§ Mr. Assheton (City of London)
I beg to move, in page 16, line 2, at the end, to insert:unless the traveller shall at the time of exportation give an undertaking in the prescribed form that such articles shall be brought back into the United Kingdom at the time of the re-entry of such traveller into the United Kingdom.When we discussed Clause 22 on the Committee stage there was a great deal of discussion of Subsection (1, f). Hon. Members who were in the Committee will recollect that exportation from the United Kingdom ofany such articles exported on the person of a traveller or in a traveller's baggageas there prescribed, was prohibited, except with the permission of the Treasury. We set down an Amendment in which we sought to modify paragraph (f). The Amendment proposed that the traveller at the time of the exportation might give an undertaking in the prescribed form that such articles would be brought back into the United Kingdom at the time of his re-entry. One of my hon. Friends has started to talk about the Christmas spirit, which I hope is with us all. I hope that the Financial Secretary will recollect that it is at Christmas time that a number of people go abroad for their holidays. In this House we like to make their holidays as real and as enjoyable as possible, but it certainly is not a very happy prospect for travellers to think that anything they 2223 wish to take out of the country with them may be removed from them when they reach the port.
I happened by chance to be talking to a prospective traveller yesterday. It was a lady, I may say. She asked me whether she would be allowed to take her coat with her, or whether it and her jewellery would be stripped off her. There is great apprehension in the public mind at what may happen when people go on holiday. We do not want to live in a prison State. We want to be free to go out of this country and to come back when we want to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may think it is very inconvenient for us to take very much money with us, but do let us take our clothes, our watch chains, our rings and any articles that we normally use.
It is for that reason that this Amendment has been set down. The hon. Gentleman will tell us, as he always does, that the Treasury is very reasonable and that the Customs officials are very civil. Both those things may be true, but we think that the citizens of this country ought to have some reasonable rights in this matter and they should have the right when they go out of the country to take with them their clothing, watch chains, and gold teeth and so on. The hon. Gentleman will tell us that he wants to catch crooks. We have been told that many times in this Bill, but there is a limit to this. We do not want to make everybody's life miserable because of a Clause designed to catch crooks. Some more consideration might really be given to this Amendment. It was not so very long ago that the Foreign Secretary spoke about going to Victoria Station and taking a ticket to anywhere in the world and moving about without passports. We are a long way from that if, when we get to Dover or Folkestone, we have our clothes and personal possessions taken away. Provided he gives an undertaking to bring them back with him, the ordinary traveller ought to be allowed to take such goods with him out of the country.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
I sincerely trust that the Government will make this very small concession. It will cost them nothing and it will remove a very serious annoyance to travellers. I would like, incidentally, to ask the Financial Secretary a question to which I do 2224 not know exactly what is the answer as a matter of fact. Suppose I am going to Switzerland for a fortnight and have on my person an article such as a watch which I have had for a long time and which would be dutiable if I were bringing it back to this country. Surely, if I have any fear that when I return I shall be charged duty on that article, I can declare it as I go out of the country and be given a written certificate that I am taking it out with me? There could then be no question of my being charged duty when I return. Surely, something of that kind must obtain. What are the risks the Government take in this case? They take no risks at all. The majority of people who go out of the country will take some things which might properly be prescribed by the Treasury as not to be taken out and disposed of outside, such as jewels, gold cigarette cases and so on. What possible risk are the Government taking if the traveller is able to say that he is taking out a pearl necklace which he undertakes to bring back with him when he returns? The authorities have the safeguard that they know the person must come back and that they can demand to see the article when he returns. In the alternative, every person who goes abroad with ordinary articles such as necklaces, jewels or watch chains is in fear of having these taken away and held by the authorities.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I wish to support the Amendment. I understand from what has been said that this refers only to gold coin or gold bullion, but, surely, technically, any gold ornament in the nature of a coin comes under this heading? It is entirely wrong that anyone who has some coin attached to his person in the way of decoration or memento should have to get Treasury permission to take it out of the country. Also, some of the things in paragraph (e)—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I fully appreciate that. My point is that:any such articles exported on the person….are enumerated in paragraph (e). The articles include gold, amongst other things which I have already dealt with, and any policy of assurance and any certificate of title to a security—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman making a mistake? He says that paragraph (f) relates the articles to the catalogue of items in Subsection (1, a, b, c) etc. In my submission that must be wrong, because it says:any such articles…." —
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I gather that the hon. and learned Gentleman is asking me whether the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) is in Order. I rule that he is.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry. I thought I knew what it was. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to put something further to that point of Order, I will be glad to hear it.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If you look at the last words:as may be prescribed….the first words:any such articles….relate not to what has gone before but to:as may be prescribed….
§ Major Legge-Bourke
Thank you for your previous Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It would seem that the articles which can be prescribed must be some of these articles enumerated in Subsection (1). The matter I particularly wish to draw attention to is that of the policy of assurance—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
It may be of the greatest importance to be able to take a policy of assurance from this country and I cannot see why anyone should be prevented from doing so.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
On the Second Reading of this Bill I was one of those who expressed extreme dissatisfaction with this Subsection. As my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) said, in catching crooks some 2226 limits must be set. During more than a century of legislation we have always insisted that a few guilty should be allowed to go free, if the alternative is that the vast majority of innocent people should be harassed and harried by any regulation or law we may make. This bolt-hole that the Financial Secretary is trying to stop up is an extremely small one. At the most, as he said during the Committee stage, people might get away with £1,000 or £2,000 but it can have no effect on the economy of the country. On the other hand, as the Clause is at present drafted there is nobody leaving the country who cannot be subjected to a tyranny which is equal to anything that Nazi Germany ever perpetrated on her own people. That is no exaggeration. The words are perfectly clear. They say that the Treasury can prescribe any article of any traveller. The Financial Secretary will say that we are fair-minded, that we have already got the relaxations which existed during the war, that we shall continue them, and that, in fact, no hardship will be suffered by any one.
