HL Deb 08 March 1951 vol 170 cc983-4

4.20 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it will not be necessary for me to trouble you for long with, this very short Bill. Its purpose is to make quite clear that the Export Guarantees Department can provide cover for the transactions of an overseas subsidiary of a United Kingdom parent company. This cover can be provided in two ways: it can be provided by giving guarantees direct to the United Kingdom parent company in respect of the losses made by a subsidiary, or it can be provided direct to the subsidiary for the same purpose. We thought that when the 1939 Act and the 1949 Act, with its very wide powers, were drafted these powers would be included. Our advice now is that they have not been. Subsection (1) of Clause 1 of the Bill covers the first point which I have mentioned. Subsection (2) covers the second point. Subsection (3) makes the operation of the Bill retrospective. Guarantees up to a figure of about £6,000,000 have already been given, and retrospective legislation will be required to cover those guarantees. I think the only other point I need make is that this Bill does not in any way extend the limit of the financial provisions of the 1949 Act. I hope your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading, and I formally beg to move that it be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Lucas of Chilworth)

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, as one who has devoted a certain amount of time to studying this Bill, I should like to congratulate Lord Lucas upon the remarkably clear exposition of it which he has given in a very few words. I would add merely that, as he has said, this Bill, dealing with powers thought to be conferred when the 1949 Act superseded the 1939 Act, rectifies a stats of affairs in which a Department acted on the assumption that they possessed powers which they did not, in fact, possess. The Bill covers transactions that have taken place in that time and puts the matter right. It raises a slight question in one's mind as to whether, since a Department have acted on a mistaken assumption for a matter of two years, they may not have made one or two other slight assumptions which are equally mistaken and are still acting upon them. However, if that is the case I suppose that when detected it will be put right. The whole matter of the control by a parent company of subsidiaries, and the form of those subsidiaries, was fully discussed in another place, and I do not propose to debate such questions here. For noble Lords on this side of the House, I may say that anything which smoothes the path of our export trade will receives a warm welcome from us.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.