§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hylton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [LORD STANMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Prohibition against dealing in certain metals and ores without a licence.
§ 1.—(1) It shall not be lawful for any company, firm, or individual after the expiration of six months from the passing of this Act, or such longer period as the Board of Trade may generally or in any particular care allow, to carry on the business of winning, extracting, smelting, dressing, refining, or dealing by way of wholesale trade, in metal or metallic ore to which this Act applies, unless licensed to do so by the Board of Trade, such licence to be in the form set out in the Second Schedule to this Act :
§ Provided that the purchase or sale of metal shall not be deemed to be dealing in such metal where such purchase or sale is incidental only to the trade carried on by the purchaser or seller :
§ Provided also that no licence shall be required when the winning, extracting, smelting, dressing, refining, or dealing is carried on wholly outside the United Kingdom.
§ EARL RUSSELL moved to delete the final proviso at the end of subsection (1). The noble Earl said: My Lords, I called your Lordships' attention to these words in the discussion last night on the Second Reading. I should have been glad to know, before moving my Amendment, what the view of the Government is about it. So far as I understand the history of these three lines, lines 18 to 20 on the first page, I think I am right in saying that they were not in the Bill as originally introduced, and that they were inserted in the course of its passage in another place. The first question that requires deciding is one which I confess I am not myself competent to decide—there are many noble and learned Lords who may advise your Lordships upon it—it is exactly what the word "dealing" would mean in this proviso. Supposing a company is established in this country and, as in the instance I gave yesterday, has a mine in a neutral country and sells the produce of that mine in the neutral country at the month of the mine, to, say, 251 some German agent, it is perfectly obvious that that contract is made under the authority of the company which is domiciled here, and that the proceeds of the sale will ultimately reach the coffers of the company in this country. I do not know whether in law that constitutes a dealing inside or outside the United Kingdom. If, in spite of the actual transaction having taken place outside, it constitutes—as, on the whole, I should have been inclined to suppose it did—a dealing to some extent inside the United Kingdom, then it seems to me that this proviso will not attain the object it is intended to attain. Whether that be so or not I submit to your Lordships, for the reasons I stated yesterday, that this proviso is rather undesirable.
§ The object of this Bill, so far as one understands it from the Government's explanations, is to obtain some control, or at any rate some knowledge as to the other control, of certain metals, and to prevent that control passing permanently into alien and unfriendly hands. If you keep this proviso in the Bill, then the case may arise which I pointed out—a case which is within my own knowledge, and I have no doubt there are many similar cases—in which a company has bearer shares not being under this Bill and not being required to obtain a licence if the dealing is outside the United Kingdom and whose shares remain bearer shares. Not only does the Government not know but the directors of the company may not know where the real control of the company is situated or who is the real holder of the bearer shares and influences the voting and the dealing. In that case it seems to me that this proviso, if left in, will prevent your meeting certain cases which the Bill as a whole is desired to meet, and I suggest it is very desirable that these words should be excised.
§ As I have said before, if such a course of dealing is a dealing within the United Kingdom, then the words are idle; but if the words are not idle, then I think to some extent you destroy the effect of the Bill. I think the House as a whole will agree that it is desirable to take any steps you can to prevent the entire control of important metals, in time of war, passing into alien hands and your supply and treatment not existing in this country. If the Bill is justified on that ground, then I think you should make it as comprehensive as you can. I repeat, I do not think this Bill does 252 much towards that. It is intended to be a step in that direction, and if similar enactments took place in our Colonies and Dominions you would have gone considerably further towards it. So long as the proviso remains in, you may have a company domiciled in the City of London the directors of which are largely English and to all public appearance it is a British company, but which, in fact, is making contracts which it is the desire of this Bill to prevent. Seeing that this proviso was no part of the original Bill, I hope I shall be able to persuade the Government to accept this Amendment.
Clause 1, leave out lines 18 to 20, inclusive.—(Earl Russell.)
