§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
My Lords, it will be generally admitted that the war profiteer, as such, is a very unpopular person. I suppose that profiteering has been common to all wars in our history. We certainly read of profiteering in the Crimean War and the South African War, and, to come to more recent days, profiteering was very bad in the last Great War against Germany. When we are expecting casualties—in fact we have already had nearly 2,000 casualties in the Royal Navy and over 100 in the Royal Air Force, and our Armies have not yet been engaged—it is very repugnant to your Lordships and to all decent people, who after all are the overwhelming majority of the people of this country, to think that some people should actually make money out of the national stress. There is besides this human feeling an economic effect, what someone I see in the House of Commons the other day called the "vicious spiral," which means that you have an increase of wages followed by an increase of prices, followed by another increase of wages, another increase of prices, and so on. This results in a very dangerous state of affairs. It is the business and the intention of His Majesty's Government, if they possibly can, to prevent this vicious spiral from taking place.
Some people may say that a Bill of this kind is unnecessary and that it is sufficient to leave this sort of thing to the Treasury. They say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes a very great deal out of manufacturers' pockets in the way of Income Tax, Surtax, Excess Profits Duty, and so on, and that is all that is needed. His Majesty's Government do not quite take that view. I think your Lordships will agree that it is very poor consolation to somebody who thinks he 1646 has been defrauded to say: "Oh, that will be all right, because the person who defrauded you will have to disgorge to the Chancellor of the Exchequer." That individual might very well reply: "Yes, that is all very well, but that does not give me back money that has been wrongfully taken from me unless I take certain legal proceedings." Therefore, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government some measure like the present one is necessary. Although people are willing enough to undergo hardships and to have increased prices if they think that such things are necessary for the prosecution of the war, they are not willing to undergo these things if they think it is merely done to line some people's pockets. At the same time, care has to be taken in framing a measure of this kind lest in our anxiety to prevent excess profits we succeed in stopping reasonable profits, or perhaps stopping any profits at all, and therefore cause a loss.
There is no doubt that most business people are extremely anxious to help in this matter. My right honourable friend and his advisers, before this measure was framed and during the framing of it, had discussions with and communications from various associations concerned; for example, the Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers, the Multiple Shops Federation, the National Chamber of Trade and the Retail Distributors' Association. Your Lordships are aware that complaints of profiteering began soon after the outbreak of war and up to October 19 last about a thousand of these complaints had reached the Board of Trade. These were all investigated by my right honourable friend and his advisers. I am very glad to inform your Lordships that there were very few cases indeed in which no attempt whatever was made to justify this increase, and that in very nearly every case it was found that an increase was justified, not perhaps the whole increase, but certainly some increase, by reason of increased cost of production. Therefore it means that there have been up to now very few cases of deliberate and flagrant profiteering. Here may I say one word, as it were, on the other side? People are rather apt to complain of any increase whatever, whereas, as your Lordships are aware, and the public have got to be made aware, some increase at a time like this is inevitable. There are various 1647 causes for it—namely, the fall in sterling, the increase in freight rates, delays of shipping, A.R.P. services, and a good many other things that I could name. But sufficient increase in prices has taken place, the Government think, to justify them in introducing a measure of this kind.
This Bill may be described, I think, as a Bill to prevent increases of pre-war prices of common necessaries except in the case of a proved increase in the cost of producing or marketing. Clause 1 makes it an offence to sell price-regulated goods at more than the permitted price. Clause 2 says that price-regulated goods are goods to which the Board of Trade applies the Act. The intention is to apply it, primarily at any rate, to articles of common use which enter into the cost of living of the population in general. Here may I say that this Bill is not directed against profiteering in armaments or things of that kind or in luxury trades? That sort of thing, we think, is very well looked after by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury, and this Bill is meant to prevent, if possible, an unreasonable rise in prices of the goods which the ordinary householder or housewife has to buy for everyday use. Foodstuffs are not specifically excluded from the operation of the Bill, but in the case of all essential foodstuffs maximum price orders have been or will be made by the Ministry of Food, and any infringement of those orders will fall to be dealt with under the Defence Regulations. Under the present Bill the Board of Trade will discuss (in consultation with the Central Committee) with the industries and trades concerned the possibility of defining as strictly as may be commoner qualities of the various goods concerned and endeavour to exclude anything which could be described as a luxury or a semi-luxury article.