But, on any of those counts, that is no answer whatever. He cannot say that, just because it was necessary in war, it is necessary today. During war, everyone is prepared to put up with anything, but that sort of toleration is not extended in a permanent Measure to which no end or limits are set. This is something which is being put on the Statute Book for as long, at any rate, as the present Government last.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman may say he has already made relaxations. If he has made relaxations, why on earth cannot he accept this Amendment, or an alternative suggestion made previously that he should actually list the articles in the Bill? Why on earth have a blanket, which he says himself he does not want and which he tries to excuse by saying that he does not want it himself. For my own part, I think it is quite iniquitous, 18 months after the end of the war, for the Government to try to force through a thing like this. During the Debate in Committee, the Government had only one hon. Member on their side who supported it and that was the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), who said quite frankly that he liked these powers, he liked the idea, he liked the position. Apart from him, there was no one opposite who 2227 dared to defend this, and if the Financial Secretary will put aside for a moment those weapons of which he is so fond— of saying that the Treasury are reasonable and that we must stop every bolt hole—I do not think he will be in any position to defend this. Let him think for one minute. If we put this on the Statute Book, while he may not mean anything by it, what right has he to assume that his successor will mean the same thing? We saw last night yet once again the hounds of fate yapping at the heels of the present Government. That is happening more and more regularly, and he would be a rash man who set any period of tenure on his own position on the Front Bench. Is the hon. Gentleman willing to leave a thing like this, capable of any interpretation, equal to anything that Russia or Germany have perpetrated on their citizens, in a Measure like this? He would do far better to accept this Amendment and possibly allow a little leakage than to do a thing like this which is contrary to equity and contrary to the traditions which have been maintained in this country for so long.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
We gave a good deal of time to this on the Committee stage of this Bill and, in the end, by a vote of 266 to 124, we rejected a suggestion, not in this exact form, but similar to the proposal which has been spoken to from the other side of the House this afternoon. If this Amendment were accepted it would mean that anybody could leave by any port, and all he need do would be to say what he happened to be carrying with him, either on his person or in his baggage, and simply give the Customs official an undertaking that he would bring it back. The answer to that is, "So what?"
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre rose—
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
If the House permits, perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be allowed later to say what he thinks it would mean. This is what, in fact, would happen in 99 cases out of a 100: that individual might not come back but, if he did, he could come through either with or without the article which he promised to return and, under this Amend- 2228 ment, nothing whatever could be done to him if he broke his word. He would be committing no offence; he would simply have been breaking his word which, in law, would not be an offence, and no penalty would attach to the fact that he had not abided by his word. That is an incredible situation, and I am positive that no one in any quarter of the House can believe for one instance that we should insert such a provision in this Bill.
Quite frankly, are we not, some of us at any rate, making too much of this? At the present time, this kind of prohibition is on the Statute Book by wartime regulation and many of us have come and gone either during the war or since whilst these regulations have been enforced. Which of us has suffered the kind of thing envisaged by various hon. Members this afternoon? When we discussed the matter previously the hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Howard) asked what would happen if he took out a gold pencil. I have taken a gold pencil on my person out of the country and heaps of other people are doing it and, so far as I know, on no occasion whatever have they been challenged. I should be surprised if they were challenged. It is quite obvious to all of us that this has worked well and will continue to work well, but we must give the Customs officials power to stop individuals who are, they think, either on their person or in their baggage, taking out things which should not be exported, and which it is in the national interest should not be taken out of the country.
If one wanted to take out something of extraordinary value during the war— and up to now the same system has applied—one went to the Board of Trade and they gave an export licence. In a bona fide case there was no trouble whatever. Under this Bill, if it becomes an Act, instead of an individual going to the Board of Trade, he can get permission for a prescribed article from the proper authority, that is, the Treasury acting through its agents. It will be perfectly simple and straightforward and I think the House will agree on reflection that it is a right and proper regulation to make. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) said this was a small concession and would cost nothing, and asked what would happen if he took his watch out of the country. The short answer is that nothing whatever 2229 would happen; he would be allowed to take it out and bring it back, and no one would question him either coming or going. It might not be a small concession, and it certainly would cost nothing since the ordinary individual, the decent citizen, would abide by whatever the regulations were, but the crooks would have a gay old time if we altered the provision in the way suggested and, so far as we are concerned, we are going to see that they do not.
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. Gentleman, in his short but fervid address, seems to have put the case for the Amendment, if not in actual words, as well as it could possibly have been put. For as he said, decent people abide by regulations and he presumably includes himself, as I certainly would include him, among decent people. Yet he told us that whenever he goes abroad he breaks this very regulation. He said, "It is all right, I break the regulation, but nobody ever prosecutes me for it." It is just that very point to which we on this side object. We say that it is not right that people, in order to make their journeys possible, have to break the regulation knowing they are breaking it, as the hon. Gentleman did.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
—but I do not think I said I broke regulations. I said I took on my person a gold pencil. That is not breaking any regulation.
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. Gentleman has taken out gold contrary to the regulations. Did he ask the permission of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury before he did so? That is the ridiculous position we have reached, that every decent, respectable person like the hon. Gentleman, doing the ordinary thing that he does when he goes abroad, breaks one of these regulations. What is the answer? Simply that one may not be prosecuted if Mr. Jones of the Treasury, or, in the future, Mr. Smith of the Bank of England, takes no notice of it. Those are not the principles on which the criminal law of this country have been administered in the past. I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman who, after all, is responsible for the Treasury, and whose prime consideration is for the convenience of the Treasury, and, as he often tells us, to 2230 save customs officials' trouble, should take this line. I am not surprised that the Solicitor-General should take this line, because he has fallen under the Treasury. But I am surprised at the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), whom I should have regarded as the one legal purist and champion of the law, should take this line. This was a case in which I should have thought his not unaccustomed legs would bring him into a vertical position to protest against this idea.