§ LORD HYLTON
I am sorry that the Government are unable to accept the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Earl, and I am all the more sorry because in the debate on the Second Reading yesterday he was good enough to give the Bill his valuable support; valuable not only as coming from the noble Earl in his legislative capacity, but valuable also as coming from him through his connection with a company, one of the non-ferrous metal companies, doing dealings on a comparatively large scale. But I am afraid the Amendment cannot be accepted for more than one reason. The noble Earl was perfectly correct in saying that this proviso, which he wished to be left out of the Bill, was not part of the Bill when it was originally introduced, in another place, and that it was inserted in Committee there after careful consideration in order to make clearer the scope of the Bill.
The chief objects of the Bill, as I endeavoured to explain yesterday, are first, to prevent enemy influence in regard to metals and ores shipped to and from the United Kingdom; secondly, metals and ores whether or not produced in the United Kingdom but which are in the United Kingdom; and, thirdly, the London Metal Exchange. It is not possible to prevent transactions carried on wholly outside the United Kingdom, nor is it desirable, in the opinion of the Government, to place any obstacle in the way of British companies owning mines abroad disposing of their output as they may deem proper. We believe that any interference of the Government in that respect would simply result in the headquarters of the company, 253 now in this country, being moved elsewhere, or the mine passing into other hands. The general wish of the Government is not to overload the Bill.
I think I may say, speaking on behalf of the Board of Trade, that we fully appreciate the justice of the remarks made yesterday by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and the noble Earl below the gangway, who had a Motion on the Paper for the rejection of the Bill, with regard to, I will not say the apprehension, but the anxieties they expressed that the Bill might in some way interfere with the delicate mechanism of British trade all over the world. The Government are extremely anxious to do nothing in the Bill that would justify such apprehension. Therefore they do not wish to accept such an Amendment as that which the noble Earl has brought forward, which to some extent would overload the Bill, and I am afraid on that ground it is impossible to accept it. The noble Earl mentioned a case yesterday of a British company having a large amount of bearer shares which worked mines either in the United Kingdom, in British possessions, or in a foreign country.
§ LORD HYLTON
Whether or not such a company would come under the Bill would depend on whether the dealings were carried on wholly outside the United Kingdom. I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment of the noble Earl.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The explanation of the noble Lord opposite, which applies to some of the points raised by the noble Earl, does not seem to me to cover The whole situation. I do not quite understand, if it is the desire to maintain the limitations which the noble Lord has stated and not to overload the Bill, why the operations mentioned in this proviso are confined to those within the United Kingdom. What is the reason for not including the rest of the Empire? I can understand that as regards the Dominions it may be said they are fully competent, as indeed they are, to legislate for themselves. In the famous case of the Australian spotter, which was alluded to last night and which has been one of the main props of the Bill, the arrangements were come to, as the noble Lord knows very well, between the 254 Prime Minister of Australia, who was over here, and the Board of Trade by personal converse, and the communications which passed between the two Governments resulted in a satisfactory arrangement. But when you come to India and the Crown Colonies, I confess I do not see what differentiates them from the United Kingdom. I mentioned yesterday a particular case which I happen to know about, and which has also been mentioned in another place—the monazite sand in Travancore. That is a case where a British company, undoubtedly a British company, was by various means induced, owing I suppose to some changes in its composition or the holding of its shares, to give a preference to the German manufacturers. It was discovered and put a stop to, but I do not see why a case of that kind should not come under this clause. Apparently it would be excluded from it. Perhaps the noble Lord may be able to explain these points.
§ LORD HYLTON
I think that I can answer the question put by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition. I am informed that it is impossible for us to make enactments in the case of India or the Crown Colonies, and of course the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of Canada legislate for themselves. Although, as I am told, we cannot legislate for India or the Crown Colonies, we have great hopes, if this Bill be passed, that similar legislation will be enacted in the Crown Colonies.
