§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, I am hopeful that the House will be equally kind to this Bill. The purpose, which is 410 explained more concisely in the explanatory memorandum than in any alternative words which suggest themselves to me, is to provide that, on the expiry of the Debts Clearing Offices and Import Restrictions Act, 1934, the obligation to pay any debt to any of the Clearing Offices is extinguished; the debt will become owed to the foreign creditor. I should point out that the Act in question is due to expire on March 31 next year and, but for this Bill, the Clearing Offices would have had to continue until all the debts were paid, although the clearing arrangements which were created to operate them would have come to an end. That situation would have been absurd. Under the Bill, Clearing Offices Will cease to exist and provision is made for the Treasury to do anything necessary to wind up anything which is outstanding and which would previously have been done by the Clearing Offices. I think the House will agree that these Offices should no longer remain in being, and I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, as I see it, this is a rather technical Bill with really a very simple object, which the noble Lord has explained. I am always relieved to see an explanatory memorandum on the cover of a Bill like this. The sum of money involved is not large, but I would like the noble Lord's reassurance that the Bill was produced after consultation with the relevant trade bodies, such as the Federation of British Industries and others. If he could say a word on that matter I should be grateful. I have no objection at all to the provisions. I think the House will have remarked, if they have read the Bill, that it is rather a rare bird, although a welcome one; it actually cuts down the number of civil servants and the accommodation they occupy. For this relief, much thanks!! If we, on this side of the House, thought that this was a step which would be followed by longer and longer strides in the same direction, I should find myself to-day in a position not merely to mouth approval but to applaud it lustily, too.
§ 3.23 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his friendly words in relation to this Bill. I am afraid 411 I am not in a position to give him the assurance for which he asks. I have no reason to suppose that it would not be available but, not having had notice of his question, I am not in a position to say anything, one way or the other, on that subject. However, perhaps I may communicate with the noble Lord before the next stage of the Bill, and, if he feels that there has been some omission, he can raise it at that stage. I am glad that he feels that this is a move in the right direction, in that it reduces the number of civil servants. I did not think it necessary to comment on that; our desire to bring down the number of civil servants is so well known that I felt the House would hardly require any reassurance on that point. However, I am glad that the noble Lord accepts it in this spirit, and, once again, I am grateful to him and to the House for the way in which they have received this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.