I agree that it is possible 99 per cent. out of 100 who break the law would get into no trouble about it, but the general principle is that it is wrong to encourage penal sanctions on people doing certain things and then say, "Some of you can do them and the probability is that when you have done it no one will prosecute." That is the sort of case in which the hon. and learned Gentleman should be to the fore, and I appeal to him to tell the Solicitor-General what the legal canons of this country have long been, and should continue to be.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I do not know that I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), when he says that the Financial Secretary breaks the law by taking a gold pencil out, and that that is the sole objection to his Subsection. The objection is the permission of the Treasury. The Treasury might permit the Financial Secretary to take his pencil, while refusing permission to me to do the same. It depends on the decision of the Treasury. This Clause deals with the Treasury determining whether it can be done, or not. The Financial Secretary is in a position in which he has a dispensation to take a gold pencil out, but if I do the same, I may not get such a dispensation. Therefore, the law discriminates between one citizen and another. I am also puzzled by another word. What is the meaning of the word "exported" in this Clause?Any such article exported on the person.Do I export the suit of clothes I wear when I leave the country?
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
Have I to declare every single possession I have when I go out, and then ask an official whether I can take them out? The intention seems 2231 to me ambiguous as it stands, and I hope that the Financial Secretary will look a it again.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I was very touched by the solicitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) about my fall from legal grace. May I say in response that I do not thing the right hon. Gentleman has properly understood this Clause at all? I will tell him why. There has been a complete misapprehension in the whole discussion of this Clause. Looking at the end of paragraph (f), I do not think it refers to any specified article at all. It is a paragraph which is independent of and detached from all the other parts of the Clause. It is directed to something entirely different from that aimed at by the sentences in the parts of the Clause which precede it. It is perfectly true that the preceding parts of the Clause deal with the gold, Treasury Bills, and postal orders and that sort of thing. But they are not associated with, implied in, or imported into (f). The words used in (f) are: "exported on the person." That is a fundamental point in connection with the Subsection. Clause 22 (1, f) reads as follows:any such articles exported on the person of a traveller or in a traveller's baggage as may be prescribed.There is no article there adumbrated, or foreshadowed. Nothing is specified at all. There is certainly no such article as has been referred to, such as a gold pencil, or suit of clothes.
§ Mr. Assheton
Perhaps we did not have the pleasure of the hon. and learned Member's company when the matter was discussed previously? He would then have heard what the Financial Secretary told us.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Of course I was here, and the right hon. Gentleman has referred to what is, according to his view, my fall from legal grace on that occasion.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I accept that assuming the Clause did what the right hon. Gentleman says, there would be something in what he says, but, I would like him really to apply his mind to the question of whether there is involved in 2232 the Subsection the apprehension about which he says he is concerned. This part of the Clause does not apply to a gold pencil, or a suit of clothes, or as yet a single, or specified article. What it does apply to is a category which has still to be defined or specified. It says expressly and clearly:such articles … as may be prescribed.The Financial Secretary has said that of course it is not going to apply to a gold watch and chain which a traveller is properly wearing, and the right hon. Gentleman and other speakers on the Opposition Benches say that it does apply because, in an earlier part of the Clause, gold is mentioned. But that does not follow at all. It may very well be, and I should think it would be, that when it comes to prescribing the articles, the Treasury will except things like a gold watch and chain which a traveller is properly wearing for personal use. [Interruption.] Do not get so worried because the argument is good. It is quite clear that when the Treasury come to prescribe the list of articles, it is obviously not going to include a gold watch and chain which isexported on the personof a traveller.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The Subsection plainly implies that. There is an entirely different expression in Subsection (f) from any in the preceding parts of the Clause. It says that this applies only to articles:exported on the person of a traveller or in a traveller's baggage.In my submission the whole of the argument about the articles referred to by the right hon. Gentleman and Members opposite, is entirely misconceived. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman says he regrets the alleged slip I have made in my legal standards, I would ask him to take that not unimportant point into consideration.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
I cannot understand how the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) thinks he is making it any better by his argument. The only question he raises is not whether gold can be exported, but whether it is forbidden under Subsection (f) or not. It is a matter of small importance, because it is certainly forbidden 2233 in Subsection (d) in any event. His interpretation makes things not better, but worse. If the interpretation of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) is right, there is a comparatively limited number of things to which it can apply, but, if the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester is right, the Treasury can apply it to anything it wishes.
On the more general point, I think the Financial Secretary has very greatly failed to grasp the danger and importance of the whole position. There is one fundamental danger I fear. There are many people with no political axe to grind, people of the greatest intelligence and integrity, who are extremely doubtful if this whole system of exchange control will work at all. There is the high authority, for instance, of R. G. Hawtrey, who says, in his book "Economic Rebirth:"Little can be done to trace illicit transactions without a censorship of postal and telegraphic communications which can hardly be tolerated in peacetime.He asks:Is exchange control to be relied on to preserve the foreign exchange value of the pound?He answers with an emphatic negative; he answers that the whole thing will break down if there is a crisis. The Financial Secretary has said that we had this in war and it worked all right, and therefore it will work all right in these days. Does he not understand that the thing works up to a point in war because for other reasons we are willing to tolerate censorship of the post and prevent people from travelling about? The question is whether it can work in a world of free institutions, in a world where we want to allow people to travel. I deeply appreciate the point of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) and other hon. Members about the necessity of some sort of control. What the Government have not in the least proved in the course of the Debates on this Bill is that there is no great likelihood that this particular system will not break down. That is a dangerous situation, and means we can have no confidence at all in those airy words of comfort which Ministers throw out to us to the effect that they do not intend to use these powers. These right hon. Gentlemen will be gone before Hong and some others will occupy their 2234 places, who will, in their turn, be perhaps men of good will. But the danger is that whatever Government may be in power which tries to work this system, it will find it is breaking down in a few years' time and will be in a position where it can only work it by applying the absolute rigour of the law. There may come a time when the Financial Secretary will be searched for his gold pencil, and we shall be told that the safety of the country depends on every gold pencil being stripped off him. That seems to me to be the great danger of the situation with which we are faced, and that it is most important that we should insist on every reservation we can possibly get being put into the Bill rather than we should be dependent of the good will of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Sir W. Darling
The words which concern me in Clause 22 (1, f) are "as may be prescribed." If the words remain, the Government will leave open a very wide door in the future, and it will follow that the Government may at any time make a regulation or order to deal with abuses which may have occurred in their experience. Most hon. Members have spoken about going abroad for holidays. It is within the knowledge of the House that men and women go abroad on business. It is true, for example, that in France, to travel in ordinary clothes and solicit business for the Scottish trade, might not be so acceptable as to wear the national costume. If I were leaving this country in the ordinary garb of an ordinary lower middle class commercial man, I should probably take in my baggage an Elliott kilt to which I am entitled and another kilt, say that of the Royal Scots, to which I might also have some claim. If I wanted to make a successful presentation of Scottish goods in Paris or elsewhere on the Continent, it will be agreed that such a presentation would be at least startling and unique, but it is perfectly obvious that a competent Customs officer, having in mind that no such articles may be exportedon the person of a traveller or in a traveller's baggage,may say, "Darling may go abroad wearing the suitable trousers of the Englishman, but he cannot have this apparently superfluous baggage." That is literally "taking the breeks off a Hielandman." This is a sort of proposal with which I cannot associate myself.