LORD BALFOUR, OF BURLEIGH
I can give an additional reason. I do not know whether it is really the actuating reason or not. This is an illustration of the difficulty of legislating upon this kind of subject. We had the noble Earl below the gangway protesting that this Bill was doing too much, and to-night we have had the noble Marquess protesting that it is not doing enough. The particular thing that is objected to is not requiring a licence when winning, extracting, smelting, and so on, is done wholly outside the United Kingdom. As I understand the matter, the position is this. It is not physically possible, or legislatively possible, to prevent or to stop transactions which are carried on wholly outside His Majesty's Dominions. If you put an obstacle in the way of an honest British Company that has a licence for other things carrying out these transactions you are doing harm to that company's 255 business, and you will be putting a premium upon that company attempting to move its business outside the United Kingdom. It is very desirable that we should have as much as possble of business here, and, therefore, unless you can effectually prevent it being done, you ought not to attempt it.
§ VISCOUNT HARCOURT
I do not wish to take part in the discussion upon this Bill, but having been Colonial Secretary for five years, I must put in a caveat against the statement just made that we cannot, or do not, legislate for India or the Crown Colonies. In this House we do constantly legislate for India, after consultation with India, and for the Crown Colonies, after consultation, through the Colonial Secretary, with the Governor of the particular Colony concerned. I should not like it to go out from this House that it is a thing which we cannot do or ought not to do.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD FINLAY)
No one would dispute the omnipotence of the Imperial Parliament. The Imperial Parliament is supreme. The question is, is it expedient that we should deal with these matters? I submit that in the House of Commons the right course was taken in their introducing this clause. With regard to the Dominions the case, I think, was conceded by the noble Marquess opposite; while with respect to India he says that, having regard to the mine in Travancore, legislation of this kind might be expedient. Travancore, of course, is an independent protected State; still, it is no doubt very much under the control of the Indian Government, and any person in India dealing with these mines would, of course, be amenable to legislation passed with regard to India. The India Council or the Governor-General in Council can provide the most appropriate machinery for carrying out the purpose of the Bill in India. I submit that it is better to leave it to them, and I also think that the same applies with respect to the Crown Colonies. The truth is, that as soon as you find it is not convenient to legislate for the whole world, it is better to leave outs de the ambit of the Bill what takes place entirely outside the United Kingdom.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
There is no reason why the arguments of the noble and 256 learned Lord should not prevail upon substance and merits, but to say that this Bill would, if these words were struck out, be legislating for the Dominions or for India or the Crown Colonies, and would not naturally be within its scope is to say something that really is not so. It is a Bill which deals with people who are amenable to the law; that is to say, people in this country cannot go abroad and do certain things which in the law of this country are crimes, and we legislate against them on that score, not because they are doing these things abroad, but because they are British subjects at home. It is perfectly open to pass this Bill without the words which the noble Earl proposes to strike out. I think that there is a good deal not only in what has been said about its being expedient that the Dominions should do these things for themselves, but also in what my noble and learned friend here said.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
What my noble friend has said, then. My noble friend has been at the head of a Committee which has had an inquiry upon subjects germane to this matter, and I had that in my mind when I described him as "learned." What he said is true, that it is extremely awkward to pass any legislation which might deter companies from having their headquarters in this country. This country has hitherto been the centre of the money market, and anything which you do which prevents people from coming here is deleterious to a very important interest in the State. For that reason I am with my noble friend in the arguments which he has put forward, and I think that, with proper safeguards in the Bill, it would be better to leave it as it stands.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is perfectly competent, of course, for the British Parliament to legislate for British subjects not only in the British Dominions over the seas but all over the world. The question here is with regard to acts clone wholly outside the United Kingdom, and whether it is expedient to apply the machinery of the Bill to them. I agree with my noble friend opposite in thinking that it s[...] not.