Clause 3 deals with what is known as the basic price. This is primarily the price at which similar goods were sold in a similar transaction on the 21st August last. There are certain provisions in subsection (4) of Clause 3 for substituting another date where the price on the 21st August was affected by exceptional circumstances, or was subject to seasonal variation, or cannot be precisely ascertained. In these cases the Board of Trade are authorised to fix another date. 1648 In Clause 4 the basic price may be increased by such an amount as is reasonably justified in view of the matter specified in the First Schedule. This is known as the permitted increase. This Schedule, to which I will call your Lordships' attention now, enumerates various categories of expenditure and the cost of materials, stocks, premises and plant, working expenses and so on. Loss of turnover is specifically mentioned. It is important to notice that the words "reasonably justified" govern the whole operation of the clauses under the Schedule. Such matters as the extent to which a rise in replacement costs or loss of turnover or A.R.P. expenditure may be taken into account will have to be determined by considerations appropriate to the industry or business concerned.
Clause 5 is an important clause because it empowers the Board of Trade, on the application of a representative body of traders, to specify basic prices, permitted increases and permitted prices for any goods to which the Act applies. As my right honourable friend observed in introducing this Bill in another place, this clause creates a defence and not an offence. Where any such specification has been made no proceedings can be taken against anyone who sells or offers to sell at a price or an increase of price not exceeding the specified figure. This clause we consider to be a very valuable protection for traders in the article concerned against any unwarranted or purely litigious complaints. Where a trade is dissatisfied with a price or increase specified by the Board of Trade, traders may appeal against the order to a referee under Clause 5 (3). This referee will be appointed under the Second Schedule by my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack, and will hear the case with three assessors drawn from a panel appointed by the Board of Trade. One of these assessors will have financial qualifications, another will have technical qualifications, and the third will represent the interests of the buyers of the goods in question. The referee will have power to direct the Board to revoke or vary the order, and this we consider is a very valuable protection to traders.
Under Clause 6 the Board may specify a basic price for articles of a kind not produced before August 21. A provision of this sort is needed to prevent possible 1649 evasions of the Act by the production of articles which it might be possible to represent as not "similar" in the sense of Clause 3 (1) to articles produced before the war. I would like to point out that the prices which the Board of Trade may specify are not controlled prices in the strictest sense. Any manufacturer or trader will be at liberty to exceed them if he thinks he is justified in doing so, but in that event he will lose the protection given by Clause 5 (1) to which I have just referred and may have, if challenged, to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that he has not infringed the provisions of the Bill. Clause 7 is a penal clause and prescribes penalties for infringements of Clause 1. I should like to draw the special attention of your Lordships to the power of the Court on a third or any subsequent conviction to make an order, on the application by or with the consent of the Attorney-General, that the offender shall not be concerned directly or indirectly in the business for such period as the Court thinks fit. The penalty for contravention of such an order will be on summary conviction imprisonment not exceeding three months or on indictment penal servitude for a term not exceeding five years.
Now we come to Clause 8 which is a very important clause because it contains the machinery for the enforcement of the Bill. It is proposed that there shall be a Central Price-Regulation Committee which will advise and assist the Board of Trade as to the working of the Bill and will exercise general supervision over the operations of a number of local price regulation committees. It is contemplated that these local committees will be comparatively few in number. To start with, at any rate, it is proposed to appoint only one in each of the districts in England, Scotland, and Wales, where Regional Commissioners have been appointed, and in Northern Ireland. It is possible that later on we may have to appoint a few more. The local committees will have the duty of enforcing the provisions of the Bill in their areas. Every complainant and every alleged offender will have the right of being heard by the committee who, if they think a trader ought to be prosecuted, will so report to the Central Committee, and if the Central Committee also recommend prosecution, a prosecution can be undertaken 1650 by the Board of Trade. It is mainly for the Central Committee to decide whether or not a prosecution should be undertaken. The Central Committee, in fact, with their power to recommend prosecution and their duty to advise the Board of Trade generally on the discharge of their functions under the Act, are in a sense the keystone of the whole scheme. It is intended that the body should be a comparatively small one with, say, eight or nine members, composed of persons specially qualified to consider the questions which will come before them, practical, theoretical, technical, social, legal and economic.
