Non-Ferrous Metals Committee, because that advice. might possibly be tainted and animated by selfish motives.

There is one more warning I would like to give, and it is that this Bill is a double-edged sword. It may be found to suit the United States, or Germany or Austria to exclude all British-born subjects from a certain trade. More than that, I think it is very likely that such a Bill may be introduced in the United States at some future time, and, if so, there would not be ten or twenty thousand suffer, but there would be millions of British-born subjects now in the United States who would suffer. The right hon. Gentleman ought to give some consideration to the question whether this Bill does not provide a very dangerous precedent which may be directed against ourselves to a far worse degree than we can possibly direct it against any other nation. I hope that he will not think that I have attacked any individual in the information which I have given him, though I do not know that he has listened to my speech, and I hope, anyhow, as regards any advice which he may get from any member on the Non-Ferrous Committee, that he will look upon it with the greatest suspicion, and that if he takes any opinion at all he will take it from some independent outside source and not from anybody who may possibly have the slightest interest in the trade.


I feel it is my bounden duty to state my strong objection to this Bill. I object to it, among other reasons, because it seriously affects the interests of my Constituents. I further think that it is very detrimental to the general interests of the trade of this country. The hon. Member for the Devizes Division (Mr. Peto) on the Committee stage said that there was a small group of Members who were opposing the Bill, and he thought that in taking up the time of the Board of Trade on the matter they showed a want of patriotism. I take exactly the opposite view. It may be lamentable that the time of the Board of Trade should be occupied in discussing this Bill here, but the blame is on their shoulders and not on the shoulders of those who oppose the Bill. A lot of the legislation which has been brought in lately by the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides is of such a very undesirable character that it will be most disastrous to the trade of this country, and I feel in the interests of this country—after all, we have to look at the interest of this country, not only during the War, but after the War as well—that those Members who have a knowledge of the trade and commerce of the country must point out to the Government that Bills of this kind will be most disastrous after the War is over, and must oppose there in every way that they can. I yield to no one in my claim to patriotism in doing what I think is best for my countrymen, and it is from that point of view that I have opposed this and other measures. The Bill, as it has been said, does not come into force until after the War. The Government have full control during the War, and I do not believe that it is going to accomplish what is is designed and is desired to accomplish. Quite the contrary: I think it is interfering with the liberty of the subject.

This and other Bills introduced since the right hon. Gentleman has been President of the Board of Trade have met with great opposition on the part of the commercial classes of this country. Perhaps, without any egotism, I may say that I mix among the commercial classes of this country as much as any Member of this House, and the right hon. Gentleman may be surprised to hear, from the expressions of opinion that have been made to me, that it is considered that the legislation that has been introduced here will be disastrous to the interests of the country. It is said that those who are opposing this Bill are Free Traders. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that such remarks as I have heard do not come front Free Traders generally, but, if possible, more from those who are in favour of Protection. There is a strong and growing feeling against such interference with the trade of this country. Men are embarrassed in trying to do their work. The interference is growing and growing, and there appear to be some people who have quite a desire to interfere with trade not only during the War, but after the War. There is that very strong feeling amongst the commercial classes of this country to which this kind of legislation lends colour. As the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. J. M. Henderson) said, it is folly to pass this kind of legislation which is to take effect after the War, because, after all, it may be that it will have to be torn up. If by any chance I happened to be on the Peace Committee negotiating terms of peace, I should endeavour to make as good terms of peace for this country as anybody in this House. I feel, however, that it is wasting time to pass legislation for the period after the War, because it all depends how far the country is victorious and what terms of peace we are able to enforce. It may be that this sort of legislation may be contrary to the spirit of the terms of peace and may have to be torn up. It is a greet waste of time discussing what we shall do after the War. The thing to do is to win the War and to make the best terms we can for the benefit of the country after the War. I would really press upon the right hon. Gentleman that the commercial classes do not desire this sort of legislation. There is other legislation coming on about which there is a strong feeling in the country. I am sorry that this Bill is going to be passed.

Question put, and agreed to

Bill read the third time, and passed.