HL Deb 20 March 1969 vol 300 cc1016-7

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, under what duty, if any, the Custodian of Enemy Property is, or was, in relation to the 1939–1945 war, to hold property under his control, or vested in him as trustee or agent for the original owner or his successor in title; and, if there is or was such a duty, under what Statute or Statutory Instrument it arose.]


My Lords, the Custodian of Enemy Property came into possession of enemy property as a result of Vesting and other Orders made under Section 7 of the Trading with the Enemy Act, 1939. These Orders were made by the Board of Trade with a view to preventing the payment of moneys to enemies and of preserving enemy property in contemplation of arrangements to be made at the conclusion of peace. In a case decided in 1920 it was decided that the beneficial ownership of property then in the possession of the Custodian under the 1914–18 Trading with the Enemy legislation was in suspense while the legal ownership was in the Custodian. The Custodians are not the trustees or agents of the original owners of property in their possession and no court of law has ever so held. In 1954 the House of Lords decided that the Custodians were Crown Servants whose duties involved the holding of property and the receipt of income until further instructions were given to them.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that extremely elaborate reply which I shall study between now and the Third Reading of the Foreign Compensation Bill. I am grateful to him.