I would draw your Lordships' attention now to Clause 10, which is a new clause inserted on the Report stage in another place. It gives a right to anyone who thinks he has been overcharged to recover the difference between the price paid and the permitted price apart from penalties which may be incurred for contravention of the Act. As I say, this clause was introduced late in the Bill in another place, and an objection was made that as at present drafted it gives no protection to the trader similar to that given by Clause 8 against malicious or unreasonable actions. In order to meet that criticism my right honourable friend the Solicitor-General gave an undertaking that an Amendment should be introduced, and it will be introduced when the Committee stage is reached next week in your Lordships' House.
I think the only other clause to which I need draw special attention is Clause 14 (1). In order that there shall be no possibility of evading the Act by means of sales by auction, the Board of Trade are given power to apply the Act to sales by auction of particular descriptions of price-regulated goods if they think it necessary to do so. I do not think there are any other clauses which require special attention and I have already drawn your Lordships' attention to the Schedules of the Bill.
I would like to say in conclusion that my right honourable friend attaches the very greatest importance to the committees which it is proposed to set up under Clause 8. I think your Lordships and the country generally will be pleased that, instead of amassing a large fresh staff at the Board of Trade, my right honourable friend is appointing the committees to 1651 work the Act. He and his advisers are going to take a great deal of trouble in selecting people to serve on these committees. He hopes to get the very best people he possibly can in order to make them real working committees, and he hopes that they will be prepared really to work hard and do their best so that the victories for which we hope in the field later may not be spoiled by discontent at home caused by avoidable hardship and distress.
The Bill was well received in another place. Although I think the spokesman of the official Opposition, Mr. Alexander, was rather critical, the spokesman of the Liberal Party, Mr. Kingsley Griffith, on the other hand, was very complimentary to the Bill. Although I cannot, by the rules of your Lordships' House, quote what he said, I may say that he inferred that it was an uncommonly good Bill and one which anybody on reading it through once could understand. I commend that to the noble Viscount who sits on the Liberal Benches here. I consider it a great privilege to be allowed to present this Bill which is just another instance of beginning where we left off in the last war and which, if properly worked, as I believe it will be worked, will go a great way to make people contented so that they may endure to the end, however long that end may be in coming. I beg to move.
§ Moved That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Templemore.)
§ 3.50 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Addison, probably knows more about this subject than any other living man, and I very much regret that he cannot be here to follow the noble Lord, Lord Templemore. But, as your Lordships know, my noble friend has a very important agricultural committee over which he presides in connection with the production of food, which the noble Lord is trying to keep at a reasonable price; and he has telegraphed to say that he could not be here. I do not envy the noble Lord, Lord Templemore, his task. He has this very important Bill to bring in as a kind of anticlimax before the most important event of the week, the Parliamentary statement on the progress of the war. Still less do I envy myself, or those noble Lords in your 1652 Lordships' House who are great economists, some of whom I see present, who may like to dissect and examine it. That is rather hampering, therefore, in dealing with a very important matter which, after all, does affect more or less every person in the country and the poor people most of all.
The noble Lord has said that in every war there is profiteering. Even in the South African war, which I can remember, there was profiteering, and one great Liberal statesman—I have been trying to trace who he was—made the statement that "the more the British Empire expands, the more the Chamberlain family contracts." He was levelling an attack on the Liberal-Unionist leader of those days as profiteering out of that war. I do not know why the noble Lord drew the special attention of the House to the penalties clause. I do not know that many of your Lordships are likely to be affected by this Bill as traders, merchants or manufacturers, and I thought it rather curious that we should have our attention specially drawn to it.
I do not intend to impose myself upon your Lordships for more than a moment or two, among other reasons because the Bill has been well examined and well hammered by the Labour Party in another place, and has been a good deal improved. I might be permitted, however, just to make these general observations: I do not yet see any evidence that the Government have acquired an economic policy for this war. Again I venture to pose this question. They have two courses to adopt: one is to allow prices to rise naturally, at the same time checking profiteering by such measures as this; and the other is to control prices artificially, as was done to a certain extent in the last war—with regard to rents and coal, to give two examples—by subsidies, guarantees and controls. You have to make up your minds, I suggest, what you are going to do. Are you going to allow prices to reach their natural level while preventing traders from profiteering out of the abnormal circumstances of the war; or are you going to attempt to prevent that natural operation by artificial control and by subsidies and guarantees? I suggest that it is most necessary that the Government should think that problem out and make up their minds about it, because it is going to be a very serious matter if they do not.