May I say a word in reply on the merits without travelling into those high constitutional questions which have been raised on this matter. I confess that the case for the Government left me unconvinced. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill said, I think, two things chiefly. The first was that you should not impose the hardships or the annoyance and inconvenience of obtaining a licence upon people whose only occupation was carried on wholly outside the United Kingdom. I did not think that it was part of the Government case that this Bill really did impose a hardship on companies who came under it or on any honest British company and it seemed to me that when the noble Lord came to deal with countries that he passed over a point which to my mind is by no means without importance, that if you do not require these companies to obtain a licence you do not know who owns their shares. The noble Lord said that the mine cannot be transferred to alien hands, but the whole case which I urged was that the mine was already in fact in alien hands although nominally under British control. I confess, however, that I am much mere influenced by the arguments of the noble Lord above the gangway. I admit the knowledge that he has acquired of these matters from his inquiries on Committees, which have been referred to and I should very much hesitate to go counter to anything he has said, and if I am not able to obtain his support on this Amendment I should feel it hopeless to persist in it, although I do think that there is a distinct leak in the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 :
Clause 2, page 3, line 27, leave out ("thereof") and insert ("of the company or firm")
Clause 2, page 3, line 28, leave out ("thereby") and insert ("by the company, firm or individual") and leave out ("therein") and insert ("in such business")
Clause 2, page 3, line 29, leave out ("thereof") and insert ("of the company or firm").—(Lord Hylton.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.258
§ Clause 4.
Clause 4, page 4, line 28, leave out ("as members") and leave out ("of members").—(Lord Hylton.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 5 to 9 agreed to.
§ Clause 10:
§ Short title and duration.
§ (2) This Act, shall continue in force only during the continuance of the present war and for a period of five years after the termination thereof.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, I thing most of us who listened to the debates yesterday will not contest the view that this Bill may be needed, and perhaps urgently needed. We have had reason to believe that serious injuries to our national interests have occurred by the control of metals specially necessary for war purposes falling into the hands of our enemies, and any proposition which is intended to remove that source of danger comes before us with a very strong presumption in its favour. I agree, and I think we all agree, that any Bill which the Government can assure us is absolutely necessary for the purposes of the war ought to be enacted. We have no difference of opinion anywhere as to the necessity of taking all steps, of any kind that is consistent with sound principles, for endeavouring to do whatever we can for the efficient prosecution of the war.
But in the case of this Bill, whose operation is proposed to be continued for five years after the war, other questions arise. We do not know, as appeared from our debate yesterday, the full facts upon which the Bill is based. We cannot tell with any amount of certainty how the Bill will work. We may have experience during the rest of the war as to how it does work, and we may come to the conclusion, within the experience of the next few months, that more efficient measures may be devised for attaining the end which we desire to secure than this Bill holds out. I was mach impressed by what was said by the noble Earl (Earl Beauchamp) 259 yesterday, and I think the same idea had occurred to many of us that what is really wanted in these cases is to get at the sources of supply, that the most efficient remedy, and the remedy which would be desirable for many reasons, is to know where these valuable metals exist within the British Dominions, and to secure that the control of these metals, especially the metals most necessary for war purposes and for all the industries concerned with the war, should not pass into what are possibly enemy hands. But we shall have much light on this subject during the next few months, when this Bill is put into operation, and it is far better that the operation of it should be studied than that we should now, in darkness as to the methods of its working, and with considerable doubt as to whether it is choosing the best means for attaining its end, continue its operations for so long a period as five years after the war, especially considering that there is a certain amount of anxiety in mercantile circles as to whether it may not actually prejudice British trade in some respects.
There is a further reason, and it is upon that reason that I chiefly desire to dwell in recommending this Amendment. This argument applies to pretty nearly all the commercial legislation which has been either proposed or carried, which is to operate after the war. It is this. We do not know in the least and we cannot foretell what the after-war commercial conditions will be, or what the after-war conditions of Europe will be, or what will be the after-war conditions which will affect British trade—our trade with the countries which are now enemies, or our trade with the countries which are now neutral. Now, the threat of being able to apply coercive measures to the trade of those who are now our enemies, or likely to be our enemies, is a very powerful weapon. It is a powerful weapon in any negotiations which we may have to enter into for the settlement of the Treaty of Peace; it is a weapon which may have to be used, but it does not follow that this is the right moment to take it from its sheath and brandish it in the eyes of our enemies. It may be more useful to reserve that weapon for the time when it can be used with most effect.