2235 I go further. I am not in the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), of whom it has been said that he is a man who is in possession of a large and varied number of hats. It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman, going abroad for quite good reasons, in order to make, as he has always made, an important impression on foreign countries, might want to take with him nine or 10 different hats. A Government which wanted to limit the movements of a British citizen, as indeed they are doing at the present moment, in the case of Sarawak, might hold up such of the proper and necessary baggage "as may be prescribed" of that Englishman, and prevent him making a journey which he as a free man ought to be permitted to make. This is a very dangerous business. I do not see any university support here, but I am familiar with a phrase—I have only read it— called "debagging," which I understand is most salutary for discipline in universities. That may be used by a Government in the future to prevent reasonable foreign travel. If the picture I envisage is preposterous and ridiculous, it is Clause 22 (1, f) which makes this possible. If it is withdrawn, or we can hear now what are the limits of the prescription, I shall be satisfied.
I can give a third example. I took part in a "Brains Trust" recently with another so-called "brains truster." He has a certain individuality and eccentricity. He had, on the occasion of which I speak, six watches in his possession. He is interested in horology, and carries a number of watches around with him. He is quite entitled to do so, but if he appeared at Dover or Southampton, seeking to make a visit to the Continent, carrying, as he always has done at home, the proofs of this mild eccentricity, he would, under this Clause, it seems to me, be forbidden to do so. This is a foolish interference with the normal liberty of the subject, and can be carried to ridiculous and preposterous lengths. No Government should put itself in the position of being so foolish. The case might be met if this Amendment were accepted. If it was accepted it would, at least, cover—I use the word advisably—some of the present deficiencies.
§ Mr. C. Williams
The hon. Member opposite read out his brief with his usual competence, and then at the end said that the only people really affected by this provision were those bad people who wish to evade the law. This has been trotted out by various Members of the Government again and again, as we are told that we do not need Amendments such as this, that the provision will never do any harm, that it will never be operated and that no one will ever suffer under it. This sort of thing has been said more than once, and I want to emphasise it again, that there is nothing in the words of the Financial Secretary here that will have the slightest effect on a Customs official if, in a few weeks' time, there is a further order from some Government Department to search everyone. In that event, everyone will be rigorously searched.
If I might have the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a few minutes, I would put it in another way. Who would have believed two weeks ago that the Leader of the House would be openly acknowledged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the dictator of the House? That happened only a few days ago. I am giving that as a very simple illustration of how times change. Here we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer acknowledging a dictator openly. It will not be very long, under this Bill, before some small thing comes up and we shall be told that we cannot do a certain thing. My hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) produced a wonderful list. I rather wonder what lay behind the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). I have listened to him speaking again and again during consideration of this Bill. Speaking on this Amendment, which seems very plain to me, he succeeded in making it appear very complicated. It is perfectly simple. It lays down:The exportation from the United Kingdomand there is given a list of articles:…is hereby prohibited.That seems quite simple. Some people-tell me that he is a lawyer, or something. Whether he is or not, I would not have known it. It does not seem to me that on a matter of this kind it is necessary to make a speech, twisting us inside out, such as that which he made. I fail to 2237 understand him. We had a clear explanation from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who said very plainly that ho can take out his gold pencil quite freely and no one will stop him. On the other hand, he did not say he would not be breaking the law in taking it out, as he might be, if, five minutes before, the Treasury had passed some Order prohibiting it. The trouble is that we are not making the law here: we are giving power to the Treasury to make endless regulations. For that reason alone I hope that this Amendment, whether or not it is accepted, will be divided upon so that we can make it clear to the country that there is a section in this House who do not intend to be ruled perpetually by regulation from Whitehall.