1653 There is another way of creating profiteering with which this Bill does not deal and which I venture to suggest is much more dangerous for the general public than what this Bill aims at. That is the removing of competition—which is, after all, the great safeguard against profiteering—by the creation of monopolies. These monopolies are being stimulated to-day by the Government's own action in themselves appointing these various Controllers, who I am sorry to say are usually people in the trades controlled. Instead of appointing civil servants or people outside the particular trades, who have no dependence on their work, the Government have appointed these people—who are whatever it may be, papermakers, shipowners or steelmakers—to control their own industries. They are usually people at the head of their industry, very successful men; and with the best will in the world they cannot help a desire to squeeze out and crush their smaller rivals. The result is that the smaller firms are being crushed out, and it is the smaller firms who, in the whole history of commerce, are the checks on profiteering, because their overheads are less, and they usually provide the healthy competition for the great monopolies. But so long as this policy of appointing people within the trades to control the trades is continued, I am afraid you will stimulate the formation of monopolies and you will have very great profiteering, not in the shops but at the source.
In this connection may I venture to suggest to your Lordships that a great deal of nonsense is talked about profiteering, and there is a great deal of exaggeration as well? As the noble Lord said, people are apt to mistake the ordinary rise of prices inevitable in war for illegal or unreasonable profiteering. The truth is that in the present crisis you can either have Capitalism or you can have Socialism. You can have both, as under the present Government, with the worst features of each. But if you have the former, if you try to maintain Capitalism, then you must have the incentive of profits. People will not work hard otherwise under the capitalist system. The noble Lord mentioned the way in which profits are taken back in taxation, but it is far better to let people energise and earn profits, and then make them disgorge these profits later by Income Tax, Surtax 1654 and so on, than to kill all energy and enterprise and deaden the efforts of the active entrepreneur who creates business. If you are going to try to maintain the capitalist system, you must let people have the incentive of profit; but we quite agree—I am speaking now for my friends—that you must prevent special advantage being taken of the artificial scarcity which a war always creates.
We also feel that the danger of the Bill and of the Government's policy is that of hunting and harrying the little profiteer and letting the big robber escape. If you really wish to prevent more than the most natural rise in prices, you have to tackle profiteering right at the source, and you have to go for the great monopolists, who have always been such supporters of the Party opposite and who at this present time seem to have an extra influence—I say this quite advisedly—on Government policy. Those are the people for whom you should go, and they are the danger to the community by artificially raising prices. As I say, we welcome the Bill such as it is, and any extra examination can be given to it in Committee.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I feel rather uncomfortable in speaking this afternoon, because I seem to be trespassing and intervening between your Lordships and the two much more important subjects down on the Order Paper. I almost wish we could have taken this Bill as the third item rather than as the first. I wish the Bill well and support it. But I have a few observations to make which I am bold enough to think may be of some use to the Bill. I was pleased to notice the brisk and joyous way in which my noble friend Lord Templemore introduced it, showing that he had every confidence in its being a success. I contrasted his introduction of this Bill with the more than usually gloomy tones in which Sir Auckland Geddes introduced the earlier Bill twenty years ago on a hot August night. It was then debated by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, both here this afternoon, and also by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and by myself. We debated that 1919 Bill and told Sir Auckland Geddes that it would be a failure and that it was all moonshine. It eventually became a dead letter. 1655 The conditions in which this Bill is introduced, however, give it some chance of being a success. The 1919 Bill was intended to satisfy or to stifle the opposition or the complaints of the Labour Party about the high cost of living. I do not think anyone thought that it was a reasonable Bill or that it would succeed. But this Bill is brought into life at the beginning of a war and not after the end of a war. Probably those who drafted it have learnt lessons and know now what to avoid, and have brought in a Bill and at a juncture in a war more likely to give satisfaction than the 1919 Bill, which certainly did not satisfy or succeed.