And I confess that this was to me always the fundamental objection to the publication of the Resolutions of the Paris Con- 260 ference. It seemed to me that those Resolutions, apart altogether from their merits—and upon their merits there is, as your Lordships know, the greatest possible difference of opinion—but apart from all difference of opinion as to their merits it was very doubtful whether it was prudent at that moment to indulge in the threat which the Paris Conference Resolutions contained. It was, if I may use a somewhat colloquial expression, altogether too previous, and it was used by the German Government for their own purposes. One of the most effective instruments which they employed to try and rally their doubtful and discontented mercantile subjects and interests was to represent to them that, whatever sort of nominal peace might be made, we were bent on carrying on a commercial war I against them, and therefore they might just as well fight as hard as they could now because a commercial war was certain to be resorted to afterwards. It would have been better not to have put that argument into their hands, but to have reserved it for a time when it could have been used with the greatest possible effect.
Is it not rather a mistake for us to legislate now for after-war conditions, when we have not the least idea what the after-war conditions will be? Is there anybody among your Lordships who would venture to make any predictions as to the conditions upon which this war will end, as to the provisions of the Treaty of Peace, as to the position in which we shall stand after the war, and the measures that we require for the protection and defence of our trade, and especially of those trading interests which are intimately connected with war or the possibility of war? This only we can say. So far as it is possible to judge, the conditions after the war will neither be what they are now, nor what they were before the war. What they will be we cannot in the least foresee.
I submit, therefore, that it will be far better to put a brief limit to the operation of this Bill. If we limit it to the period of the war and one year after, we shall have ample time when the war comes to an end to continue the Act, if it is necessary, or to amend it, or to resort to some other means, whatever they may be, that are necessary to protect our trade in commodities of this kind, which are evidently of such fundamental importance to us. The case seems to me, therefore, one in which it is far more prudent that we should wait to see what 261 the after-war conditions will be before we attempt to legislate for them, and I think that the space of a year after the war ought to be sufficiently ample for that purpose,
Clause 10, page 6, line 25, leave out (" five years ") and insert (" one year ").—(Viscount Bryce.)
§ LORD MUIR MACKENZIE
I do not think that I am the only member of your Lordships' House who had it in mind to address the House upon the Second Reading of this Bill; but there were more reasons than one last night why I (and I dare say others) refrained from doing so. I confess that I was very much influenced by the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh—because I have known him all his life as being a staunch Free Trader—and when he recommended to the House that they should nevertheless accept this Bill, and that, having gone most deeply into the subject, he felt convinced of its necessity, I had very great difficulty in saying anything to the House.
I certainly felt very strong objections to the Bill in many- respects. The way that it brings in proposals for the interference by a Public Department with the course of trade is one thing as to which we heard a great many remarks during the progress of some of the previous Bills that have been before your Lordships this session. There were other reasons into which of course it is not relevant to enter now. But there was one point in the Bill which seemed to me to make it a much more serious matter than the particular objections to the clauses to which I refer—namely, the sting in the very last line of the Bill where it says that it is to continue for five years after the end of the war, whenever that may be. There is a very strong feeling both inside and outside this country upon the subject of continuing an economic war, after the close of the present war, in the ordinary sense. I think that there are many who have felt very strongly upon that subject with reference to this Bill. So far as this Bill can really be described as a war Bill, of course (as has been already said) whatever objections we feel in this House on principle to its details, at any rate no difficulty will ever be raised to its proceeding as quickly as may be necessary. But when you come to such a proposal as its extension for five years after the end of the war, that is serious thing for your Lordships to do in a Bill of this kind.
