HC Deb 04 December 1946 vol 431 cc344-81

3.35 p.m.

Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 10, to leave out from "Act," to the end of the Clause.

This is the first Amendment which my right hon. and hon. Friends have put down to this complicated and important Bill, and I must take the occasion to say that, had we had more time, we should have put down Amendments more carefully drafted and in greater number. The Bill was ordered to be printed on 13th November, hardly three weeks ago, it was read a Second time last Tuesday, and now, a week later, we come to the Committee stage. It has not been possible to consult all those who are interested in this Bill about its effect upon their daily business, and the result of that is twofold. In the first place we have put down a number of Amendments which are exploratory and designed to find out the Government's intentions; in the second place we shall have to ask the right hon. Gentleman more than the usual number of questions before parting with almost all the Clauses, in order that we may be in a position to know what action to take during the Report stage.

This Amendment refers to the territories in which the powers under the Bill are not needed, a blessed area where His Majesty's subjects can still travel and trade with some show of freedom. The conception of the sterling area arose from the administration of exchange control. Wartime finance made it necessary to divide the whole world into two regions, one where our currency moved freely and of which London was the financial centre, and the other where it was necessary to get a permit to make or receive any payments. We have grown to cherish the conception of the sterling area, to which we owe in some degree the persistent strength of our currency. We are therefore very sorry to see this expression dropped from the Bill and to find substituted for it the colourless words, "scheduled territories." It seems that the Chancellor is nervous about owning up to the number of friends whom he has and who have confidence in sterling. He appears to wish to deliver our credit in a plain van, I suppose because he thinks that Washington and New York might misconstrue a phrase which clearly referred to the unity, and the very special ties, which are to be found not only among the territories of the British Commonwealth and Empire, but among some other territories as well. We do not like to see His Majesty's Government drawing a drab veil over an expression of the unity which is precious to all hon. Members of this House.

The list of the scheduled territories is to be found in the First Schedule to the Bill, and in the Sixth Schedule it is laid down that the Treasury, without an Order being brought before this House, can specify any currency. When the Treasury specifies a currency it puts the territory in which that currency circulates outside the scheduled territories. Therefore, unless the words which we are moving to leave out are in fact left out of Clause 1, the Treasury from now onwards will have the power, without coming to this House to truncate the sterling area. Whether or not we ask the Committee to vote for this Amendment must depend upon the answers which the Chancellor gives to some questions about these scheduled territories, and how he is dealing with them. This Bill contemplates a very drastic system of exchange control, more drastic than has ever been put on by a democracy before. It will not work unless the scheduled territories agree also to operate this system. How do we know that they will agree to this? We thought we should see in the White Paper some comforting remarks about the success of negotiations between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Governments of the scheduled territories for putting this system into operation throughout the old sterling area. The Committee will have noticed an extraordinarily weak passage in the last paragraph of the White Paper. It says: Other governments are expected to do the same New Zealand is quoted as having already set up an exchange control, and then—I suppose because there is no satisfactory news to be given of any other parts of the British Empire—Canada and Czechoslovakia are named, neither of which is in fact in the scheduled territories. What is going on between the Treasury and these other territories? Is it likely that we are to have these agreements made and signed before the sterling balances have been dealt with? What is the position, for instance, with regard to India, Egypt and South Africa? Are those territories to operate this drastic system in their countries? What we want to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is how these negotiations are getting on.

The Chairman

The question here is whether the Treasury shall or shall not have power to amend the Schedule from time to time, and I do not think we can go into the question of agreements which may or may not exist.

Mr. Eccles

I am sorry if you, Mr. Chairman, take that view, with which I shall comply. I must make the point that the reason why we wish to have an Order brought before the House if the number of scheduled territories is to be reduced, is precisely because we think that the powers in this Bill are so drastic that it is unlikely that there can be successful negotiation with the Dominion Governments once they have been made permanent on the Statute Book. If this were not a permanent Bill, I could understand that it would be more easy to get the Dominion Governments to agree, but for the reasons which we heard on Second reading, the Chancellor desires this Bill to be permanent. It is our contention that that is the very worst start for negotiations with the Dominions. That is why we have put down the Amendment; we wish to elicit from the Chancellor a full and frank statement about negotiations with the Dominions at the present time, because it is a matter which affects Imperial relations very closely. The Committee ought not to part with this Clause before hearing exactly what is going on between the Treasury and the other Governments in the scheduled territories.

3.45 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)

I rise to express the hope that the Government will be able to meet the request put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). I endorse what he said about the regret felt on these benches at the insertion of this new definition, "scheduled territories," in place of the better understood and now time-honoured phrase "sterling areas." Can it be that the right hon. Gentleman is now reticent about referring to the convoy which steams around the British currency, with the shadow of the rapidly diminishing American loan hanging over him? This Amendment, as my hon. Friend explained, seeks some explanation from the Treasury Bench of what exactly they mean, and the action they propose to take under this Subsection. My hon. Friend mentioned that it was possible under this procedure to truncate the list of scheduled territories. It is also possible to elongate that list. The powers are to add to or subtract from the list of scheduled territories. Whatever it means, whether we add to or delete from the list contained in the Schedule, there is one point which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee should safeguard. It is of the highest importance that the House of Commons should have opportunity for discussion. As we understand the Subsection, subtractions or additions can be made at any time by Order.

We think it is giving far too great a power to allow this to be done by Order in Council. It is surely of the highest importance to the House and the country if some nation is added to, or removed from, this list of scheduled territories. We hope that whoever replies on this Amendment will tell us that the Order will be laid, and that we shall have opportunity for discussion. Although we are living in an age when government by legislation has made enormous strides, this is a matter of far too great importance to be left to a procedure which completely by-passes the House of Commons, and leaves hon. Members without any machinery whereby to raise the matter. As has so often been said in the past, governments come and governments go, and the day will come when hon. Members opposite will again occupy these benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Those who believe in an eternity of power are invariably disappointed. As Lord Snowden said, one day the places which know them now will know them no more. If a Government of a different complexion takes office, and this Bill reaches the Statute Book in its present form, it is possible that there may be a proposal to remove a nation from the list of scheduled territories, to which hon. Members opposite will take the strongest possible exception. They will then wish to debate the matter. I ask them to face the future, and consider whether it is not good House of Commons procedure for the Opposition of the day, whoever they may be, or even back bench supporters of the Government of the day, to have a say in these matters. I hope that the Government will be able to meet us, and that such Orders will be laid, so that it will be possible to debate them.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

From what the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) has said, I understand that this Amendment has not been put down in order to carry this matter to a Division, but in order to seek information on two points. I shall have to ask the Committee to reject it, because it is essential that we should continue to have our present powers. Powers exist now, under the Defence Regulations to exclude any country from the sterling area which does not pursue an exchange control policy in line with that of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Chippenham seemed to think that there was something sinister in the fact that nowhere in this Bill do the words "sterling area" appear. They have been omitted deliberately, because the phrase "sterling area," or "sterling bloc," has been used in the past extremely loosely. Before the war, it was frequently used to describe all the countries which for convenience, or for some advantage, kept a large financial balance in London, and managed their exchange rates so that they generally moved with sterling.

Most of the Dominions did that, and I think almost half of Europe did it. Japan certainly did. But during the war the number of countries which moved with ourselves in this matter was very much smaller, and the result is that what is now known as the sterling area is a small group of those countries. Those countries, as the hon. Member indicated, are listed in the First Schedule to the Bill. It is our view that we should continue to have the right—without being tied down as the words of the Amendment would tie us down—to have some elasticity in this matter, so that countries can be inserted and deleted as may be required. We do not want to have a hard and fast list, placed in the Bill.

The mover and supporters of the Amendment are, I think, under some misapprehension. When they talk of specified currencies they are forgetting that so far as scheduled territories are concerned their currencies are not, in the strict sense, foreign currencies. The specification of a currency does not put a territory out of the scheduled territories. That act of exclusion requires an order under Clause 1, which under a later Clause is subject to a negative resolution. That is the reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite), who asked if the House would be able to follow these matters and express a view upon them. Under Clause 36, that right is there and can be exercised.

Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)

Surely, the act of specifying a currency automatically excludes it from the sterling bloc?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

These are technical points but, briefly, the currency of a scheduled territory is not foreign currency. If the hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 1 (3) he will see what I mean. Therefore, it cannot be specified under Clause 2 (1).

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)

I am a little frightened by the answer which the Financial Secretary has just given. Apparently, the value which he places on the retention of these words, is that the Government should have absolute power to exclude from the scheduled territories any country which does not happen to see fit to conform to the policy of His Majesty's Government in exchange control. As a poor country, we must depend on give and take, and on the confidence of other countries, and it is absurd for any Government, in our present financial situation, to threaten with a big stick and say that they mean to take powers to make themselves absolute dictators in these matters. We know that if we are to succeed in this period of reconstruction, we must have the good will of other sterling countries with us. We owe far more than we can ever hope to pay within a reasonable time. We have onerous commitments in making fluid a certain part of these balances. We need the good will of all our partners if we are to succeed. Now, the Government come here, brandish a big stick, and say, "If countries do not play our game, according to our notion of the rules, we shall throw them out." That is the last way in which to start our task of reconstruction.

We are a debtor, and not a creditor, country. We need good will, and must not take dictatorial powers to ourselves. I cannot understand the Financial Secretary's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch). If you specify a currency under the Sixth Schedule it automatically becomes a barred currency under the Bill, one to which the First Schedule cannot apply. It seems to me to be an absolute twist of the provisions of this Bill for the Financial Secretary to say that a negative Resolution will be needed under this Amendment, when he can achieve everything he requires under the Sixth Schedule without coming near the House. It may well be that there is a legal safeguard here but it is one which the Government need not apply, because they can achieve their aim without coming here.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am sorry if I did not make myself plain. I meant Clause 36.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

The procedure under that Clause is quite unnecessary if the Government use the powers in the Sixth Schedule. To say that they will use Clause 36 is worth nothing, because, as I have said, they can achieve their aim under the Sixth Schedule. I can only hope that my hon. Friend will take his Amendment to a Division.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)

As regards a specified currency which can be altered under the Sixth Schedule without any reference to the House, I gather that the Financial Secretary said it would not be a currency in a scheduled area; that a currency which might be specified in Clause 2 is not a currency in one of the scheduled territories. That may be his intention, but is there anything in the language of the Bill which shows clearly that a specified currency cannot be the currency of a scheduled territory? If so, perhaps the Solicitor-General will point it out, because, at the moment, I do not see where the Financial Secretary finds this in the Bill.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

The Financial Secretary mentioned Clause 2 (1). I think he must have meant Clause 1 (2). He himself reminded us that this was a very technical Bill, and it occurred to me that that might make a difference.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It certainly would.

Mr. Pickthorn

I was not quite sure whether the hon. Gentleman meant Clause 2 (1), or Clause 1 (2).

The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

If Members will look at Clause 1 (3, a) they will see that foreign currency does not include any currency or notes issued by the Government, or under the law of any part of the scheduled territories. Therefore, if one looks at Clause 2, to see what currency can be specified, it will be found that it is only currency which is not the currency of a scheduled territory. The words which the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) is looking for are in Clause 1 (3, a). Perhaps he is now satisfied with that answer.

Mr. H. Strauss indicated assent.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Assheton (City of London)

I am bound to say that we do not feel satisfied with the general tone of the reply given by the Financial Secretary. This question of excluding any territory from the scheduled territories is an extraordinary one, and our view is that it ought riot to be in the power of the Government to do anything of the sort, without making an Order which is at least subject to an affirmative Resolution by this House. What will be the effect of such an Order? The effect may be extremely important, from the point of view of Imperial relations and foreign relations. On those grounds alone, I should have thought that it was essential to bring it to the House to get an affirmative Resolution. Apart from that, I ask the Committee to consider the effect which such an Order would have on all citizens who are trading with any country within the scheduled territories. Suddenly, without a moment's notice, this Order will be clamped down, and it will upset trading plans, and negotiations for trading, which are going on in whatever territory is to be excluded from this list. I do not know whether the Chancellor would be prepared to agree to amend this provision so as to require an affirmative Resolution in this case. If he is not willing to do so, I am afraid we, on this side of the Committee who regard this as a very important matter must carry the Amendment to a Division.

Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)

I think the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) quite unwittingly gave a reason why in this case the Order should be subject to a negative, rather than an affirmative, Resolution, namely, that this exclusion could then take place instantaneously and without any warning. The purpose of excluding any area from the list in the Schedule would be that there was a considerable leakage of capital going on throughout that area. The strength of the Bill depends on having a watertight wall around the scheduled areas, and the wall is only watertight in so far as its weakest point is made secure. Let us take country "X."

Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)

Why not the Faroes?

Mr. Benson

Let us assume then that throughout the Faroes very heavy leakages of capital are likely to take place. The Government have to come to the House for an affirmative Resolution, which gives warning that the loophole is about to be stopped. The whole experience of the last 25 years of exchange control is that, once there is a breath of a suggestion that the exchange control is to be tightened up, it inevitably leads to an immediate efflux of capital. It is to prevent that, I assume, that the Government propose to take powers on a negative Order, which could be clamped on without warning. This would prevent people who are trying to export their capital from having an opportunity to defeat the purposes of the Bill.

Mr. Stanley

We are obliged for the intervention of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). Whether his is the right reason for the adoption of this method, we do not know, but the hon. Member has given a reason which hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench have, so far, not been able to give. Perhaps they will confirm whether this is the real reason. Although I think there is a great deal of substance in the argument, that some inconvenience to the Treasury might arise, that does not shock me, because in viewing this question, I attach more importance to the exclusion of someone from the scheduled list than to the inclusion of someone new. I am concerned about seeing that the exclusion of someone from this list should receive from this House a less summary form of treatment than that which is proposed. None of us probably mind very much whether the Faroes and Iceland, those countries whose currencies, by a stroke of the magician's wand at the Treasury, are suddenly declared not to be foreign currency—

Mr. Benson

In this connection how does the right hon. Gentleman spell "Faroes"?

Mr. Stanley

I stick to the more classical form adopted by the Chancellor in his Bill. We feel that an occasion

may arise where it is proposed, perhaps for a perfectly good reason, to exclude from this Schedule one of the great Dominions; in other words, to push one of the Dominions outside what has now become the legalised and permanent sterling bloc. The mere fact of interposing between them and us, all the barriers which are erected between us and the ordinary foreign countries by this Bill, must do a great deal to weaken the links between the Dominions and this country. Are we in the House of Commons to do that in exactly the same manner as- we deal with an Order increasing the price of rhubarb by two pence a pound?

I should be perfectly prepared to accept a fair compromise. If the right hon. Gentleman would give us an affirmative Resolution on the matter of excluding territory from this Schedule, I should be prepared to allow the negative procedure on the question of including new territory; if not, I am afraid that we shall have to take this Amendment to a Division. Further, may I ask could not the right hon. Gentleman think of some less gloomy designation than that of "scheduled areas"? We have in another connotation lived with the words "scheduled castes." In dealing, as we are here, with our close and intimate friends, some more appropriate name should be found for this new economic union.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 255; Noes, 114.

Division No. 20. AYES [4.8 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Boardman, H. Coldrick, W
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Collick, P
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Cooper, Wing-Comdr. C
Alpass, J. H. Bramall, Major E. A. Corlett, Dr. J
Attewell, H. C. Brook, D. (Halifax) Cove, W. G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Crawley, A.
Austin, H. L. Brown, T. J. (Ince) Daggar, G.
Awbery, S. S. Brown, W. J. (Rugby) Daines, P.
Ayles, W. H. Bruce, Maj D. W. T. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Burden, T. W. Davies, Clement (Montgomery)
Bacon, Miss A. Burke, W. A. Davies, Edward (Burslem)
Baird, J. Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Davies, Ernest (Enfield)
Balfour, A. Byers, Frank Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)
Barstow, P. G. Callaghan, James Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)
Barton, C. Carmichael, James Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Bechervaise, A. E. Castle, Mrs. B. A. Deer, G.
Belcher, J. W. Chamberlain, R. A. Diamond, J.
Benson, G. Champion, A. J. Dobbie, W.
Bing, G. H. C. Chetwynd, G. R. Dodds, N. N.
Binns, J. Cluse, W. S. Driberg, T. E. N.
Blackburn, A. R. Cobb, F. A. Dumpleton, C. W.
Blyton, W. R. Cocks, F. S Durbin, E. F. M.
Dye, S. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Rogers, G. H. R.
Edelman, M. Logan, D. G. Royle, C.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Longden, F. Scollan, T.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Lyne, A. W. Segal, Dr. S.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) McAdam, W. Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) McAllister, G. Sharp, Granville
Ewart, R. McEntee, V. La. T. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Fairhurst, F. McGhee, H. G. Shurmer, P.
Farthing, W. J. Mack, J. D. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Field, Captain W. J. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.) Skinnard, F. W.
Gallacher, W. McLeavy, F. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Gibbins, J. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Snow, Capt. J. W.
Gibson, C. W. Macpherson, T. (Romford) Solley, L. J.
Gilzean, A. Mainwaring, W. H. Sorensen, R. W.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mann, Mrs. J. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Sparks, J. A.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Stamford, W.
Grenfell, D. R. Mathers, G. Stephen, C.
Grey, C. F. Medland, H. M. Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Grierson, E. Mellish, R. J. Stokes, R. R.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Messer, F. Stubbs, A. E.
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Middleton, Mrs. L. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Gruffyd, Prof. W. J. Mikardo, Ian Swingler, S.
Gunter, R. J. Millington, Wing-Comdr, E. R. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Guy, W. H. Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Monslow, W. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Hale, Leslie Moody, A. S. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Hall, W. G. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Moyle, A. Thurtle, E.
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Murray, J. D. Tiffany, S.
Hardy, E. A. Nally, W. Tolley, L.
Harrison, J. Naylor, T. E. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Neal, H. (Claycross) Turner-Samuels, M.
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Usborne, Henry
Herbison, Miss M. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Hicks, G. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Viant, S. P.
Hobson, C. R. Noel-Buxton, Lady Wadsworth, G.
Holman, P. O'Brien, T. Walkden, E.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Oldfield, W. H. Walker, G. H.
Horabin, T. L. Parkin, B. T. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
House, G. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Paton, J. (Norwich) Warbey, W. N.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pearson, A. Watkins, T. E.
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Peart, Capt. T. F. Watson, W. M.
Hynd, Rt. Hon. J. B. (Attercliffe) Perrins, W. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Jay, D. P. T. Piratin, P. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield) West, D. G.
John, W. Popplewell, E. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Porter, E. (Warrington) Wilkins, W. A.
Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Porter, G. (Leeds) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Proctor, W. T. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Keenan, W. Randall, H. E. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Kenyon, C. Ranger, J. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
King, E. M. Rankin, J. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Rees-Williams, D. R. Willis, E.
Kinley, J. Reeves, J. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Kirby, B. V. Reid, T. (Swindon) Wise, Major F. J.
Kirkwood, D. Rhodes, H. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Lee, F. (Hulme) Richards, R.
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Ridealgh, Mrs. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Levy, B. W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Mr. Collindridge and Mr. Simmons.
Lewis, T (Southampton) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Lipson, D. L.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Erroll, F. J.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Fletcher, W. (Bury)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Astor, Hon. M. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Gammans, L. D.
Baldwin, A. E. Crowder, Capt. John E. George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)
Barlow, Sir J. Cuthbert, W. N. Glyn, Sir R.
Baxter, A. B. Davidson, Viscountess Grant, Lady
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Digby, S. W. Grimston, R. V.
Birch, Nigel Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)
Boothby, R. Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)
Bower, N. Drayson, G. B. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Drewe, C. Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Buchan-Hopburn, P. G. T. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Howard, Hon. A.
Bullock Capt. M. Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (City of Lond.) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Butcher, H. W. Duthie, W. S. Hurd, A.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Eccles, D. M. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)
Carson, E. Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Jennings, R.
Challen, C. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Keeling, E. H.
Kerr, Sir J. Graham Neven-Spence, Sir B. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Lambert, Hon. G. Nutting, Anthony. Stuart, Rt Hon. J. (Moray)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Sutcliffe, H.
Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Pickthorn, K. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E) Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Prior-Palmer, Brig, O. Touche, G. C.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Raikes, H. V. Walker-Smith, D.
McCallum, Maj. D. Rayner, Brig. R. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Macdonald, Sir P. (Is of Wight) Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Mackeson, Brig, H. R. Ropner, Col. L. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Ross, Sir R. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Maclean, Brig F. H. R. (Lancaster) Sanderson, Sir F. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Savory, Prof. D. L Williams, C. (Torquay)
Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Scott, Lord W. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Manningham-Buller, R. E. Shephard, S. (Newark) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow) York, C.
Mellor, Sir J. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Snadden, W. M.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Spence, H. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. Major Conant and Major Ramsay
The Chairman

In calling the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) to move his Amendment in page 2, line 13, which refers to the expression "authorised dealer," I would point out that in Clause 42, which deals with interpretation, there is a definition of "authorised dealer." I think it would be convenient to discuss the matter here. We cannot have two discussions on it.

Mr. Solley (Thurrock)

Are we to understand, Major Milner, that if we now discuss the definition of "authorised dealer," it will not be further discussed when we consider Clause 42?

The Chairman

That is so.

Mr. Birch

I beg to move, in page 2. line 13, at the end, to add: (4) For the purposes of this Act the expression 'authorised dealer' means any person who is at the date when this Part of the Act comes into force lawfully pursuing the trade or business of buying or selling or borrowing or lending any gold or foreign currency and in addition any such person as may for the time being be authorised by an order of the Treasury to act for the purposes of this Act as an authorised dealer in relation to gold or any foreign currency. This is a matter of some importance. The Bill inevitably gives great powers to the Treasury and the Government, and it has been accepted on Second Reading, and therefore, we cannot question the fact that these great powers are given; but I believe it is the duty of the Committee to see that no more powers are given to the Treasury than are absolutely necessary for them to carry out the intentions of the Bill. As the Bill is now drawn, it appears that the Treasury have the power of life and death over a great many individual businesses, because it is laid down in the Bill that dealings in gold and foreign exchange must take place only through authorised dealers. If one wishes to see what an authorised dealer is, one has to look at Clause 42 That Clause is very specific. It says: Authorised dealer means, in relation to gold or any foreign currency, a person for the time being authorised by an order of the Treasury … Therefore, the Treasury has a complete option as to who should be allowed, and who should be forbidden, to carry on this type of business. Further, if hon. Members look at the Sixth Schedule they will find that Orders specifying who are and who are not to be authorised dealers need not be laid before the House of Commons, and, therefore, are not subject to debate. It is doubtful whether any Government should be given powers of life and death over other people's business, without opportunity being allowed for discussion. We have had many similar cases and the Government answer has been: "Trust us." Probably there are exceptionally virtuous people on the Front Bench opposite, but I look on their financial probity less favourably than I did since the taking over of the London Passenger Transport Board 3 per cent. stock. In any case it is wrong that any legislation should pass this House which is not right in itself. We think it is the duty of the legislature to see that any legislation that is passed, does not give more power than is necessary.

What this Amendment seeks to do is to give protection and also to define what an "authorised dealer" is It does not say that if somebody acting as an authorised dealer does not behave himself, the Government cannot exclude him from business. The Government have ample power to deal with misconduct. They can prevent anyone doing a thing they do not want to be done. This proposal does give protection to those legitimately in the business. It was difficult to draft a provision of this kind without giving the Treasury power to stop new entrants into the business, and that, is in fact, what it does. It says that new entrants may be allowed in, but only with the consent of the Treasury. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give this Amendment careful consideration, because I think it is a reasonable one. I also hope that he will give us some assurance that there will be liberality of treatment in the case of new entrants into this business. I have no doubt that this Clause will be very popular in the City. I have not been up there recently so I do not know, but it imposes a compulsory closed shop in the banking world and those inside any business which imposes the closed shop principle, always take a more favourable view of the matter than those outside. I cannot think that a closed shop in the banking world is going to be valuable for this country, however valuable it may be for the bankers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will accept this Amendment.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I may be allowed to ask one or two questions on this Amendment. I notice that we are giving power to the Treasury so that by means of Orders they will be able to limit the number of people engaged in this form of transaction. I should like to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether or not he accepts the provision that those people who are already engaged in this business, provided they behave well —and obviously the Chancellor can get at them under this Bill if they do not— will be able to carry on their own business. I think it only right and reasonable to ask for some assurance in that respect. One of the main purposes of the Amendment is that those already working this business should have every reasonable chance of carrying on. I should like also to ask if it is proposed that there should be anywhere, some sort of list of authorised dealers. It is going to be rather difficult for people to "know who are authorised dealers and where that information can be obtained. I think it is a pity that the Treasury are taking such very drastic powers to get people out of employment in this way. I do not think they will, necessarily, be used; but I do say the powers in the Bill as it stands, without this Amendment, leaves too much with the Treasury, and I think that is dangerous. We should guard against that. It ought not to be in the power of the Government to take away a man's living in that way. I do think that the regulations should be carefully considered. In regard to the Orders dealing with individuals, as I understand it, they will not be laid before the House. Am I right in that assumption?

The Solicitor-General indicated assent.

Mr. Williams

That being so, I suggest it is the strongest point" against this Clause. I think these Orders should be laid before the House. It is part of the duty of the House of Commons when" Orders are passed affecting the lives of individuals to see that such Orders are presented to Parliament. For all these reasons I think a strong case has been made out for this Amendment. I do not think it will weaken the position at all, but it takes a reasonable line acceptable to the country and for that reason I hope it will be added to the Bill.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I must ask the Committee to resist this Amendment. In our view it is not necessary and it certainly will not accomplish what is in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) talked about the phrasing of the Bill conferring a closed shop on certain dealers in the City, and I think he said that it was a closed shop with a vengeance. If this Amendment is accepted it certainly will confer a closed shop on the dealers now operating, because the effect of the words which we are now asked to insert, will be to give all persons who are authorised dealers the right to continue. I am not denying of course that we give it, but the Amendment goes on to lay down that at the date when this Bill comes into operation those in business in this way should be continued in business and there are conferred upon them very extensive powers which we cannot accept. We think that the Committee, when it realises what is meant, will not accept the Amendment. It would obviously mean that if an authorised dealer were guilty—and I do not suggest they would be—of any irregularity, he could not be taken from the list because of the power conferred on him. The Bill would be absolute. We cannot accept the Amendment for that reason. What I think hon. Gentlemen opposite are anxious to know is whether all the present authorised dealers will continue to be recognised in that capacity, and I can certainly give the Committee that assurance. The dealers who are now operating in this field are reputable firms, and we have no desire to put any of them out of business. As far as we are concerned the position will continue to be as it is now. The number of authorised dealers is probably well known to many hon. and right hon. Members opposite. They are people of the highest repute and as I say we have no desire whatever to see them put out of business.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Stanley

We are very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his statement, which appeared to me to be an excellent speech in favour of this Amendment. The effect of the Amendment is, indeed, to carry out the hon. Gentleman's assurance that the authorised dealers will be allowed to continue since they are most reputable people and there is no desire whatever to put them out of business. Our difficulty here is that Ministers come and go, and the time may arrive when the Ministers representing the Treasury may be neither so reasonable nor so courteous as those facing me now. Then, I am afraid, the assurance which the hon. Gentleman has given us will have no validity. Only if it has been incorporated in an Act can he be certain that when he lays down his office the assurance he has given us today will be honoured by his successors. Frankly, it is for this very reason that we wish this Amendment made. We are, I confess, in some difficulty. I do not think it is at all helpful that the Treasury should be assuming, in this and other instances, enormous power of personal patronage. In Clause after Clause they are taking upon themselves powers to make one man's livelihood and destroy that of another, and in this particular case it can be done without any Parliamentary supervision whatever.

Had it been practicable we should have liked to insist upon some Parliamentary supervision—at any rate of all appointments or deletions—but we realise that to have a reference to the House, even through the process of a negative Resolu- tion, in the case of adding one name here or of a firm going out of business there, would be too much. Therefore, we looked about to see if it were not possible to guard against the greatest evil, which is that of the Treasury—by which, of course, is meant the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day—establishing, say, a monopoly in favour of particular friends of his. We understand that among the many fields, quite unconnected with cooperative trading, into which the Co-operative Society is now launching, banking is assuming considerable importance. It may well be that the Co-operative Society will want to take part in these exchange transactions, and that some future Chancellor of the Exchequer, under pressure from his supporters, might desire to give to the Co-operative banking corporation a monopoly of dealings of this kind. And under this Clause he could do it without the House of Commons having any charge of intervening. We believe that to be wrong, and in this Amendment we do at any rate provide a safeguard against some future assault on the reputable firms who are now carrying on this business.

With regard to the small point that it would not be possible to get rid of one of these people for some irregularity, the solution is perfectly easy. All that is necessary is to include among any penalties which can be imposed upon a dealer for irregularity, that of being struck off the list. That would entirely meet the hon. Gentleman's point. As far as I am concerned, I feel that we shall be obliged to press this matter to a Division unless the Chancellor can offer us some better alternative which will protect us against the sort of thing I have indicated which I am sure he would not do, but which his successors—possibly from the parties which now sit behind him—might be tempted to do.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)

In response to the right hon. Gentleman I should like to make one point clear. If this Amendment were accepted in the form in which it has been moved, its effect would be to give all the authorised dealers an unalterable and unqualified right to deal. If this Amendment were passed it would be impossible to disengage any person from his rights to continue to be a dealer if he has those rights now. That means that however gross a person's offence, even if he is convicted in a court of law and heavily mulcted, whether in the field of exchange control or outside, we should be unable to remove him from the list. Evidently, we cannot accept that, as I think the right hon. Gentleman recognised in his last observations when he suggested that the Amendment might itself be amended to make a provision for striking off such a person. But would that be any improvement on what we propose? I suggest not, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has recognised very reasonably, Parliament would have no wish to concern itself with Orders from time to time relating to whether Mr. Smith, or the Co-operative bank, or any other single unit, should or should not be allowed to deal in foreign exchange. Therefore, if we were to accept an Amendment in the form suggested, with a provision that persons may be struck off the list from time to time, it could realty get us no further than we already propose to go in the Bill as drafted.

Mr. Stanley

Would it be possible to make a provision that they should be struck off following conviction?

Mr. Dalton

That, of course, is not the Amendment before us. I am trying to clarify the issue, and my suggestion is that the Amendment before us is unacceptable because, as I think the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted, as it stands it would mean irremovability. If a further Amendment were submitted—allowing removability that would be a matter for a separate discussion, but I am inclined to think that that would get us no further although, naturally, I should want to see the words before I expressed a final view. I, therefore, suggest that hon. Members opposite should not press the present Amendment to a Division, but should think again and suggest an alternative Amendment, although I am by no means committing myself to accept it and I am very doubtful whether any plant which flowered from this root, would be any better than what we have already.

Mr. H. Strauss

I really think that the arguments in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's reply are not directed to the point which we wish to raise. It is always possible that those who draft Amendments for the Opposition are less skilled or more hurried than those whose services are available to the right hon. Gentleman, but I wish to suggest reasons why this Amendment, even in its present form, is nothing like so bad as the Chancellor has suggested. Far from asking us to produce something better for him to consider, the right hon. Gentleman should, if we can satisfy the Committee that we have a point of substance, think again and bring forward Amendments himself. We should not press this to a Division if there were an undertaking from the Government to meet the point. May I explain what this point of substance is? It is that, if any people are to be put out of business, that fact should be disclosed to the House. The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to say that it is not his intention to put people out of business and I accept that absolutely.

Mr. Dalton

Not unless they commit irregularities or do something of a blameworthy character.

Mr. Strauss

I accept that the Government do not wish to put a man out of business unless he is guilty of an irregularity, but they are taking powers under which they can put out of business anybody they like without any control by this House or anybody else. The Financial Secretary spoke about the creation of a closed shop, but how much more a closed shop it would be if the Government could strike out all but one of the people now dealing. That is possible under this Clause. Presumably it is quite possible to provide in the Bill here that those at present in the business shall continue, and then in later appropriate clauses give the terms on which people can be struck off the lists and prevented from carrying on their occupations, and I trust that will be for offences against the law. Although I am sure the Treasury has every intention of working this properly, I think that irregularities, meaning breaches of regulations, are something which the courts of this country are quite capable of investigating. The suggestion which has been put forward from the Opposition Front bench certainly deserves consideration. On the Second reading the right hon. Gentleman said that the existing powers and existing methods of operation were satisfactory. He cannot therefore say that it is impossible for everybody now operating to continue to operate under the Bill. I should like to say a word about prece- dents. I have not looked the point up but I have no doubt that if I did I could find many. Let us take a precedent in a quite different sort of Bill—the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. G. Hicks) will remember—the Architects' Registration Bill, in which we made all sorts of provisions as to future right to use the name "architect", but we had a saving Clause so as not to injure those already lawfully in the business. That has been done again and again in Acts of Parliament.

I submit in all seriousness that the Government, on the admission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, arc taking powers which they themselves say they have no intention of using—namely, the power to strike off otherwise than for some irregularity. I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not casting any aspersions on the Government's intentions. I do not think they have the guilty intention of acting in an outrageous manner under this Clause, but they could do so. If they are good democrats and good House of Commons men, they will not want to take improper powers which they have no intention of using. The words in the Amendment, or something like them, are entirely appropriate at this stage of the Bill. At a later stage of the Bill, if the Government think they have not sufficient powers to strike people off for irregularities, let them take those powers, but do not let them take powers which enable them to put anybody they like out of business and which they say they only intend to use against irregularities—not mentioning what the irregularities are or giving any power to the people struck out of business to demand that their cases should be investigated by a court of law. These powers, in the form in which the Government are taking them, are outrageous. I do not believe there is much wrong with the Amendment as it stands, but if the right hon. Gentleman or the Solicitor-General considers there is something wrong with it, I am sure this party would not pursue the matter to a division on getting an appropriate undertaking from the Government. If, however, that undertaking is not forthcoming, in the interests of Parliamentary decency and legal decency and the maintenance of the rule of law, we ought to press this to a division.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Solley (Thurrock)

If there is one reason why hon. Members on this side of the Committee ought not to accede to the proposed Amendment, it is the fact that the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English. Universities (Mr. Strauss) talked about Parliamentary and legal decency. In point of fact, the Amendment is both ill-conceived and self-contradictory. It is ill-conceived because if it were passed, it would deal a serious blow at the intentions of the Government as expressed in Clause 1 of this Bill. Clause 1 aims at illegal dealings in gold or foreign currency. I apprehend that if a person were brought before the appropriate legal authorities on the charge that he, not being an authorised dealer, had dealt in gold or foreign currency, then, on the definition in Clause 42 as it stands, the court would have no difficulty in deciding whether the person was or was not an authorised dealer. But if we consider the definition of "authorised dealer" in the terms of the Amendment, we find that there are two classes of so-called "authorised dealers." The first consists of persons who were: lawfully pursuing the trade or business of buying or selling or borrowing or lending any gold or foreign currency … The second class consists of those whose names would appear on an appropriate Order made by the Treasury. If the court is faced with a defendant who says "I am not in class 2, I am class 1," we shall have the ridiculous picture, for instance, of a jeweller who is lawfully entitled to buy gold for the purposes of his trade saying that he is an authorised dealer— authorised by whom we do not know and never shall know—and that therefore he can do everything which the Government thinks it is improper in the public interest for him to do. This would make it doubly difficult for the administration to track down dealings by such so-called unauthorised dealers.

Much has been said about the fact that there is no remedy on the part of any dealer whose name is not accepted by the Treasury in the proposed Orders. That is complete and utter nonsense. I can imagine what would happen if any reputable dealer found that his name was not in such an Order. He would immediately get in touch with some of his friends on the other side of the House. He would not find many friends on this side of the House—

Hon. Members: Why?

Mr. Stanley

Because he is a reputable dealer?

Mr. Solley

I am assuming that, on the whole, dealers are reputable. Otherwise we should have used much stronger language in the definition in Clause 42. Whether the dealer be reputable or not, questions could be asked in this House in certain circumstances, and the matter could be raised on the Adjournment and in other ways. It is a purely theoretical argument of no value to suggest that because the Treasury does not propose to put the Orders before this House, any person who is aggrieved by the decision of the Treasury will have no remedy whatsoever. There is also no justification for any person being given the status of an authorised dealer when he has not been authorised by anybody but merely because he says, "I used to carry on a certain trade at a certain time and therefore I am authorised." For all these reasons the Committee should refuse to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)

I did not intend to say anything on this subject until I heard what seemed to me to be an inconsistency. The Financial Secretary said he had nothing against these people; that they comprised a very honourable and fair class of business people but that they could not be included in the list. He also assured the Committee that there was no intention of putting them out of business. I would like to make this point, that reputable people carrying on business in the City resent the idea of being allowed to carry on that business, at the behest of the Government. It is high time that opposition to that sort of Government action was presented in the House of Commons. What is being interfered with here is the liberty and the rights of the people. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but if I were a dealer at this moment in the City, I should be wondering whether this Government were going to put me out of business or not. The Chancellor said that the wording of this Amendment did not meet the case, but the right hon. Gentleman knows exactly what is in the minds of the people who have put down this Amendment and he could bring forward an Amendment which would meet this difficulty. It is high time that the Chancellor satisfied people outside that it is not the Government's intention to restrict them in every possible way and put them out of business. The Financial Secretary said that was not his intention; if that is so, he should include a proper Clause to cover the point. To give the Chancellor credit, he is quite capable of bringing in a Clause which would meet the difficulty indicated by the Amendment moved so ably by my hon. Friends behind me and, for those reasons, I support the Amendment.

Mr. Pick thorn

I think we might ask the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite to make some endeavour to educate some of their followers on this kind of point. There is a particularly striking case here. We have had, over and over again, this argument that some extreme extension of coercive policy is really harmless because there are opportunities of raising it either by Parliamentary Questions or on the Adjournment, or otherwise. I think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite know by now, that that is really not a fair argument, and that this continual pouring of more and more indispensable work into the Parliamentary vessel has got far beyond tolerable limits. Here we have a particularly striking case because, if I understood the discussion aright on this point—and I think I have—it was wholly agreed between the two Front Benches, that whatever else you want under this Subsection, you do not want Parliament to have to concern itself with whether Mr. Smith should be added to or subtracted from the list, or even whether the Cooperative bank should be added or subtracted from the list. That was ope of the major points, if not the major point in the right hon. Gentleman's argument against this Amendment.

That being so, it becomes slightly absurd that there should be chivalrous assistants rushing to his rescue from behind, and using this argument once again, that it really does not matter if you give a Government a power which the Government itself admits it would be very wrong for any Government ever to use. Because that is what we are being asked to do, and we are being told that it does not really matter because somebody can put down a Question about it which may turn out to be Question 140 or something of that sort owing to the incapacity of hon. Gentlemen opposite to apply the usual self-restraint which gentlemen supporting a government generally exercise upon themselves. So I really beg the Front Bench opposite to try to persuade their followers not to lengthen the discussion unnecessarily by continually repeating this specially false argument to the point of self-parody.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

It was really made in answer to a statement that Parliament had no power at all. It was not the main argument.

Mr. Pickthorn

Since the point has been put to me, may I say—I am within the recollection of the Committee—that the argument was not merely put in answer to a point. The argument was put, as I think I fairly stated just now—and I apologise to you, Major Milner, for repeating it, which I would never do if I had not been asked to do so by hon. Gentlemen opposite—that the Government is asking for a power which it said it would be extremely improper for any Government to use. The Government's action in so asking is defended by its supporters, upon the ground that there might be a Parliamentary Question or a short Debate on the Adjournment. I say that would be reducing Parliamentary procedure beneath the point of contempt and derision and that it is really time that argument was dropped.

Mr. Messer

It was used in answer to a point that was made.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I think we must ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the substance of this Amendment. The point between us is a comparatively narrow one, but it is, we think, of profound importance. Let me try to put it in a couple of sentences. To begin with, we are all agreed that the completely blameless dealer ought not to be interfered with, and the Government say they are not going to do so. Let us, for the purposes of argument, accept the view that that is sufficient protection —though I do not accept it otherwise. Then we are all agreed that the man who has been convicted of an offence ought not to continue. There is no dispute about that. But there are two intermediate classes of case, on which I think we ought to have the Government's view. First, there is the man who is suspected of having broken the law but against whom nothing can be proved. Is it or is it not the Government's intention that he shall be taken off the list? That is a perfectly fair question and I think it deserves a straight answer because, if the Government say, "We shall act on suspicion without giving the man a chance to clear himself," that is not a form of procedure which hitherto in this country has received any support from any quarter, and I hope this Government will not support it.

There is the second kind of case about which there may be controversy—the case of the dealer who is not suspected of having broken the law, but who has indulged in some practice which is perfectly legal but unpopular with the Government. Is it the intention of the Government to act in that kind of case? I will not give examples but there are many cases in which there is room for a perfectly good definition. A man does something which the Government thinks is rather near the law, but which is perfectly legal and which he thinks is perfectly right. What will the Government do about that? I ask for a specific answer to these two questions. Will the Government act on suspicion, or will they act on some form of action which they think undesirable but is not illegal? If they will clear up these two questions, then we are all agreed about the rest of the ground to be covered— the people who are quite blameless and the people who are plainly at fault and who have been convicted—but it is those two intermediate types of case which will give the trouble and on which I think we ought to have a specific answer. Speaking for myself, the absence of a specific answer will leave us in great doubt about the Government's likely action in those events and I shall suspect that they might take action in a way quite contrary to the traditions of this country.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I can answer that question quite briefly. Of course, no Government, and certainly not this Government, would act merely on suspicion. That would be grossly unfair and we should never dream of doing it. It might help the Committee if I indicate who the authorised dealers are. Perhaps I should have indicated it earlier, but I did not want to waste time. The authorised dealers in gold and bullion are the six leading bullion brokers, plus the Bank of England. The authorised dealers in currency are, in the main, the British banks, plus the, accepting Houses.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

The clearing banks?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The clearing banks and the accepting houses. Then there are the United Kingdom offices of the banks of issue and the central banks in the sterling area. There are also the British branches of other banks in foreign countries who are not within the scheduled territories.

I think the Committee will agree that much of what has been said has been quite beside the point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The fact quite definitely is that the Amendment is far too wide. It would include dealers who can go outside the United Kingdom and do business abroad. In addition to the reasons which my right hon. Friend gave with such clarity to show why it is impossible for us to accept the Amendment, it would freeze dealers who are now in operation. We have no desire to freeze them. It would, supposing any irregularity, prevent the Treasury acting, in order to take them out of the list.

Mr. Stanley

Until the hon. Gentleman intervened I was in some doubt whether to advise my hon. Friends to press this Amendment to a Division. Since his intervention I am in no doubt. We shall certainly press it to a Division. The very list which the hon. Gentleman has read out, exposes the absurdity of the Government's refusal to accept the Amendment. There can be no conceivable reason in the mind of any reasonable man for striking any of those off the list. All we want to protect ourselves against, as I said before, is the right hon. Gentleman

being succeeded by, for example, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who would then find himself in possession of these funds. I will make this concession to the right hon. Gentleman. If he is afraid of the Bank of England or of one of the authorised dealers committing some felony which results in their prosecution, and if he fears that he will not be able to strike them off the list, we are prepared to meet him. If he proposes an Amendment at a later stage to enable him to strike off the list any authorised dealer who has been convicted, we shall certainly not oppose him. In view of the statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to withdraw our Amendment now would simply be to encourage the Government to proceed in a course which appears to have no limit, and which might leave, in the future, a great opening for malice.

Mr. C. Williams

The Financial Secretary repeated a statement of the accuracy of which I am not quite sure. He said that the Amendment would not enable him to reverse the position in regard to the people on the list. What in the world is Clause 37 for, except for this? It says: Any permission, consent or authority granted by the Treasury under this Act … may be revoked by the Treasury. I want to know what it means. I am not going to discuss the point, but Clause 37 goes to the root of the statement which the Government have made.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 107; Noes, 256.

Division No. 21. AYES. [5.5 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Digby, S. W. Jennings, R.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Dodds-Parker, A. D. Keeling, E. H.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Donner, Sqn.-Ldr, P. W Kerr, Sir J. Graham
Astor, Hon. M. Drayson, G. B. Kingsmill, Lt.-Col, W. H
Baldwin, A. E, Drewe, C. Lambert, Hon. G.
Barlow, Sir J. Dugdale, Mal, Sir T. (Richmond) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Baxter, A. B. Duthie, W. S. Lindsay, M (Solihull)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Eccles, D. M. Linstead, H. N.
Birch Nigel Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bower, N. Eroll, F. J. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Gammans, L. D. McCallum, Maj. D.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Glyn, Sir R. Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Butcher H. W. Grant, Lady McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Grimston, R. V. Maclean, Brig, F. H. R. (Lancaster)
Carson, E. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Headlam, Lieut. Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Howard, Hon. A. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)
Cuthbert, W. N. Hurd, A. Mellor, Sir J.
Davidson, Viscountess Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. Sanderson, Sir F. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Savory, Prof. D. L. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Nutting, Anthony Scott, Lord W. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Shephard, S. (Newark) White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Pickthorn, K. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Spence, H. R. Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Raikes, H. V. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities) York, C.
Rayner, Brig, R. Sutcliffe, H. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Renton, D. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ropner, Col. L. Touche, G. C. Major Conant and Major Ramsay.
Ross, Sir R. Walker-Smith, D.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Dodds, N. N. Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Driberg, T. E. N. Lipson, D. L.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Dumpleton, C. W. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Allighan, Garry Durbin, E. F. M. Logan, D. G.
Alpass, J. H. Dye, S. Longden, F.
Attewell, H. C. Edelman, M. Lyne, A. W.
Austin, H. L. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Bedwellty) McAdam, W.
Awbery, S. S. Edwards, John (Blackburn) McAllister, G.
Ayles, W. H. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) McEntee, V. La. T.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) McGhee, H. G.
Bacon, Miss A. Ewart, R. Mack, J. D.
Baird, J. Fairhurst, F. McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Balfour, A. Farthing, W. J. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Field, Captain W. J. McLeavy, F.
Barstow, P. G. Gallacher, W. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Barton, C. Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Battley, J. R. George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Mainwaring, W. H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Gibbins, J. Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Benson, G. Gibson, C. W. Mann, Mrs. J.
Berry, H. Gilzean, A. Martin, J. H.
Bing, G. H. C. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mathers, G.
Binns, J. Goodrich, H. E. Medland, H. M.
Blackburn, A. R. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Mellish, R. J.
Blyton, W. R. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Messer, F.
Boardman, H. Grenfell, D. R. Middleton, Mrs. L.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Grey, C. F. Mikardo, Ian
Bowen, R. Grierson, E. Millington, Wing-Comdr, E. R.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Mitchison, Maj. G. R.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Montague, F.
Bramall, Major E. A. Gruffyd, Prof. W. J. Moody, A. S.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Gunter, R. J. Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Guy, W. H. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hale, Leslie Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Brown, W. J. (Rugby) Hall, W. G. Moyle, A.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Murray, J. D.
Burden, T. W. Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Nally, W.
Burke, W. A. Hardy, E. A. Naylor, T. E.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Harrison, J. Neal, H. (Claycross)
Byers, Frank Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Callaghan, James Herbison, Miss M. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Carmichael, James Hicks, G. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hobson, C. R. Noel-Buxton, Lady
Chamberlain, R. A. Holman, P. O'Brien, T.
Champion, A. J. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Oldfield, W. H.
Chater, D. Horabin, T. L. Parkin, B. T.
Chetwynd, G. R. House, G. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Cluse, W. S. Hoy, J. Paton, J. (Norwich)
Cobb, F. A. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Perrins, W.
Cocks, F. S. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Piratin, P.
Coldrick, W. Hynd, Rt. Hon. J. B. (Attercliffe) Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)
Colman, Miss G. M. Jay, D. P. T. Popplewell, E.
Comyns, Dr. L. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Corlett, Dr. J. John, W. Pritt, D. N.
Cove, W. G. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Proctor, W. T.
Crawley, A. Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Randall, H. E.
Daggar, G. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Ranger, J.
Daines, P. Keenan, W. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Kenyon, C. Reeves, J.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) King, E. M. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Rhodes, H.
Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Kinley, J. Richards, R.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Kirby, B. V. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kirkwood, D. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Deer, G. Lee, F. (Hulme) Rogers, G. H. R.
Diamond, J. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Royle, C.
Dobbie, W. Levy, B. W. Scollan, T.
Scott-Elliot, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Weitzman, D.
Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E A. A. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Sharp, Granville Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) West, D, G.
Shurmer, P. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E)
Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Simmons, C. J. Thurtle, E. Wilkins, W. A.
Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Tiffany, S. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Skinnard, F. W. Tolley, L. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Turner-Samuels, M. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Usborne, Henry Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Snow, Capt. J. W. Vernon, Maj. W. F. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Solley, L. J. Viant, S. P. Williamson, T.
Sorensen, R. W. Wadsworth, G. Willis, E.
Soskice, Maj. Sir F. Walkden, E. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Sparks, J. A. Walker, G. H. Wise, Major F. J.
Stamford, W. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Stephen, C. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.) Warbey, W. N. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stokes, R. R. Watkins, T. E. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Collindridge
Stubbs, A. E. Watson, W. M.
Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Eccles

There are two points I would like to raise before we part with the Clause. The first concerns the system of authorised dealing. The authorised dealer comes into the Bill for the first time in this Clause, so this is an appropriate place to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for information about how foreign exchange dealing is actually to be done. At the present time, all the banks act as agents of the Bank of England, and each transaction is settled separately. They get a small commission, and the Bank of England gets a very large profit, because the margin between buying and selling rates is wide. I think the profit is something like £900,000 a year. These people are now to settle inside their offices the buying and selling orders in the same currency that come in during the day, so that at the end of the day, they will only have to settle the balance with the Bank of England. The effect of that is to transfer to the banks some of the profit which has previously been made by the Bank of England. No doubt that is a sweetener for the authorised dealers. We want the Chancellor to go a step further, and to allow authorised dealers to deal between themselves, as well as marrying the transactions in their own books. The effect of that would be that the margin between buying and selling rates would be narrowed.

The Chairman

This is surely a matter which does not come under Clause 1. The Clause says: no person, other than an authorised dealer, shall, in the United Kingdom, and no person resident in the United Kingdom, other than an authorised dealer, shall, outside the United Kingdom, buy or borrow any gold or foreign currency from, or sell or lend. I do not see that the Clause deals with how that should be done.

Mr. Eccles

With great respect, Clause 1 sets up a system of dealing in foreign exchange by authorised dealers.' It is of very great importance to know how that system is going to be worked, because, as we have just seen in the previous discussion, we are giving power to the Treasury to say who is to deal. I am asking how they are going to deal in order that we may have an opportunity of finding out from the Chancellor whether the great exchange market in London is to be re-established. I ask the Chancellor whether he will allow authorised dealers to deal amongst themselves. That is my first point, and my second point is to return to the question of the scheduled territories, and once again to press the Chancellor to make a statement as to how negotiations are going with the Governments of the scheduled territories. We cannot tell whether Clause 1 is a good Clause or not unless we know what part the scheduled territories are going to play. Therefore, we hope the Chancellor will make a full statement on this question, on which a great many people are anxious for more information.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

Before we part with the Clause, I would like to say with what grave apprehension I view some of the purposes which it envisages. First, there is the point with which my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) concluded his speech, namely, the question of the definition of the scheduled territories under Clause I of this highly controversial and complicated Measure. No one can dispute that it is a very highly controversial and technical Measure. Indeed, that is one of the major objections we on this side of the Committee have to a very great deal, almost to the whole, of this Bill. We always have a wider Debate on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or his quite able lieutenant the Financial Secretary, will see fit to give us some further information as to what conversations they have had.

The Chairman

I am sorry, but it appears to me, on looking at the First Schedule, that this is not the place to raise, if it be in Order to raise the question at all, the question of what negotiations are proceeding, and whether they include, or exclude, countries in the scheduled territories.

Mr. McKie

With great respect, I bow to your Ruling, Major Milner, but as the Clause dealt with the definition of the scheduled territories I thought that when we came to the discussion on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," I might, at all events, refer to it somewhat cursorily. I would like to say, as the words "scheduled territories" appear in this Clause, that I do not think that on the first Amendment we had anything like been a satisfactory explanation of what has done or left undone; and I fear much more what has been left undone than has been done in regard to conversations.

The Chairman

I have already indicated to the hon. Member that the question of conversations does not arise here. The first Amendment was confined to the question of whether the Government have the right to amend the Schedule. The matter of the scheduled territories themselves does not come within the scope of the present discussion.

Mr. Assheton

On a point of Order. Is it not difficult to know whether this is a Clause which we ought to adopt unless the Chancellor can give us information on the point? I agree that the Debate should not be allowed to range over a wide field.

Mr. McKie

I was endeavouring to point out to the Chancellor and the Government the grave danger with which they may be faced in the future if they adhere strictly to the words of Clause "1 (3, b), which deals with the scheduled territories. I do not think we have had a satisfactory explanation so far. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham requested the Chancellor—

The Chairman

The proper occasion on which to raise the question of the scheduled territories in the form in which the hon. Member desires to do so is when we reach the First Schedule. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) will forgive me for saying so, that equally applies to his intervention.

Mr. McKie

Of course I leave that, though, if I may say so, with great respect, the Government have, I think, been very fortunate in having you, Major Milner, in the Chair—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I say that with great respect— [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—I will withdraw if I am asked to do so by the Chair.

The Chairman

I do not know whether the hon. Member intended that remark to be a reflection upon the Chair. If so, he must withdraw it.

Mr. McKie

I certainly do so. I intended no reflection whatever, Major Milner, and I will merely say that I think the Government have been fortunate. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply he will say something more to inform us, or relieve our fears, about the words "authorised dealers" in Clause 1. It seems as though, with regard to other people whose interest may be financially or otherwise interfered with by this Socialist Government, the authorised dealers, as they are defined—

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman cannot go into that question again.

Mr. McKie

Surely, in Committee of the whole House of Commons, and so long as the House of Commons exists, we are entitled, when discussing the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," to discuss what is in the Clause?

The Chairman

The Committee has already decided the question of authorised dealers. The Committee, having already expressed an opinion on the question, we cannot go into that matter again.

Mr. McKie

It was discussed on a specific Amendment. I always thought that in the Debate on the Motion "That the Clause stand part," a Member was entitled to raise the whole subject. I will con- clude my remarks by saying that I hope we shall have, in response to what my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham said a few minutes ago, a further explanation, if you, Major Milner, allow the Chancellor to give it, as to how the authorised dealers stand under this Clause.

Mr. Dalton

We have had an instructive discussion, and I hope that some of the assurances given from this bench may have removed some apprehensions from the minds of some hon. Members opposite. With regard to authorised dealers—I am here dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles)—it is the case that we propose that, henceforth, there shall be power for the dealers who are here referred to—the banks and the others—to act as principals and no longer as agents. That, I would judge, would be generally accepted as a reasonable plan. I have not come armed with exact figures as to the profits made by the Bank of England out of this business. Indeed, I am doubtful whether it would be wise for me to reveal those figures, even if I had them. No doubt it will follow that there will be a rather wider dispersion of such profits as are to be made out of this business in future, when the dealers concerned can play their part as principals. I would expect that to be the case. With regard to their being able to operate between themselves, that is a matter now under discussion. So far as the Government are concerned, we have no objection to a reasonable arrangement between them. We would need to define it and work it out in detail.

Mr. Eccles

That would reduce the profit.

Mr. Dalton

That would be a good thing, would it not? If a profit is unnecessary, if it can be bypassed by more practical arrangements, I am sure that the hon. Member would be the first to applaud. The answer to his question is that, in principle, we have no objection to a certain amount of dealings between themselves, and we are now in the course of discussions designed to settle how that shall come about.

I take note, Mr. Beaumont, of the Ruling of your predecessor in the Chair, and I, therefore, do not propose to say anything more on the subject of the scheduled territories than this—I hope to keep in Order and gratify the hon. Mem- ber: We have no reason whatever to suppose that any difficulty will arise with any Government in any of the scheduled territories in the operation of this—no reason whatever. This Bill has been published for some time. It is not a question of instituting, with our Dominions, some special ad hoc conversations on this subject. We have been living together through seven or eight years of this regime, and Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans are well accustomed to the working of this arrangement. From the constant intercourse we have with them, we have no reason to think that there will be any difficuly at all. With regard to discussions with other members of the Commonwealth, or other holders of sterling balances, it would be inappropriate, in view of the Ruling of Major Milner, for me to say anything at this stage. That being so, I hope that we may now have the Clause.

Mr. C. Williams

May I ask one question? Does the definition of "foreign currency" include Canadian dollars?

Mr. Dalton

The answer is, "Yes," because Canada has never been within the sterling area at any time. So the technical answer is, "Yes."

Mr. Williams

Surely if that is so, we could put in the Bill some better definition than the word "foreign" for the currency of a fellow member of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Dalton

We have had no suggestion that that is necessary.

Mr. Assheton

I would like to tell the Chancellor how extremely glad I was to hear from him that he was in process of making arrangements to enable banks and authorised dealers to deal among themselves in currency. It is a long time since close dealings in foreign exchange have been possible in London. The fact that such large profits have been earned by the Bank of England shows that the action now being taken by the Chancellor is highly desirable. We weclome it, and we hope to hear from him in greater detail before long the exact arrangements which he proposes. With regard to the second point, I am glad to think that the Chancellor anticipates no difficulties in regard to the various countries which are mentioned as scheduled territories. I only hope that the facts will bear out his hopes.

Mr. Dalton

No difficulties in respect of the operation of exchange control. It is only in that context that I am in Order in speaking. I wish to make it abundantly clear that I said I anticipate no difficulties in respect of the operation of exchange control.

Mr. Assheton

I am glad of that.

Mr. Dalton

It would be out of Order to go beyond that.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.