HC Deb 22 November 1948 vol 458 cc973-83

(1) Sums which at the passing of this Act are standing to the credit of the Supreme Court Prize Deposit Account in respect of ships or goods (within the meaning of the Naval Prize Act, 1864) not then condemned, or are so standing to the credit of a cause instituted in a prize court in any such country or territory as is mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section four of this Act, and which are unclaimed at the latest time for making claims fixed by any advertisement published in relation to the said Account, or in relation to that court, as the case may be, under the next succeeding subsection, shall be paid into the Exchequer at such time thereafter, and in such manner as the Treasury may direct.

(2) Advertisements for claims shall be published in relation to the said Account and in relation to each such prize court as aforesaid, in such form and manner as may be determined by or under the authority of the President of the Probate Division of the High Court in the case of the said Account, or of the principal judge thereof in the case of each such court, consistently with the following requirements, that is to say—

  1. (a) that each such advertisement shall fix as the latest time for making claims a time 974 not earlier than the expiration of three months from the publication thereof in the case of the said Account, or six months from the publication thereof in the case of any such court, and
  2. (b) that the manner of publication of such advertisements shall consist of or include publication in one or more newspapers circulating in the United Kingdom in the case of the said Account or in the country or territory in which the court has jurisdiction in the case of any such court, and also in one or more newspapers circulating in such other countries or territories as the said President or the said principal judge, as the case may be, may direct.

(3) A sum shall be treated for the purposes of this section as unclaimed at a given time if at that time no claim in respect thereof by a party other than the Crown has been filed with the Admiralty Registry in the case of the said Account or with the registry of the court in the case of any such prize court as aforesaid, or if at that time all claims in respect thereof filed as aforesaid before that time have been dismissed or withdrawn.—[Mr. Dugdale.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Dugdale

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

We have discussed——

Mr. Langford-Holt

On a point of Order. Just before the Division was called on Clause 9 I was standing on my feet seeking to put a point of Order to you, Mr. Bowles. I wonder whether I could have your guidance whether I am or am not entitled to put a point of Order. Other hon. Members who were present in the House when that Division was called would bear out my statement that I was standing on my feet. I think you will remember that I was standing on my feet. I hope that you will give me your guidance whether I am entitled to put a point of Order.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member is not entitled to put a point of Order when the Chairman is himself on his feet. If the hon. Member wishes to put his point of Order now he will be quite entitled to do so.

Mr. Dugdale

As I began to say, we discussed this new Clause last Thursday in connection with the Financial Resolution, and also earlier today, when the discussion was actually wider than this Clause and covered the Clause. I do not know whether it is necessary for me to explain any further what the proposed new Clause seeks to do. I hope that as I have explained it upon a number of occasions the Committee will be prepared to agree to it.

Mr. Manningham - Buller

I am astonished at the manner in which the Parliamentary Secretary has proposed this new Clause. He started off by saying that it had been discussed last Thursday but when we discussed that Financial Resolution I raised a point of Order to ask whether we could make reference then to this new Clause in the course of the discussion. The indication was that one would be called to Order very quickly if the terms of the new Clause were discussed. The result is that hon. Members are not very clear about what the new Clause proposes to do.

In our opinion it is a most surprising Clause for the Government to seek to insert at this stage in a Bill called a "Prize Bill." In fact, the proposed new Clause has nothing whatever to do with prize money or the Prize Bill. It is a machinery Clause for enabling the Parliamentary Secretary to transfer to the Exchequer sums of money which are standing in the Supreme Court Prize Deposit Account in respect of goods, and maybe ships, which cannot be condemned as prize. I should have liked to have heard the Parliamentary Secretary attempting to justify the inclusion of this Clause in the Bill. Not one beneficiary from the Prize Fund can possibly benefit under the proposed new Clause, which is for the benefit of the Exchequer and no one else. It is true that the amount of money involved is small, as we were told in the discussion last Thursday, but even the addition of a small amount of money to the Prize Fund would enable the Government to do more justice than they are at present doing to the people who have rights in regard to that Fund.

8.30 p.m.