262 The position with regard to the diplomatic situation when the end of the war comes, surely requires serious consideration. The matter was put before your Lordships last night in very grave words by the noble Marquess (Lord Crewe), and it would be presumptuous of me even to repeat his words. His authority is, of course, a very different affair from my authority. But I believe that there are many persons in the rank and file who feel very strongly on this subject; and I am sure that it would add greatly to the quietude of many minds if your Lordships would consent to an Amendment of this kind, and thereby reduce the time from five years after the end of the war to one year.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Before the noble Lord in charge of the Bill responds, I will venture to intervene for a moment. I frankly confess that I have a great deal of sympathy with much that has fallen from the noble Viscount below the gangway (Lord Bryce), and from Lord Muir Mackenzie, in the very temperate and reasoned speeches they have made. Lord Muir Mackenzie talked about the possibilities of an economic war hereafter. I, for one, sincerely hope that this may be avoided; but I believe that intelligent preparation for that eventuality will be one of the best ways of avoiding the possibility of it. In my opinion, whether there is subsequent economic friction or war will depend very much upon the class of peace we are able to make; and it is too soon to prophesy upon what that may be.
With regard to the particular question of whether it should be one year or five years I want to say a word. I am not responsible for the five years term. That term is open to the criticism that it is very long. But I am equally certain that one year is not sufficient. I will tell your Lordships why. The point made yesterday which had most influence on the Bill in giving it a Second Reading, was that enemy influence had undermined this class of business in this country. If it has been undermined—and it has—the new companies, which I hope will be founded and worked under this Bill, must have a certain amount of security for a permanent existence, otherwise it will not be worth while to found them. I suggest that one year is not long enough for that. I do not think that anybody can suppose that, with the difficulty of communication, with the 263 difficulty of acquiring sites, and with the difficulty of getting supplies and bringing them under control, one year will be temptation enough to people in this country to subscribe their capital for the purpose we have in view. Therefore I think that one year would certainly be too short.
The Amendment is a rather important one, and it would have been convenient, in the difficult circumstances in which we are placed, if notice could have been given to us, either for this or for a subsequent stage; because the noble Lord in charge of the Bill has to consult those to whom he is responsible for the conduct of the Bill through the House. If I had been drafting the Bill I should have suggested that the term should have been for a period of two or three years, with power to prolong, not exceeding so and so, by Order in Council. That, I think, would have been the better way of doing it. But, as I have said, I am not responsible, and I am not at liberty to suggest. Yet I strongly put it to your Lordships that, for the reasons given yesterday, one year will not be enough.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Before the noble Lord replies I may, perhaps, be allowed to say a word in general support of the views expressed by my noble friend, Lord Bryce. I said yesterday that the proceedings and resolutions of the Economic Conference held in Paris in 191 had been subject to some misapprehension, and I am not quite certain that this is not to a certain degree shared even by my noble friend Lord Bryce. Those who will carefully study the terms of those resolutions will see that no vindictive, or even punitive, action against German trade is contemplated in their terms. What is contemplated is the assurance to the signatory Powers of security for their traders against the particular machinations of which the Germans were, by common consent, guilty. It is not a question, I need not say again, of protection against trade competition, but of security against the particular proceedings which this Bill is designed to defeat. I say that in continuation of what little I said about the Economic Conference yesterday.
Therefore, when one takes the question of the five years or the one year term, one looks at it from the same point of view as my noble friend who spoke last—namely, as to whether the five years term ought 264 to be necessary, in the view of those who favour the Bill as a whole, in order to obtain the security which the Bill desires. On the other hand, there is the difficulty, which I think was appreciated by my noble friend, that the naming in the Bill of a term of five years looks less like an endeavour to obtain security than an attempt to exercise vindictive action against German trade, as such. That I think is the colour which is likely to be put upon the naming of so long a term as five years after the war.