In any case it is an important Bill for this reason. It touches upon the contentment of the people. For if the cost of living becomes very high it is against the interest of the nation that such a condition of things should be allowed to develop or to continue. I therefore think that this Bill will receive from us all here very considerable support. I have studied it quite carefully, because I took part in the similar debate in the other House twenty years ago. I cannot discover who sets the Board of Trade in motion to examine an offence under Clause 5. I hope it is not a common informer. That was possible under the old 1919 Act, and I trust that my noble friend will give me some assurance that that unpleasant person, the common informer, will not be allowed to act at all under these regulation-of-price provisions. I am sorry that both my noble friend who introduced the Bill and the noble Lord who has just spoken made use of the word "profiteer." The words "profiteer" and "profiteering" do not appear in the Bill. The Board of Trade has evidently at length realised that you cannot define profiteering. You can justifiably talk about "unreasonably high profits" or an "excessive cost of production," which is often based on wage-increases; you can talk about "excessive prices being charged to the public," and you can talk about "excessive profits," but you ought not to talk about "profiteering" because it is impossible in my opinion to define what exactly profiteering is.
Moreover, there is an element which adds to an unreasonably high cost of goods, and it would be called profiteering, if we used such a word. I am not 1656 questioning the wisdom of this tax, but the Excess Profits Tax does automatically put up the costs to the consumer. The Government take 60 per cent. of the excess profits, and at every stage that 60 per cent. leaves some small extra weight of cost upon goods, from the time they are raw material to the time they pass to the consumer. That Excess Profits Tax system invites an increase in cost and causes the manufacturer and the persons who handle the goods to disregard economic working. The feeling is that the Government take 60 per cent. if we work economically. No one knows where what is called profiteering begins. You can often say that labour is the profiteer and guilty of putting up the cost of living. It was stated before the Coal Commission at the end of the last war that wages in certain industries rose more steeply than the cost of food. So-called profiteering was then on the part of labour. The vicious spiral rise in the cost of living began because wages rose more steeply than prices in the shops.
I have two or three points to make. I propose not to put them down as Amendments, because it would waste your Lordships' time. If I draw attention to them now my noble friend Lord Templemore can discuss them with his advisers, and may see a way to meet the points, or he may say there is no substance in them, in which case I shall be satisfied. They are technical points. If attention is drawn to them now perhaps friction will be avoided later on. In Clause 5, page 4, line 21, appear the words "buyers of." What do those words mean? Do they mean the buyers of a firm or buyers from a firm? There are two quite opposite meanings of the word "buyer" in general use. Most firms, whether retail or wholesale, have a buyer. He may also on occasion attend to the order of a customer, and then he becomes a salesman; in that case he is the seller as well as a buyer. He is not the consumer as intended by this Bill. I think the word ought to be thought over, and a better word imported to save ambiguity later on. Perhaps the word "consumer" might be substituted.
The next point I have to make is in Clause 11, page 9, line 29, with reference to the words "some other matter." What does this clause mean? Does it mean that a seller may make a condition respecting similar goods? This is not 1657 meant to deal only with the wholesale trade, but also with retail trade. A man might go into a shop and say to a retailer, "I want a shirt at the regulated price of 5s.," and the retailer might say, "Yes, you can have it at 5s. if you buy another one at 5s." That is not, to use the words of the clause, "some other matter," but it is the same article, and the buyer is compelled to take one more article than he requires because it is of the same and not "other" kind. I therefore think that that clause ought to be clarified by putting in on line 30, after the word "other" the three words "or the same," referring to price-regulated goods, so that a man may not be compelled to take two articles, when he only wants one, of the same kind.
The third point I have to make is one of rather larger substance. I do not like the First Schedule, because it contains many defined matters and leaves out some which will have to be considered or added later, from time to time, because they will have a considerable effect on prices. For example, in this Schedule there is left out of the "matters considered in fixing a permitted increase" such a "matter" as loss on exchange. The price of an article may be violently affected by a sudden change in the value of sterling used for the purpose of purchasing raw materials overseas. That is not remembered and allowed for in the Schedule. Another point is that there is no provision for obsolescence of machinery and buildings. I do not recognise obsolescence in provision for cost of plant maintenance and rent, stated in the Schedule, as cover for obsolescence. Therefore I think the word "obsolescence" should be put in. I know from my own personal experience during the Great War that you can overwork and ruin machinery or a building, just as much as you can overwork and kill a horse. In trade we call that "obsolescence" or "depreciation." Those two words will have to be taken into consideration, and I hope added to the Schedule, if the Government will be so kind as to consider the point between now and the next stage of the Bill.
I should like my noble friend to give me an undertaking that the factors in fixing prices I have mentioned, if the suggestion to include these factors is thought to be sound, will be taken into account by a price fixing committee under an order of 1658 the Board of Trade. I shall be ready to accept as meeting my point an undertaking to include these price-factors, but in that case, if an undertaking is given, the words in lines 23 and 24, "in force at the time of the sale, agreement or order in question" will have to come out, as they will destroy the value of the undertaking. If those words are kept in that would defeat the effect of putting in a fresh "matter" by the order of the Board of Trade, given under the pledge which I am asking my noble friend to give. I ask therefore that the words in lines 23 and 24 of the First Schedule shall be deleted.
Generally speaking, while I wish that the Bill may attain its aim, and prevent a general rise in prices, the responsibility of making this Bill a success rests primarily on trade union leaders for the following reasons. Labour enters into the cost of a finished article to the extent of 80 per cent. of the total cost, leaving only 20 per cent. for materials and profit. If the raw materials are imported, we have to pay world prices, and have little or no power to prevent rise in cost. But if costs of manufacturing and processing, of heating and lighting, and of transport by rail, or through docks, rise and cause a rise in general costs, causing a rise in cost of living greater than that caused by a rise in the cost of imported raw materials, then the whole responsibility for that rise in total cost falls upon labour. Higher wages and salaries will be demanded to cover rises in cost of living and thus will begin a vicious and continued reciprocating effect on the cost of the finished article. That is what my noble friend referred to as "the vicious spiral of rising prices." Increases in the cost of pithead coal and of transport of coal and everything produced by coal is responsible for starting the vicious spiral of rising prices. This is usually forgotten. The cost of coal and of transport so affect this Bill that, unless the cost of coal and transport is prevented from rising as a result of increase of wages in those industries, this Bill becomes useless.
Everything we eat or wear, or use, all our cooking, heating, and lighting services, rest on coal. The cost of coal and of transporting coal, and of all articles produced by coal, dominates the cost of living. If trade union leaders—and here I address myself to noble Lords on the Labour side—seek to keep prices from 1659 rising unduly and to maintain the purchasing power of wages, they must remember that the cost of coal and transport is the key that winds up the vicious spiral of rising costs of living and prices of finished articles. Wage-earners as a whole are the majority of the nation and are thus the largest buyers and the largest consumers. If they receive more wages for what they produce of coal or for transport services, they will have to pay more for all that they buy and consume. If coal and transport wages do rise in greater ratio than the cost of food, then coal and transport workers will have penalized their fellow citizens selfishly and coal and transport labour will have created the very evils which this Bill is designed to prevent. While I support the Bill, and have pointed out one or two weak spots in it, I must warn noble Lords opposite that we ought not to be asked to take any responsibility for its failure if they and the trade union leaders do not recognise that the cost of pithead coal and transport is the basis on which the success of the Bill rests.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
My Lords, there are one or two points to which I must reply, and I shall do so as quickly as possible. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Strabolgi, did not ask any questions, but he said the Government must make up their mind as to what their economic policy is going to be. I am afraid I cannot go into that now, or at any time, as it is a matter to be dealt with by a Cabinet Minister. The rest of his speech seemed to be a remarkably good Tory speech in defence of capitalism, which I was very glad to hear because we hear too little of that kind of thing in these days. My noble friend behind me found fault with me for introducing this Bill in what he called a brisk and cheery manner. I am naturally of a fairly cheerful disposition, and, as regards briskness, I really, as somebody said, was standing between your Lordships and the important statement which is to be made. Therefore I was not so long as I might have been if that statement had not been coming on.
My noble friend asked me one question: Who sets the Board of Trade in motion as regards an offence under Clause 5? He hoped it was not the common informer. He need not be afraid. The common informer 1660 does not come into it. Anyone who thinks himself aggrieved sets the Board of Trade in motion under that particular clause. He mentioned three points to which he said he did not want an answer now. As regards his last point, on the First Schedule, which incidentally he did not like at all, may I tell him that that matter is under consideration with a view to a possible Amendment on Committee stage? I do not think there were any other questions which I have to answer. The House is now ready to come to a decision, and I hope the Bill may now be given a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.