HC Deb 05 December 1946 vol 431 cc627-8

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

Mr. Eccles

I think this is a new power in Clause 26 which enables the Treasury to catch the crook who obtains money abroad, buys something with it, and sticks to it in a foreign country. The only question I have to ask is, Should not there be some limitation in time? Is it right that this power should go back retroactively to seize the property of a British subject in a foreign country without there being a limitation of time when it is legal to do so?

The Solicitor-General

The difficulty about imposing a time limit is that frequently it may be that the breach is not discovered until some considerable time afterwards. If some time limit were imposed, it might well be that a number of persons who had successfully concealed a breach would get off, whereas those who were not so successfully concealing it would find themselves within the purview of the Clause. For those reasons, I ask the Committee to say that a time limit ought not to be introduced.

Mr. Foster

Why then is the direction not made applicable to the State? If the man dies and it is found that during his life he has accumulated a lot of property with the proceeds, ought not justice to demand that his estate should be directed?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It might arise in this way. Supposing a British citizen inherited property, and money was left under a will in North America, his plain duty under this Bill would be to see that the dollars came to this country, and were offered to an authorised dealer. But it might well be that he might try to buy a necklace. Although that would be a natural thing to do in ordinary circumstances, it would be an infringement of the provisions of this Bill, and we must be able to follow that individual up and, as and when the necklace is sold, see to it that the dollar? are handed over.

Mr. Stanley

Am I right in assuming that the situation is the same under Clause 26 as it is under Clause 25? That is to say, that the Treasury may issue the direction before it has been found in a court of law that a man has either infringed (a) or (b), but that it would be a good defence for the man who refused to obey that direction to prove that in fact he had not done either (a) or (b)?

The Solicitor-General


Mr. C. Williams

A case was cited of a will made in America leaving money to someone in this country. Suppose the will laid it down that in no circumstances was the money to be taken out of America? What happens then? Suppose the Americans had a law which made it illegal to take money out of their country. How are we to prosecute the fellow and lock him up for life because he cannot do the thing which he is not able to do?

The Solicitor-General

There is a legal maxim: Lex non cogit ad impossibilia. The law does not require of anyone that he should do the impossible.

Mr. Williams

I am very sorry, but all through this Measure the law is doing nothing else.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

Does the Financial Secretary imply that his motto is the same as that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and that he always "gets his man"?

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.