§ Mr. Howard (Westminster, St. George's)
I wish to bring the House back, via Gloucester, to this Amendment, and to remind the Financial Secretary of what he said on a previous occasion. When we were considering this point earlier, he used these words:I was asked whether a list of the prohibited articles would be published. Of course, it will be. I can, if desired, give some idea of the kind of valuables we have in mind.Hon Members may be interested in the next sentence:They are articles wholly or mainly of gold of platinum, diamonds and precious stones, pearls, rings set in some way—At that point there was an interruption by the hon. Member for St. George's, who said:I hold in my hand a gold pencil which was given to me on my 21st birthday, and I would be prohibited from taking it out of the country.The Financial Secretary replied:Not at all. All that bona fide travellers have to do is to let the Customs know, and obviously the thing will be treated with common sense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1945; Vol. 431, c. 545–6.]If it were not that I thought the Financial Secretary had forgotten what he said on that occasion, I would accuse him of a breach of faith in not accepting this Amendment. If this Amendment is not a commonsense one under which bona fide travellers would merely have to tell the Customs—that is what the Financial Secretary said—I do not know what it is. In spite of what he has said today, I hope he will think again and will see his way to accept this Amendment, which 2238 is directly in line with what he said in this House on a previous occasion.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Foster
The object of this Amendment is to allow a traveller who wishes to take some articles out of the United Kingdom to take them if he signs an undertaking that he will bring them back. For the purpose of this Amendment we are not discussing whether it is proper that a long list of articles should, or should not, be prescribed. If the Treasury should prescribe a number of articles that a traveller should not take out on his person, the Amendment suggests that he should be allowed to take them out if he signs an undertaking to bring them back again. I suggest that it is agreed that certain articles should be prescribed as being articles which the Financial Secretary said clever people might take out in order to turn them into foreign currency— jewellery, furs and so on. I press him on this point. I suggest the articles which it is sought to take out should be allowed to be taken out by travellers who sign this undertaking. In the administration of the law of this country it has always been our pride that we regard—
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer wishes to be heard by hon. Members here he should speak a little louder but if he wishes us to hear the speeches which are being addressed to him, he should not speak so loudly.
§ Mr. Foster
I confess it is a little difficult to catch the Chancellor's attention when he is consulting with the Solicitor-General—
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)
It was concerning the validity of my hon. Friend's argument.
§ Mr. Foster
It is rather the pride of the administration of this country that we regard the people, both foreigners and British subjects, those who reside here and those who come on a visit, as honest. If we are travelling without a ticket, or in the wrong class on a train, instead of following the Continental practice of being thrown off the train, or made to pay a penal sum of five times the fare, everybody is treated as being an honest person who is offending by mistake. They pay the proper fare, and nothing more is said. It is quite true that a few dishonest people get away with it, but this is a 2239 feature of our law which has excited the admiration and envy of many foreign visitors to this country.
We want to adopt the same principle here. We want to assume that most people are honest. A person may go to the Customs, and he or she may have some articles which are prohibited from export. A lady may have a valuable fur coat or a certain amount of jewellery. If it is prohibited to take them out she would sign, either at the Customs or before, an undertaking that she will bring them back. It is true that there may be a few clever or dishonest people who take advantage of that and it might not work. However, the object of this Amendment is to try to get back into the ordinary frame of mind of treating the general public, British and foreigners, residents and non-residents, domiciled and non-domiciled, as a body of honest people. I ask the Financial Secretary if he would consider making some concession so that when people travel abroad they will be treated, first of all, as honest people and only if they prove themselves dishonest will they be treated as such.
There is something in this moral attitude to life that people should not be treated all the time as if they were going to break the regulations. The danger is that the more regulations we have, the more the people will be inclined to break them. If we do not have a postal censorship and
§ rigorous searching by the Customs we shall find the regulations broken by dishonest people in that way. If one is already relying on the moral sense of the people of this country to safeguard the exchange position, and to safeguard their standard of life, this is only one further concession in that spirit. I hope that the Financial Secretary will consider the possibilities in that case.
§ Mr. Gandar Dower (Caithness and Sutherland)
We have been talking for a considerable time on this Amendment, and I would not wish to add unduly to the length of the discussion. But, as an individual, I would like to refer to the point of view expressed by the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter). I think that, if we are allowed to take out valuable articles without signing for them, there is always the insecurity, that we may be challenged on return that we did not, in fact, take them out, but acquired them abroad. If we are to rely on the good will of Customs officers, to overlook what we do take out against the law, then we tend to bring the law into disrepute, and that, I feel, would not be the wish of any of us. A law that is more honoured in the breach than in the observance becomes no law at all.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 89; Noes, 246.2241
|Division No. 46.]||AYES.||[6.53 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Grimston, R. V.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Prescott, Stanley|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Harris, H. Wilton||Prior-Palmer, Brig, O|
|Beattie, J. (Belfast, W)||Head, Brig. A. H.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Renton, D.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D C. (Wells)||Herbert, Sir A. P||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Bower, N.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J A|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hollis, M. C.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Howard, Hon. A.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Snadden, W. M.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Jennings, R.||Spence, H. R.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Lambert, Hon. G||Stanley, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|De la Bère R.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Digby, S. W||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Dower, E L. G. (Caithness)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Drayton G. B.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Erroll, F. J.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||York, C.|
|Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Young. Sir A S L (Partick)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Peto, Brig, C. H. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Pickthorn, K.||Mr. Drewe and Major Ramsay.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Gooch, E. G.||Rankin, J.|
|Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South)||Grey, C. F.||Rees-Williams, O. R.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Grierson, E.||Reeves, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Griffith, W. D. (Moss Side)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Halt, Leslie||Richards, H.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, W. G.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Altewell, H. C.||Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Austin, H. L.||Hardman, O. R.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hastings, Or Somarville||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Haworth, J.||Royle, C.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Herbison, Miss M.||Scollan, T.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Hobson, C. R.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Baird, J.||Holman, P.||Segal, Dr S.|
|Balfour, A.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Hubbard, T.||Sharp, Granville|
|Barton, C.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Battley, J. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Benson, G.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Berry, H.||Irving, W. J.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Binns, J.||Jay, D. P. T.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Boardman, H.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Smith, H. N (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Kenyon, C.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Key, C. W.||Solley, L. J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||King, E. M.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Kinley, J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Kirby, B. V.||Stamford, W.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Kirkwood, D.||Steele, T.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Stephen, C.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Leonard, W.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Levy, B. W.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Burden, T. W.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Symonds, A. L.|
|Callaghan, James||Longden, F.||Taylor, H. B (Mansfield)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||McAdam, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Champion, A. J.||McAllister, G.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Chafer, D.||McEntee, V. La T.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Cluse, W. S.||McGhee, H. G.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Cobb, F. A.||McGovern, J.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Cocks, F. S.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Coldrick, W.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Collick, P.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R (Ed'b'gn, E.)|
|Collindridge, F.||McLeavy, F.||Thurtle, E.|
|Collis, V. J.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Tiffany, S.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Mann, Mrs. J.||Timmons, J.|
|Comyris, Dr. L.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr G.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Tolley, L.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Mathers, G.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Mayhew, C. P.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Messer, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Cove, W G.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Wardsworth, G.|
|Grossman, R. H. S.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Walken, E.|
|Daines, P.||Monslow, W.||Wallace G D. (Chislehurst)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Moody A. S||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Warbey, W. N.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Morley, R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||West, D. G.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Moyle, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Murray. J. D.||Wilkes, L.|
|Davies, S. O (Merthyr)||Naylor, T. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Deer, G.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|do Freitas, Geoffrey||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford N.)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Delargy, Captain H. J.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Diamond, J.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Dodds, N N.||Orbach, M.||Williams, W. R (Heston)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Pargiter, G. A.||Williamson, T.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Parkin, B. T.||Willis, E.|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Dye, S.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Pearson, A.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Peart, Capt. T. F. Woodburn. A|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Pernns, W.||Woods, G. S.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Piratin, P.||Yates, V. F.|
|Follick, M.||Popplewell, E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Foot, M. M.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Proctor, W. T.|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gilzean, A.||Randall, H. E.||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Ranger, J.||Mr. Hannan.|
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
On a point of Order. It has just come to my knowledge that the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) has been twice assaulted— [Interruption.]—Perhaps the hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) might behave like one.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
On A. point of Order.