I am particularly concerned with this Clause in view of something which the Parliamentary Secretary said earlier today He told us that all ships and goods which were liable to be condemned were taken into account in forming the estimate of £5,250,000 for the Prize Fund. If that be so, why do we find that this Clause applies to ships and goods "not then condemned." The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the Financial Resolution only applies to matters which cannot be condemned. Why then do we find in the Clause the words "not then condemned"? Should not the words be "which are not condemnable"? If they can be condemned, they should go to the Prize Fund, not to the Exchequer. The inclusion of those three words clearly implies that ships and goods will be condemned in the future, and if they are, this Clause would appear to operate in respect of the proceeds.

That is a point on which I should like to hear a statement from the Parliamentary Secretary. I hope he will say that the wording does not accord with the intentions of the Government in that respect. It certainly does not accord with his explanation of the Financial Resolution last Thursday night. I hope he will seek to justify taking out of the Prize Fund for the Exchequer sums of money which in some curious fashion have found their way into the Prize Fund and which people who are not expert in such matters would consequently assume would fall to be divided in the same way as the Prize Funds normally are. In the absence of an explanation from the hon. Gentleman, I fear that we may have to show our disapproval of the Clause and the precedent created by it in the Division Lobby.

Mr. Dugdale

I thought that, as I said, an adequate explanation had been given previously, but as the hon. and learned Gentleman would like me to give the explanation again I am perfectly willing to do so. The sums involved are, as he says correctly, approximately £7,000. They are not large sums and they will not affect prize distribution in a very big way. The actual difference they would make to each person were they distributed would be in the neighbourhood of 2½d.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

If the £7,000 were included, would not the Government be able to add a few people to the classes already included as beneficiaries?

Mr. Dugdale

Certainly. We could add any number of people provided that the total sum which they received did not exceed £7,000. The point about it is that these are not prize; they are non-condemnable and non-condemned goods. It is therefore inappropriate that they should be used as prize. As I said before, any sum might be used as prize. We might take any sum out of the Treasury. We might vote that the money spent on Old Age Pensions or the salaries of M.P.s should be taken as prize. However, we do not do so, and these goods are not used as prize because they have not been condemned and are not condemnable.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Where is that in the Clause?

Mr. Dugdale

The Clause says that they are not condemnable goods. It says: Sums which at the passing of this Act are standing to the credit of the Supreme Court Prize Deposit Account … not then condemned. I said that they are not condemned, and as the process will have been completed by that time, they will be non-condemnable. They will be neither condemned nor condemnable. The point is that these moneys may accrue to certain people who own the goods in those ships if they like to claim for them, but they have not claimed for them. If the Clause were not brought in, the Treasury would have to lay claim to each separate item one after the other, and that process would go on for a large number of years. After the first world war it went on for many years.

Mr. Bracken

Hear, hear.

Mr. Dugdale

The right hon. Gentleman says, "Hear, hear." Hon. Gentlemen opposite are always talking about the swollen Civil Service and the number of people employed on useless jobs. Here is a job which would occupy a large number of people to no purpose whatever, and we think it is as well that they should not be occupied in doing work which will serve no useful purpose. The sum of £7,000 will be handed to the Treasury, and the Treasury have stated that they will be responsible for indemnifying any people who may afterwards produce claims which need settlement.

Mr. Bracken

The Treasury have the money now.

Mr. Dugdale

The money is now in the Prize Court Fund, and the Treasury will have it if the Clause is passed. The Treasury will then use it for indemnifying people who can show cause that they should have money in payment of goods which they have lost. I think that explains the position quite fully and I think the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Gentleman really know the answer quite well because they have heard it many times before.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

I am afraid that I, for one, must admit that the Parliamentary Secretary has not answered any of the points at all. We are told that the words "not then condemned" are meant to include and do include "not then condemnable." When the Parliamentary Secretary was challenged on this point, the only statement he made—I took his words down—was that as by that time—what time he did not stipulate—not condemned would mean not condemnable. I should like to know at what time he believes the phrase "not then condemned" will include "not then condemnable." If he looks at the Supreme Court Prize Deposit Fund, he will see that the sum of £5 million is still outstanding and not yet allocated. Does he really mean that he can twist this phrase of his, "not then condemned," to mean only £7,000 out of £5 million? If that is his claim he must advance something much more substantial. I ask him to go on reading after those three words, because it says, or are so standing to the credit of a cause instituted in a Prize Court in any such country or territory as is mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section four … That means that if the Clause is given a Second Reading tonight any outstanding claim in any Dominion Court will go not into the Prize Fund, but to the Exchequer. On an earlier Amendment I mentioned the case of a ship which was taken in South Africa and had a value of £3 million. If that case is not concluded by the time we give the Clause a Second Reading, that £3 million will go straight to the Exchequer and not to the Prize Fund.

I would also draw your attention, Mr. Bowles, to subsection (3) of the Clause, which says: A sum shall be treated for the purposes of this section as unclaimed at a given time if at that time no claim in respect thereof by a party other than the Crown has been filed … That, again, means that the Exchequer will take anything remaining in the "kitty" by default and will be empowered to take sums that should properly go into the Prize Fund. For these reasons, with due respect to the Parliamentary Secretary, I do not think he has made any case to prove either that the figures are small, that his words cover what he says is their meaning, or to explain the much wider implications which would follow upon the passing of the Clause, which would act only to the detriment of those who hope for some money out of the Prize Fund.

Mr. Bracken

I tried to find out what the Parliamentary Secretary really meant by his explanation. He read out part of the Clause but did not seem to understand it. I asked him a question but he did not answer it. It seemed that he was reading from a Treasury brief which he ill understood, and I am wondering, as we cannot hope for a better and more accurate explanation from him, whether the Patronage Secretary might be able to explain it. It is a pity that a member of the Treasury was not here when I invited the hon. Gentleman to give us an explanation for, as no doubt the hon. Gentleman has noticed, other hon. Members wish to take part in the Debate.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he will now bring the Clause into line with what he said about it. He indicated quite clearly in the course of his speech that it applied to goods and ships which were not condemnable. There is not one word in the Clause to that effect. If I could have the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary, I was asking him—I would not like to interrupt his conversation with the Patronage Secretary.

Mr. Whiteley

Do not be impudent.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I was not being impudent. I was only wanting the hon. Gentleman's attention. We are having a Debate on this rather important Clause and I was asking the Parliamentary Secretary to give his attention to this point. In moving the Second Reading of the Clause he told us that it applied to goods and ships which were not condemnable. As I see it, there is nothing in the Clause whatsoever—I have read it several times—to convey that implication. It says, "not then condemned." That conveys the implication that the Clause applies to goods which are condemned at a later time.

The hon. Gentleman told us, when faced with this point, that nothing else could be condemned after the passage of the Bill. I should like to know what grounds he has for making that statement, when earlier in the day he told us that estimates had been made of what was to be condemned in the future. Those two statements of his are really not reconcilable. I am merely asking the Parliamentary Secretary whether it would not be better to make quite clear what the Clause is meant to imply by inserting after "not then condemned" the three words, "and not condemnable," which he used so often in his speech. There could then be no doubt that the Clause would apply to what he said it was intended to apply namely, ships and goods which could not be condemned as prize. I ask him that because, if he does not agree to this concession, by his refusal to agree he is indicating that his assurance to Parliament last Thursday on the Financial Resolution—that the only matters affected by the Financial Resolution were goods which could not be condemned—was really not justified.

I would express the opinion that the Clause as it stands applies to goods which can be condemned in the future as well as to goods which cannot be condemned. The Parliamentary Secretary has told us more than once that it is intended to apply only to goods which cannot be condemned. I ask him, therefore, to agree to an Amendment to bring the Clause into line with the statements he has so often made about it.

Mr. Dugdale

I cannot agree. I stated on Thursday night what was the position. My statement is perfectly correct. There is no need to incorporate it—or, indeed, any of the statements which I or any other hon. Members have made—into the

Clause. The Clause states the position. It is the same as that stated by me——

Mr. Bracken

But a little different.

Mr. Dugdale

—and I see no reason at all why there should be any alteration whatever in the Clause. It is correct, it shows the position correctly and I think it should be passed as it stands.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 196; Noes, 68.

Division No. 16.] AYES [8.49 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Grey, C. F. Pargiter, G. A
Albu, A. H. Griffiths, D. (Bother Valley) Parker, J.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Griffiths, Rt Hon. J. (Llanelly) Parkin, B. T.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Guy, W. H. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Alpass, J. H. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Paton, J. (Norwich)
Attewell, H. C. Hale, Leslie Pearson, A
Anton Gould, Mrs. B Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Peart, T. F.
Bacon, Miss A. Harrison, J. Perrins, W.
Baird, J. Hastings, Dr, Somerville Popplewell, E
Balfour, A. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Barstow, P. G. Hewitson, Capt. M. Porter, G. (Leeds)
Barton, C. Hobson., C. R. Proctor, W. T.
Battley, J. R. Holman, P. Pursey, Comdr. H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Horabin, T. L. Ranger, J.
Ballenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hoy, J. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Benson, G Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Reeves, J.
Berry, H. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Binns, J. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Rhodes, H.
Blackburn, A. R. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Richards, R.
Blyton, W. R. Hand, H. (Hackney, C.) Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Bottomley, A. G. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Robens, A.
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Janner, B. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Bramall, E. A. Jeger, G, (Winchester) Sargood, R.
Brook, D (Halifax) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Shackleton, E, A. A.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Sharp, Granville
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Keenan, W. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Simmons, C. J.
Burden, T. W. Kinley, J. Skeffington, A. M.
Callaghan, James Lee, F. (Hulme) Skeffington-Lodge, T C
Castle, Mrs. B. A Levy, B. W. Skinnard, F. W.
Chetwynd, G. R. Lindgren., G. S. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Cobb, F. A. Longden, F. Smith, H N. (Nottingham, S.)
Coldrick, W. Lyne, A. W. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Collick, P. McAdam, W. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Collindridge, F. McEntee, V. La T. Sylvester, G. O.
Collins, V. J. McGhee, H. G. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Colman, Miss G. M. Mack, J. D. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Cove, W. G. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Grossman, R. H. S. McLeavy, F. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Daggar, G. MacPherson, M. (Stirling) Thomas, John R (Dover)
Daines, P. Macpherson, T. (Romford) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thurtle, Ernest
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Titterington, M. F.
Deer, G. Mellish, R. J. Tolley, L.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Messer., F. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Diamond, J. Middleton, Mrs. L. Turner-Samuels, M.
Dodds, N. N. Mitchison, G. R. Ungoed-Thomas, L
Driberg, T. E. N. Monslow, W. Usborne, Henry
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Moody, A. S. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Dumpleton, C. W. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Walker, G. H.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Moyle, A. Warbey, W. N.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Naylor, T. E. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Ewart, R. Neal, H. (Claycross) Weitzman, D.
Fernyhough, E. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Follick, M. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Foot, M. M. Oliver, G. H. Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Orbach, M. Wilkins, W. A.
Gibbins, J. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Gibson, C. W. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williams, R. W (Wigan)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Palmer, A. M. F Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Willis, E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A. Zilliacus, K.
Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. Yates, V. F.
Wise, Major F. J Young, Sir R. (Newton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Pitman, I. J.
Baldwin, A. E. Head, Brig. A. H. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Birch, Nigel Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Prior-Palmer, Brig. O
Boles, Lt.-Col. D C. (Wells) Howard, Hon. A. Ropner, Col. L.
Bossom, A. C. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Bower, N. Keeling, E. H. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Lipson. D. L. Smithers, Sir W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Low, A. R. W. Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Sutcliffe, H.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Maclay, Hon. J. S. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N
Darling, Sir W. Y. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Touche, G. C.
Digby, S. W. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Marples, A. E. Walker-Smith, D.
Donner, P. W. Marsden, Capt. A. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Drayson, G B. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Drewe, C. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Nutting, Anthony Mr. Studholme and
Grimston, R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Brigadier Mackeson.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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