HC Deb 20 April 1944 vol 399 cc356-7
26. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the large and increasing extent of pilfering and looting at the ports; and will he issue a circular to magistrates drawing attention to these facts and the penalties that may be imposed.

Mr. H. Morrison

Yes, Sir. I am aware that the stealing of goods at the ports has increased since the outbreak of war and, as I have stated in reply to previous Questions in the House, such offences must be regarded, particularly in war time, as extremely serious and deserving of severe punishment. I sent a letter in 1941 to Magistrates' Courts having jurisdiction in dock areas, drawing their attention to the gravity of such offences in time of war. I have no reason to believe that Magistrates have not these considerations in mind when deciding the appropriate penalty in particular cases, but no doubt my hon. Friend's Question will have served a useful purpose in again drawing attention to the importance of this problem.

Sir W. Smithers

In view of the well known increase in looting and pilfering, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would be right to send another circular and to include also black market offences?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that that is necessary.

Sir Ralph Glyn

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider using not the word "pilfering" but the more usual word "thieving"?

Mr. Morrison

I think that I have drawn attention to that before.