§ Mr. Bowles
As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End has, outside this Chamber but in the precincts of this House, been twice physically assaulted and battered. I told him that I would try to raise this matter with you, Mr. Speaker. I do not see him in his place and, may be, he does not feel strong enough to be present However, I have seen him, and I would like to report the matter to you. It seems to be a very gross breach of Privilege of this House. I am just intimating the matter to you, Sir.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Member. As a matter of fact, I regret that, stung by an interruption, he told the hon. Member the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) to behave like a gentleman. That is not what we ought to say.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member has reported what seems to me to be a very serious matter. If I may, I would like to read what Erskine May says on the subject:That the assaulting, insulting or menacing any Member of this House, in his coming to or going from the House, or upon the account of his behaviour in Parliament, is an high infringement of the privilege of this House, a most outrageous and dangerous violation of the rights of Parliament, and an high crime and misdemeanour.The hon. Member will understand that, although he has informed me of the matter, I have no knowledge of the facts. Therefore, I am going to instruct the Serjeant at Arms, who is here at my 2244 service, to find out the facts and to report them to me. If necessary, I can make a statement about the matter tomorrow.
§ Mr. Bowles
Perhaps I might just say that my hon. Friend the senior Member for Blackburn (Mr. J. Edwards) has intimated to me that he witnessed one of the assaults.
On a point of Order. I take it that the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) is not casting any aspersions on Members of this House, and is not suggesting that any hon. Member has assaulted his hon. Friend the Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin).
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I regret to say that I also have some knowledge of these events. The person guilty of the repeated assault was a Press correspondent accredited to the service of this House.
§ Mr. Speaker
Surely, the matter is sub judice at the moment. It will be reported upon in due course.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lieut. -Commander Braithwaite
I beg to move, in page 16, line 1, to leave out "destination," and to insert "consignee."
This Amendment and three other consequential thereto represent an endeavour to clear up a matter which we debated during the Committee stage when Clause 23 was put before us. The Financial Secretary will recall—because it was he who replied to the Amendment in Committee— that we endeavoured to secure a better definition of the term "ultimate destination." One of the examples given to the Committee at that time was that of a cargo consigned to India or to Calcutta, where the goods were later transhipped or resold and went on to a further destination. The matter was, I think, put very succinctly by my hon. Friend the Member for Stock-port (Sir A. Gridley), who is associated with this Amendment, when he said:I think that we should be in agreement with the reasons why there should be some control, such as the Financial Secretary has advanced. But that does not apply to the use of the word 'ultimate.' We would be quite prepared to meet him in regard to the control he seeks to secure, but we think that the word 'ultimate' is wrong. If he is prepared to look at this matter again, and choose a word which will convince us and satisfy him 2245 that what he is asking for can "still be obtained, we are prepared to withdraw the Amendment.To that, the Financial Secretary replied:It might shorten the Debate if I say that if that" is all which is standing between the hon. Member and the Government, we will, of course, look at it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 592.]No Government Amendment having appeared on the Order Paper on this Report stage, we have endeavoured to put down a wording which we think is clearer. Hon. Members who were present during the Committee stage may remember that, when the Financial Secretary was replying to our question what destination would have to be put down on the form which, of course, has to be filled in, he said that if the goods went to Calcutta and were then resold and went to Hong Kong or Singapore, then Calcutta would be the ultimate destination. That seemed to us to be a geographical extravagance and surprising, even though coming from the Financial Secretary. I think it is fairly clear what the Government seek to achieve. We argued on that occasion that, in practice, it is impossible to be sure of the ultimate destination of any goods which are exported. For instance, while at sea, instructions are sent to a ship to go to another port and the destination may be altered. The right hon. Gentleman argued that the purpose of this Subsection was to avoid fictitious consignments of goods from people within the sterling area with the intention of the subsequent transmission of the goods to someone outside the area or, rather, in a scheduled territory. The Amendment would give the Treasury power to prevent this happening without placing an impossible obligation upon the exporter. As my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) said during the Committee stage, surely the ultimate destination is the point beyond which the goods will not go, which seems a reasonable definition.
Therefore, we have tabled this Amendment to leave out the word "destination" and to substitute "consignee." We think that would cover what the Government want. The Government want to know who is to pay for the goods when they are delivered. As the Financial Secretary said, the Government are not interested if, when the transaction is completed, the goods go on to Hong Kong, Singapore or anywhere else. We believe 2246 this wording will improve the Bill. The Government gave an undertaking during the Committee stage to look at the matter again, and perhaps the Financial Secretary will now give his views on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Drayson
I beg to second the Amendment so ably moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holder-ness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite).
I am surprised that the Financial Secretary has done nothing to meet us, as this point was so fully discussed on Second Reading. It was stated that chaos and difficulties would ensue if the proposal embodied in this Amendment were followed out to its logical conclusion. Surely, there are already adequate restrictions and protection on the export and import of goods to satisfy the Chancellor that any breaches as regards foreign exchange can be dealt with adequately. If it is envisaged that goods consigned to some country within the sterling area may ultimately find their way into a hard currency country, surely the country to which the goods were originally consigned will have the necessary regulations, of which the Treasury will have full knowledge, to deal with that situation. I feel that this Amendment would meet the case. We would like to see the word "ultimate" removed from this Clause, and I hope we shall get from the Financial Secretary a satisfactory reply.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As the House is aware, we have already discussed this point at some length. Perhaps we did not discuss the proposed substitution of the word "consignee" for "destination," but I think an hon. Member opposite moved to delete Subsection (3) of Clause 23 for much the same reasons as have been advanced in support of this Amendment. We cannot accept the Amendment, not because we are not anxious to meet hon. Members opposite, but because "consignee" is not the same as "destination." A destination is a fixed place. It is something which one knows about, and it will always be there; but a consignee might be domiciled anywhere, and it is part of the essence of the provisions of this Clause that the authorities in this country should know where the goods are going. For that reason we cannot accept this Amendment. I understand that hon. Members opposite do 2247 not object to this Clause, but only to certain words contained in it, and they want, very properly—I am not quarrelling with it—to improve the form of words. To substitute "consignee" for "destination" would not help in the slightest, but would only muddle those who have to deal with the question. The phrase "ultimate destination" is well known in this connection in Acts which deal with this type of thing. I am advised that this phrase is used in the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939. It is also used in the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876, and it also appears in the Customs (War Powers) Act, 1915. All we are doing is to carry on the same phrase because we now mean exactly what was meant when those enactments were passed. I hope with that explanation the hon. and gallant Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment. I agree that I promised to look at this matter with the utmost will to help. I have done so, but we have discovered that this phrase is one that has been used over a long period of years and we feel that we must keep it.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
The hon. Gentleman has referred to various Acts on the Statute Book, in which these words were embodied. We are at a disadvantage in not having those Acts before us. Would the hon. Gentleman say whether the words were used in the same context as they are used here?
§ Sir A. Gridley
May I ask the Financial Secretary a question? Supposing at the foot of a form which an exporter is asked to complete, the last line says "State ultimate destination," will it be quite in order if the official who fills in that space writes "Hong Kong, so far as we are aware"? Would that clear the exporter?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That is what happens now. The exporter here can do no more than fill in the destination as he knows it. If he does that, he is doing all that is required of him, and that is exactly what is done now. It is done under similar legislation and under the form of words which we have embodied in this Clause.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. May I also say that I do not propose to move the consequential Amendment in line 17, to leave out "destination," and to insert "consignee."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Assheton
I beg to move, in page 16, line 22, to leave out from "circumstances," to the end of line 23, and to insert:a genuine and adequate commercial return.This point was discussed at some considerable length during the previous stage of the Bill. We on this side of the House are not at all happy about the expression used in this paragraph. We have put down this Amendment in the hope that the Government may be able to accept it, because we think it safeguards the Treasury from the sort of bogus sales which they anticipate might, under certain circumstances, be made, and, at the same time, provides a reasonable commercial consideration which might be as good a safeguard to the Treasury as they should need. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary really wants us to understand that under the terms of this Clause he wishes to direct exports to one part of the world or another. I imagine that that is done under the licensing of exports, and it is not intended to do so through currency control. If that is the case, I cannot, myself, see why the hon. Gentleman should not be ready to accept the words which we suggest.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry, but we cannot accept this change of wording. I know the right hon. Gentleman takes the view that it amounts to the same thing, and that the phrase he uses is better than the one we have embodied in the Bill. However, we have looked at the Amendment and taken legal advice, and our advisers inform us that the phrase suggested in the Amendment contains a fatal weakness. It might well be asked, "What is a commercial return?" That question has only to be put to oneself to realise what a variety of answers might be given. Whereas, if we use the words "satisfactory in the national interest" there can be only one answer. It is, I think, a yardstick which most of us understand, and which can be brought to the test of facts. I do not know how strongly, 2249 the right hon. Gentleman feels about this, but we cannot accept it. If his desire is, as I feel sure it is, to get the best form of words with the least ambiguity, I can assure him that those better able to judge than ourselves—namely, those who have spent many years drafting Clauses of Bills of this kind—assure us that the new form of wording would be very much worse than that which we have at present, and that we should stick to those which are now in the Bill. Therefore, I resist the Amendment.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I think the Financial Secretary has made a fatal slip in his reply, because he has alleged that the words suggested in the Amendment, "adequate commercial return," are less susceptible to a fair and equitable interpretation than "in the national interest." We on this side of the House know what variegated purposes, even in this present Session, the words "national interest" have meant coining from hon. Members opposite. They may mean, and have meant constantly, not the national interest at all, but purely the promotion of their own party politics. To leave the Clause as it stands, is to put the whole trade of this country at the mercy of whichever Government may happen to be in power from day to day. Supposing the Chancellor, as many hon. Members on this side of the House feel he soon will, starts running very short of dollars, it would be perfectly possible for him to say it was in the national interest, no matter what happened to the individual firms, to pump exports into America. He could say, "The terms are thoroughly satisfactory to you. It is quite true you will make a loss; it is even probable that you will go broke. But that does not matter. This Clause says 'satisfactory in the national interest,' and that is the thing by which we will judge."
If the Amendment were accepted no such situation could arise, because the exporter, when forced into that position by the Treasury, could always say, "This is not, from my point of view, an adequate commercial return. It will bankrupt me; it will put be in jeopardy," and he would be safe. Whereas, under the Clause at present he has no such protection, and can be bullied and harried by the Treasury, and made to do the most impossible deals from a commercial angle, merely because it suits the policy of the 2250 Government. Such a position is intolerable, particularly when put in a permanent form on the Statute Book. I ask the Financial Secretary whether he can, with a clear conscience, look back on what has been said by himself throughout the passage of this Bill about the words "national interest" Has he always used them in such a way that, when he reads HANSARD and goes through it, he can defend them? Has he not very often confused the national interest with what he wants to do? It is a very natural thing to do; it is a very easy slip to make. But how much easier would that not be if this goes on the Statute Book? Would it not be an open temptation to every Government to say, "This is what we want to do with the trade of the country," and to confuse the national interest with their own aims?
I hope the Solicitor-General, if he is allowed to, will have second thoughts on this and accept this Amendment, which, as far as we can judge, does nothing to weaken the powers of the Government of the day, but does leave to the export trade that which they are best fitted to do, to direct their own exports on commercial bases, and not merely at the whim of whichever party happens to be in power.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I think the great exporting firms of the country will be very disappointed with the desire of the Financial Secretary to keep these words in this Clause. After all, the exporter is the best judge, and indeed the only judge, whether in all the circumstances the price he is charging the customer gives a fair and proper return. I do not know how I should interpret the words "satisfactory in the national interest" as applied to a contract price that I may be quoting tomorrow. In dealing with export business we must have a certain amount of latitude. I well remember the time when unemployment was severe, and when we had an opportunity of carrying out a big export order in South America we had to decide, in competition with Germany at that time, whether we would take a very large contract without any overhead charges attaching to the contract at all. It would have been difficult even to avoid making a heavy loss without going to the workpeople and asking them whether, if this contract was taken—which would provide them with many months of work which would not otherwise have been 2251 available for them-they on their part would be willing to accept some reduction in wages. The men seized on that, and were very glad indeed to have that opportunity. The result was, the contract was taken. But it might not have been construed as a contract representing a return satisfactory in the national interest in all the circumstances.
That is the kind of thing with which we may be faced in this export drive, in which we are doing our very best to assist the Government in the present circumstances. We may get the offer of an important export job in competition with some other country-which we are now beginning to feel-and we may decide it would be much better to accept no profit at all, or only a modest contribution towards overhead charges in the
§ national interest, and would feel constrained to accept such a contract. Now, are we to have to satisfy a Government Department that what we decide to do in the circumstances is in the national interest? Surely, we ought to be able to decide for ourselves what is in the national interest, and be prepared to accept such contracts without having to be hindered by a Government Department? I do ask the Financial Secretary not to hinder the export business of this country by insisting upon retaining these words in the Bill, which really only hamper and do not help in any way whatsoever.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 80.2253
|Division No. 47.]||AYES.||7.29 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Crawley, A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Daines, P.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Allan, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Irving, W. J.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Allewell, H. C.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Austin, H. L.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kenyon, C.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Deer, G.||King, E. M.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Kinley, J.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Delargy, Captain H. J.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Balfour, A.||Diamond, J.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Banlow, P. G.||Dodds, N. N.||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Barton, C.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Levy, B. W.|
|Battley, J. R.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Dye, S.||Longden, F.|
|Benson, G.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||McAdam, W.|
|Berry, H.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||McAllister, G.|
|Binns, J.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||McEntee, V. La. T.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Boardman, H.||Farthing, W. J.||McGovern, J.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Follick, M.||McKay, J, (Wallsend)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Foot, M. M.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Frater, T. (Hamilton)||McLeavy, F.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exchange)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Braddock, T (Mitcham)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Gilzean, A.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mathers, G.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gooch, E. G.||Messer, F.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Buchanan, G.||Grey, C. F.||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Burden, T. W.||Grierson, E.||Monslow, W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Moody, A. S.|
|Callaghan, James||Gunter, R. J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Champion, A. J.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Morley, R.|
|Chater, D.||Hall, Leslie||Morris, P. (Swansea. W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, W. G.||Moyle, A.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R.||Murray, J. D.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Nally, W.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hardman, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Collick, P.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Collins, V. J.||Haworth, J.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Harbison, Miss M.||Noel-Buxton, Lady|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Hobson, C. R.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W)||Holman, P.||Orbach, M.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Hubbard, T.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Walkden, E.|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Peart, Capt. T. F.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Perrins, W.||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Weitzman, D.|
|Piratin, P.||Sollay, L. J.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Popplewell, E.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Sparks, J. A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stamford, W.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Steele, T.||Wilkes, L.|
|Randall, H. E.||Stephen, C.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ranger, J.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Rankin, J.||Stubbs, A. E.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Rees-Williams, D. R.||Symonds, A. L.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Reeves, J.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Rhodes, H.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barrel)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Richards, R.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Williamson, T.|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Willis, E.|
|Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)||Woodburn, A.|
|Royle, C.||Thurtle, E.||Woods, G. S.|
|Scollan, T.||Tiffany, S.||Yates, V. F.|
|Scott-Elliot, W.||Timmons, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Segal, Dr. S.||Titterington, M. F.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.||Tolley, L.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Sharp, Granville||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Vernon, Maj. W. F.||Mr. Collindridge and|
|Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Viant, S. P.||Mr. Simmons.|
|Skinnard, F. W.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Grimston, R. V.||Renton, D.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells)||Hollis, M. C.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Boothby, R.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bower, N.||Hope, Lord J.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Howard, Hon. A.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Jennings, R.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Spence, H. R.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Challen, C.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lloyd, Selwyn||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Cuthbert, W N.||Maclay Hon. J. S.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Wheatley, Col. M. J.|
|De la Bère, R.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Digby, S. W.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||While, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Drewe, C.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||York, C.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Pickthorn, K.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Prescott, Stanley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Commander Agnew and|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Major Conant.|