My noble friend who has just spoken, we all agree, is an excellent judge of whether the term of one year after the war would be sufficient to enable those who, under the encouragement of the provisions of the Bill, may desire to invest capital in these particular enterprises to feel secure that they will not be exposed to the particular kind of under-hand dealing which the Bill intends to prevent. I am not nearly as competent as he is to give an opinion on that point, but I confess that if the term of one year is considered so short that capital will not be forthcoming, I should be very glad if His Majesty's Government would at any rate meet the Amendment by some offer such as that which appealed to Lord Balfour of Burleigh—namely, that after a sufficient period the matter should be open to consideration with the intention of prolonging the period if it is found to be absolutely necessary by those who are best competent to judge. The purpose of that is, as I say, to remove from the Bill any suspicion that it represents merely a vindictive anti-German proceeding and not a serious attempt to secure our trade from wrongful dealings on the part of those who are now our enemies, and I am afraid are not likely, so far as intercourse is concerned, to become our friends for a considerable period after the war.
I was going to put a question to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill which I proposed to ask him to answer in the course of his reply.
§ LORD HYLTON
The attitude of the Government with regard to the Amendment of the noble Viscount below the gangway. A great deal of discussion took place on this point, as on other points, in 265 the other House, and the Government are unable to accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount. The period of five years was carefully considered by the Board of Trade, and the Government have come to the conclusion that this is the shortest period during which it will be possible to attain one of the objects of the Bill. One of the objects of the Bill is, as your Lordships know, to enable capital to be procured and spent in this country in establishing or developing works for dealing with the refining and the manufacture of these nonferrous metals, owing to the lack of which we and our Allies found ourselves in such a deplorable position at the beginning of the war.
I am not going to trouble your Lordships this afternoon by repeating any of the observations I made yesterday, but I would like to ask the noble Viscount below the gangway, and the noble Lord, Lord Muir Mackenzie, who spoke in favour of the Amendment, whether they are satisfied with the position in which we and our Allies found ourselves in regard to these metals at the beginning of the war, when this group of great German metal companies like an octopus had swallowed up and destroyed practically all competition in this country. The Board of Trade is advised that five years is the least period during which it will be possible to enable British capitalists to establish or develop works in this country to meet that competition. The noble Lord, Lord Muir Mackenzie, quoted the noble Marquess the Leader of tint Opposition in support, I think, of some at all events of his contentions; but I venture to think the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition has shown a rather friendly spirit towards this Bill, because whilst indicating yesterday his preference for the Free Trade principle he at the same time admitted that there were certain industries—he instanced the optical glass industry as one, and I think the nonferrous metal industry as another—
§ LORD HYLTON
Some of them at all events, where the rigid insistence on the whole doctrine of Free Trade was not necessarily the course he would recommend. There has been more than one suggestion by members of your Lordships' House as to the period during which they think it 266 would be wise that after the war this Bill should remain in force. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, yesterday suggested a period of six months, and the noble Viscount below the Gangway now moves as an Amendment one year. My noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh is not willing to admit that one year would be sufficiently long a period in which to attain one of the objects of the Bill, and in view of the advice that has been given to the Board of Trade that a period of at least five years would be necessary I am afraid His Majesty's Government are quite unable to accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce. The noble Viscount told us just now that it would be wise to see how the Bill worked, and that the experience gained during the war and a further short period afterwards would enable us to do that, and then if necessary the period could be extended. But, my Lords, I should much prefer, in fact the Government must ask the House, to allow the period of five years to stand, and if before that period has elapsed experience shows that the Bill needs Amendment it will be open to the noble Viscount or any other noble Lord to bring in a Bill for amending this Bill, but we cannot accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount.
I naturally gave way to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, but I think on the whole it would have been more convenient that he should have heard all the arguments before replying, particularly as I was going to present him with what I thought would be an argument in favour of his views. I want to put a question which I think is germane to this discussion. We have heard a good deal in the discussion on this Amendment as to the continuance of an economic war. I understand an economic war to mean preventing your economic adversary from getting goods, either by tariff control or any other method. What I want to ask is, is it not a fact that under this Bill as it stands there is not a word to prevent any of these companies under the Bill from selling the whole of their output to an alien enemy or anybody they choose, or buying from or dealing with or having smelting operations carried on by alien enemies? There is nothing, as I understand, in this Bill to prevent ordinary commercial intercourse, and nothing, in the ordinary sense of the word, that can be described as economic war.
