HC Deb 16 May 1918 vol 106 cc566-9

Order read for consideration of Lords. Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Lords Amendment be now considered."


I wish to suggest reasons why this business should not be taken to-day, and I hope my right hon. Friend-will give them consideration. These Amendments are of a very far-reaching character. Of course, I cannot, on this Motion, go into the nature of the Amendments, but I would point out that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Food Controller is no there to-day, and I feel the Bill ought not to be taken in his absence. There is no special pressure in regard to it. My second objection is much more far-reaching. If any hon. Member will look at the Lords Amendments—[An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up; we cannot hear a word!"]—he will see that they refer to Bill No. 25. That Bill has not been printed. I asked for a copy of it only five minutes ago, and could not obtain it. I repeat, the Amendments proposed to be introduced are of a far-reaching character, and I think it is inevitable that they will lead to considerable discussion. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has already made an appeal to us to-day, in the interests of the general convenience of Members, not to unduly prolong the proceedings, and in view of the fact also that the other day he spoke of his very great reluctance to interpose business on days allotted to Supply, also, in view further of the fact that no notice was given of the intention to consider these Amendments—


They are only of a drafting character.


They are not at all of a drafting character; they alter the whole character of the Bill. There are two very long Amendments, but in view of the reasons I have already indicated, and bearing in mind the fact that this is not urgent business, I do ask that the consideration of these Amendments be postponed until after the holidays.


In the absence of the representative of the Ministry of Food, I will take the responsibility of saying a word or two as to the Amendments on the Paper, one of which, of course, refers to Scotland. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he will look at the Amendments he will find that they are of a purely drafting character. The right hon. Gentleman will see that an account is to be taken in connection with breaches of Food Orders, but the provisions are not sufficiently clear, and, accordingly, an Amendment has been introduced, and we ask this House to insert it for the purpose of making it perfectly clear that if there is a breach of the Order the person who has broken the Order may be compelled to exhibit his books, so that it may be ascertained whether, on any previous occasion he has broken an Order, and if it be found that he has, then certain consequences will ensue.


That is not a drafting Amendment.


I suggest it is purely a drafting Amendment. The House will observe that the Bill itself provides that if the Court is satisfied there has been a breach of the Order it may direct that an account be taken, and this Amendment, so far as England is concerned, provides in terms for the taking of that account. The Scottish part of the Amendment is a mere translation of the other. I do appeal to my right hon. Friend to let this Bill go through. It is very desirable it should operate at the earliest possible moment. I think I have explained it fully, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not persist in his opposition.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment considered accordingly.

CLAUSE 1.—(Forfeiture of Excess Profits from Overcharging for Food.)

Where a person has, after the passing of this Act, sold any goods at a price in excess of that allowed by or under any Order made by the Food Controller in pursuance of the powers conferred on him by the Defence of the Realm Regulations, that person in addition to any other penalty to which he may be liable, shall forfeit to His Majesty a sum equal to double the amount of such excess, and in any proceedings taken to recover such amount the Court, if satisfied that there has been a breach of the Order, may order an account to be taken in like manner as if the sum recoverable under this provision had been money had and received for the account of His Majesty.

Lords Amendment:

Leave out all words after the word, "and" ["the amount of such excess and"], and insert instead thereof the words, that sum shall be recoverable as a debt due to the Crown. (2) In any proceedings in England or Ireland under this Act against any person in respect of any such sale as aforesaid, the Court, if satisfied that there has been a breach by him of any Order so made by the Food Controller, may order an account to be taken with respect to that sale and with respect to any other sales by that person of any goods to which any such Order applies, and may upon such account being taken direct the payment of double the amount of the excess thereby appearing to have been realised on the sales. (3) In any proceedings in Scotland under this Act against any person in respect of any such sale as aforesaid, the Court, if satisfied that there has been a breach by him of any Order so made by the Food Controller may proceed in like manner as if such proceedings were an action of count reckoning and payment concluding for production of an account of the aforesaid sale, and of any other sales by that person of any goods to which any such Order applies, and for payment of double the amount of the excess thereby appearing to have been realised on the sales

Lords Amendment read a second time.


I am sure there is one Amendment which is required here. The whole thing of a very far-reaching character. I do not like to make a statement on a legal point in contradiction of that of the Secretary for Scotland, but in the House of Commons we inserted in the Bill the words "after the passing of this Act," and I suggest that similar words ought to be put into these new Sections. When, the Bill was under discussion here the question was asked whether it was intended to be retrospective, and we were assured that it was not, but without the inclusion of the words I suggest it might possibly be made retrospective, and I would therefore like to move in paragraph (2), after the word "person" ["other sales by that person"], to insert the words "after the passing of this Act" That would bring the whole thing into harmony with the circumstances tinder which the measure was passed through this House.


The Amendment is unnecessary. The Act will only apply to the cases of persons who have, after its passing, sold goods, and therefore no offence can arise unless a man, after the passing of the Act, has sold goods. Then the appropriate punishment will apply.


It did occur to me that these words were very material, and that the Bill if amended, as now proposed, might be made applicable to other sales, but if the Secretary for Scotland assures me that the words already introduced govern the whole procedure, I am willing not to press my opposition.


I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for withdrawing his opposition. I can give him the assurance he asks for that the words "after the passing of this Act" govern all sales, including those provided for in the Lords Amendment.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.