Might I ask a question with regard to something in connection with the Schedule which I do not understand. Clause 1, subsection (2), brings in the reference to the Schedule—"In the case of a company, firm or individual, with respect to which any of the conditions set forth in the, First Schedule to this Act apply." That brings in the Schedule, and on turning to the First Schedule I find there is a provision that "Any director of the company or any partner of the firm, or the individual, or any manager, or other principal officer … is a person who is or has been an enemy." Has been an enemy is a pretty wide term. How far back are you going?
§ LORD HYLTON
I am going to move an Amendment presently. It has nothing to do with the point before the Committee.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
The noble Lord did not reply to Lord Balfour's suggestion that two years might be inserted, with power to prolong by Order in Council.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I thought it would not be fair to impose it upon the noble Lord without notice., and that any one who proposed it should give notice for a subsequent stage in the Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think, with regard to the question asked, one can see that there is no trace of economic war. The Bill is merely intended to prevent use being made of facilities for trading in this country for the purpose of injuring the interests of this country, and the machinery is as mild as it possibly can be. It is provided that in certain cases, where there is a possibility of such injury being contemplated by those who propose to carry on the business, that a licence should be required, and I do not think that machinery milder in its nature could be devised. It is not for the purpose of carrying on economic war. There is nothing vindictive about the measure at all. It is merely intended to prevent, under colour of trading in this country, an economic war being carried on by persons who take advantage of the facilities which we 268 afford. For these reasons, I put it to your Lordships that there is no reason for departing from the term of years which was agreed to in the Commons, and which, as we have just been informed by my noble friend, the Board of Trade, which is the Government Department concerned, consider necessary. There is at least a possibility that however friendly the position may be there might be an intention to carry on after the war operations with which we have become painfully familiar in the past. One year would not be long enough and five years I submit is not too long; and as my noble friend has said, if circumstances change an Amendment might be introduced with regard to the operation of the measure.
On the term of five years, I think I should be in order. In my humble opinion, the Schedule applies to each clause, or may so apply, and I am a little doubtful whether the Lord Chairman was in order in interrupting me. Certainly I am in order to this extent, that I should be glad if he will explain to me how, supposing, as we all sincerely hope, peace is made within a year, the disadvantage of the five years applies, because all the clauses of the first clause of the Schedule refer to enemies, and I assume that after the conclusion of peace, whether it is a German or Austrian or Turk, or any of those countries which are referred to in the Bill, they will be our friends—if not our Allies at any rate not our enemies—and all these clauses in the Schedule which refer to enemies will not be operative. Therefore, the danger that the noble Viscount opposite. as I understand, sees in the term of five years, really ceases as soon as the war ends, with regard to the persons and companies referred to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think my noble friend, when he comes to the Schedule, will realise that the Bill as drawn is not limited in the way that he suggests, and I apprehend it was for that reason that the Chairman took the view that the discussion would be more in point on the Schedule.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
If the Government had shown any desire to meet me as regards the term, I should not have thought it worth while putting your Lordships to the trouble of dividing, but as they intend to adhere rigidly to the term of five years, I am afraid I must go to a Division.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Clause ?—
|Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Morton, E.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E. (L. President.)||Russell, E.|
|Strafford, E.||Leith of Fyvie, L.|
|Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.)||Parker of Waddington, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Penrhyn, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Rhondda, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Peel, V.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|St. Davids, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Balfour, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Carnock, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Sumner, L.|
|Grey, E.||Elphinstone, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Harris, L.||Wren bury, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Hylton, L. [Teller.]|
|Crewe, M.||Haldane, V.||Lamington, L. V.|
|Harcourt, V.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Beauchamp. E. [Teller.]||Parmoor, L.|
|Loreburn, E.||Buckmaster, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Denman, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Bryce, V. [Teller.]||Inchcape, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ First Schedule: