§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Eccles
I beg to move, in page 15, line 44, to leave out from the beginning, to the end of line 2, on page 16.
As hon. Members will see, the effect of the Amendment would be to leave out Clause 22 (1, f). This is an exploratory Amendment. As the Clause is drafted, the Treasury can prohibit the export of any articles on the person of a traveller or in a traveller's baggage, as may be prescribed. In other words, the Treasury can prohibit one from taking abroad any luggage of any sort. We want to know that this power will not be used to irritate, beyond the absolute minimum, travellers leaving this country. I do not see how it is possible to prevent people from taking abroad anything which is saleable. Obviously, I imagine that the Treasury wishes to prevent some one taking diamonds or jewellery of high value for the purpose of selling them abroad. We say that this is one of those police powers that are really most irritating, and ought to be used most sparingly. As it is very difficult, given the rest of this Bill, to bring back money if one has not taken it abroad, or that it is difficult to do the other half of the transaction, I hope that this power will be sparingly used. I trust that we shall hear on Monday that the exemptions under it are to be rather wider than the present practice.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I am afraid that I regard this as a slightly bad intrusion into this Bill. As it reads, it must, in any case, be redundant. Unless I am mistaken, all the powers which the Treasury may want to stop a traveller leaving, say, with jewellery in his pocket, is contained in the Fifth Schedule. This particular Clause seems to be absolutely unnecessary, and, I must admit, from my own point of view, vicious, because it means that the Treasury can do anything they like. They can stop anyone leaving with a toothbrush, they can insist upon him leaving his pyjamas, they can even search his teeth and take the gold fillings before allowing him to get into his aircraft. There is no limit to what they can do to a traveller and his baggage. That seems to me to be unnecessary, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) said, a deliberate imitation of the sort of regulations which one 545 found in Nazi Germany before the war. For my own part, unless the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has a very good reason for the inclusion of this provision, I certainly hope that Members on this side will vote against its inclusion in the Bill.
§ Mr. Howard
It is most important to have a proper understanding of this matter and to know what the actual procedure of prescription by the Treasury will be. We should also know to what extent members of the public will be able to know what articles are or are not prescribed. Perhaps the Financial Secretary could deal with that point.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I wish to ask a further question. If this matter is dealt with in existing powers, and there are certain articles at present prescribed, would it not be possible to list or describe them by inserting words of general description which will cover what it is desired to cover but will not cover everything of whatever sort?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Broadly, of course, what we seek to do is to prevent the export of portable valuables of certain kinds which can be taken out of the country on the person, or in one's baggage. Obviously, valuables of that kind can be taken abroad and exchanged there for foreign currency, which, eventually, is a drain—possibly not a big one, but nevertheless a drain—on the resources of the country. It is no good preventing, by other parts of this Bill, people having as much currency as they like when they go abroad for a legitimate holiday, if we permit a loophole of this kind which would allow them, by this method, to add to the currency they have abroad, by taking an article and selling it when they got there. I hope the Committee will agree that this is essential to the overall picture of what we want to achieve. The simple reason why we have inserted this provision is because valuables could be turned into foreign currency by anyone who wished to do so. I was asked whether a list of the prohibited articles would be published. Of course, it will be I can, if desired, give some idea of the kind of valuables we have in mind. They are articles wholly or mainly of gold or platinum, diamonds and precious stones, pearls, rings set in some way—
§ Mr. Howard
I hold in my hand a gold pencil which was given to me on my 546 21st birthday, and I would be prohibited from taking it out of the country.
§ Mr. Grenvil Hall
Not at all. All that bona fide travellers have to do is to let the Customs know, and obviously the thing will be treated with common sense. If the hon. Gentleman began going week after week with his pockets full of gold pencils, which he said had been given to him on his 21st birthday, I think the Customs and Excise, who are fairly knowledgeable on these matters—
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Of course not. A collection of postage stamps—not the schoolboy variety but a real collection —obviously is a thing which could be used and sold for money's worth abroad. Works of art and furs, or articles wholly or mainly composed of fur, are other examples. I wish to throw myself on the indulgence of the Committee. We have here a loophole which clever people, if they were so minded, could use very easily. I should say that in the Customs and Excise at our ports, there are officers who are well versed in the wiles of the human mind. They have ways and means of catching people and knowing the good traveller from the bad. We do not intend to have a sort of Gestapo so that everybody is watched from top to toe. I can assure the Committee that we want this provision and that it will be used with discretion. Without going into detail, I think it will be found that it will be used wisely for this purpose.
§ Mr. C. Williams
Of all the forms of legislation which are bad, legislation based on the good intentions of a Front Bench is the worst. Good intentions have no bearing on the ultimate, effect of legislation, wherever it comes from. We have now been asked by the Financial Secretary, who used rather humble words in seeking our indulgence, to approve this provision. His main argument was that this Subsection, with all its restrictions, would not be bad and that it would be dealt with by obvious common sense. Who has ever known of a Government Department dealing with things with obvious common sense in the ordinary everyday affairs of life? It is not our experience as a general rule. It may happen at times, but it is not the common 547 experience, that on occasions like this things are dealt with in a common sense way. It may well be that the Customs, because they are nearer the sea, have more common sense than other people.
On the other hand, let us consider this position. I happen to be too impoverished to have gold pencils. I could take out of the country only a wooden pencil, so I would be all right. I may not even be able to take out even a wooden pencil, because I may be accused by the Minister of Health of depleting the stock of wood needed for building. This Clause lays down that anyone who goes out of the country with a gold watch and chain can be stopped. How is anyone to prove that a gold chain, the rings on one's fingers, or anything of that sort, is, or is not, one's own property, and that if it is taken out of the country it will not be sold on the other side? It is carrying the matter to a fantastic length to put this in the Bill. The Financial Secretary deliberately laid it down that furs should be included in this provision. How are we to understand at what stage the fur coat of, say, the Leader of the House is his own property and is not a fur coat lent to him, so that he can shine in the United States?
§ Mr. Williams
I am very sorry. I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for having contributed something to the Debate at last. I have been waiting for that for a very long while and I thank him for making that slight correction. I hope he will not send me a very heavy bill for it. The reason I put my name to this Amendment was because I wanted to find out precisely how far the Government wanted to go. I think as the Financial Secretary laid it down, this is one bit of the chain that tightens up the net which is being drawn around the ordinary person in this country. If a person goes abroad now, he is to be subject to search, of a most rigorous kind, if anyone happens to think he is a suspicious person, a Communist, or anything of that sort.
§ Mr. Williams
That may be. If they are doing wrong I shall not object to it. 548 On the other hand, we are much less likely to do it than other people I know.
§ Mr. Williams
I do not think I would be in Order if I were to discuss the black market now. I do not wish to lengthen the proceedings in that way, though I have no doubt that the Communist Party might wish to do so. Whether or not we withdraw this Amendment, I think it has given another illustration that this Government do not really want this Measure for the purpose which they profess to have' in view. It is simply another illustration that they want this Bill in order to have power to keep our people, as far as possible, segregated from the rest of the world.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I wonder if the Financial Secretary would explain two things to me? The first is this. Do his advisers really fear that the existing list is not sufficiently comprehensive? Have they any serious fears of that kind? If they have any serious fears of that kind, could we not have had the existing list in the Bill, or could we not have had it put into it. And could there not, even now, be some machinery for providing that the existing list should not be added to without some notice? Or, better still, without the necessity for some kind of Parliamentary consent? Because, on the face of it, this seems an occasion when really the argument for administrative convenience can be safely asserted to be even more tenuous than usual. It does seem to have very little more in it than that it is easier to do nothing than to do anything; and I should have hoped that we could even now assume that the existing list is much more likely to be truncated than lengthened any more.
That is my first question and, it I could have the indulgence of the Committee to ask one more, it is this. I was a little disquieted by what the Financial Secretary said about stamp collections and pictures. Can we be told what effect rules of this sort, as already operated, have in the direction of exciting reciprocity? Because I should have been a little inclined to suppose, I admit mainly on the basis of personal prejudice, that, for instance, it really was desirable if we could get anything worth while in exchange for stamps, 549 to let the stamps go. If foreigners are asses enough to give us something worth having instead of stamps, I should have thought the foreigners ought to be allowed to have the stamps, and that we should be allowed to get whatever we could get instead. About pictures, my prejudice would be rather the opposite one. If we are to keep up London as one of the central markets of the world for objects of vertu and taste, and so on, which is something which, I think all hon. Members would agree, is, if not a necessary essence, at least a necessary concomitant of a great capital, then, if that is to be done, surely we should desire that there may be the widest variety of taste exercised in the way of importing pictures. I am aware that this Subsection is concerned with exporting, not importing, pictures, and perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) was going to tell me of that, but I will just now come round to it by myself. The connection is this. Perhaps we could be told what effect this has, for instance, on the French Government; because it would seem to me highly undesirable that besides the obligation already on us, that the private individual who wants to buy a picture in France is already faced with the complication that he has to get permission from the Board of Trade, we should have difficulties also from the French end in retaliation for the difficulty we are here enforcing. We were ridden off on the Second reading, I think by the learned Attorney, upon the argument that that was not a matter of exchange, it was a mere matter of import control at the Board of Trade; I cannot understand on what principle the Board of Trade permits or does not permit, such importation unless it be upon advice from the Treasury of what the effect on the exchanges would be of granting or withholding those licences.
That, in my submission, is a small, but Very serious, obstacle in the path of those who are trying to revive some kind of European or even world civilisation. If that obstacle is to be raised slightly by what I should have thought would have been a natural tendency of foreign countries also to make this same sort of rule, to make it difficult from the other end also to bring pictures here from say, Paris, Madrid or Florence, or anywhere else, then, I think, that would be 550 a serious disadvantage. I should be very difficult to persuade that the amount of currency risked would be very great; and if it were in order, if I were challenged about it, I think I should be prepared to put strong arguments for the view that it would help our currency to facilitate the carrying in and out of pictures by private individuals. If it is right that taste and intelligence in these matters are centralised in London at least as well as in any other centre, then the more we are free to import and export these things, the more it is likely to benefit this country, even in a short-range financial sense. I think that we ought to have some explanation upon those two points.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I can give my general support to this Bill because I think that, as a whole, it is necessary from two points of view. The first is to defend ourselves in the altered economic situation in this country following upon the war, and the second is to avoid a repetition of what happened in 1931, and which is still vivid to many of us in this House. Therefore, I beg the Government to believe that I am not opposing the broad principles of the Bill. But I would remind them that this is an Exchange Control Bill, and that we are in danger of making it an Exchange Prohibition Bill. This Clause gives the Treasury power to limit any article on the person of the traveller or in the traveller's baggage which they may prescribe. It is an omnibus power of an extremely wide order, and when one questions the range of this power the only assurance one gets is that the power will not be unreasonably exercised. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) when he says that Government Departments and civil servants always behave unreasonably.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I said that there were occasions when they did not behave reasonably. I did not say that they all behaved unreasonably, because I know there are exceptions.
§ Mr. Brown
What the hon. Gentleman actually said—and my photographic memory is now in full play—was that he could not remember any occasion on which a Government Department acted in a reasonable way. I must say that I know of such occasions, and, so far as the operative agents in this case are concerned— 551 presumably, they will be officers of the Customs and Excise—I am certain that they do a very efficient job.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
This dispute is a matter between the two hon. Members and has nothing to do with the Amendment under discussion.
§ Mr. C. Williams
With very great respect, I would point out that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is accusing me of saying something which I am sure I did not say. In what I said about Government Departments, I deliberately made exceptions, as will appear from the record in HANSARD. I particularly excluded those civil servants who work near the sea. I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me in any way.
§ Mr. Brown
With great respect, I do not think that I have done so. However, we shall see it in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow and, if I were allowed to bet on the accuracy of my recollection, I should be prepared to lay a heavy sum. The argument that the Government will operate the power reasonably, is an extremely dangerous one. As a matter of fact, if we are going to govern on that basis, we might as well have a simple one Clause Act of Parliament which lays it down that the citizen shall do nothing which the Government says he shall not do. I have no doubt that hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite could defend that equally legitimate Measure by saying that the Government would apply that Act of Parliament in a reasonable and restrained way. But it would still be a thoroughly bad Act of Parliament, and I think this is a thoroughly bad Clause.
The next thing I would mention is that it is not only the reasonableness of the present Government that we have to take into account; it is the possible unreasonableness of any succeeding Government. I know who the successors of the present Government are going to be. I see evidence in the trade union movement of Communist penetration of an extremely serious character. It may be that we shall have a political erosion of a similar kind, and I am certainly not willing to see powers of this sort vested in the hands of any Government unless I am sure what the policy of that Government will be. I feel 552 no such confidence about the future to justify such omnibus powers.
§ Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)
Would the hon. Gentleman invest these powers in a Government of Independent Members?
§ Mr. Brown
The answer to that, of course, is twofold. First, by definition there cannot be a Government of Independents, the Independent having passed a self-denying ordinance in the matter of office, which makes the intervention extremely irrelevant. Secondly, even if there were to be a Government of Independents, I should still seriously object to giving them these powers. Now may I put this point to the Government Front bench, if they will allow me? I am not suggesting for a moment that their intentions here are anything but good. That is agreed between us; and I am not questioning that they need the broad powers of the Bill. I remember a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary not long ago, when he said that his idea of freedom was that he should be able to go about without a passport, to get on a train and go wherever he wanted to go. I am sure that is the feeling of most people in this country. We already have the enormous difficulties of passports, visas, permits, and Heaven alone knows what.
§ Mr. Brown
I must say, the fare is exactly the same whether one is a Conservative, an Independent, or a Labour Member. There is no judicial discrimination exercised in favour of the Independent in this matter. We have all these difficulties, and in various parts of the world we have other difficulties, such as governmental prohibition on the movement of whole peoples, as we see in Russia, where a person cannot leave the country without the permission of the Government, which normally is not given. On top of that, we now have very extensive exchange restrictions, under which, even if we get a passport, even if the Government do not forbid us to go, and even if we have the money with which to go, we may not even have any baggage to take with us at the end of it all.
I suggest the Government really do not want powers as wide as these. It will be better to allow some leakage in this Bill, even a modest amount of leakage—and the Financial Secretary did not pretend it 553 would be major. It would be better to have a slight leakage in the Bill, rather than give the Government very wide powers of doing what they like within a very wide area, with no assurance, except a general assurance of their good intentions, that those powers would not be used in some very different way. We have all heard of people not being allowed to take more than one handbag with them when they are transported by Governments from one part of the world to another. Anything of that kind is too restrictive a power to be allowed to a Government. If the Government want to stick in the Bill the sort of things they want to permit, that is another matter, but I do not think they ought to be given these omnibus powers.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
I appeal to the Chancellor, now that he has returned, to see whether he could not give further consideration to this Amendment. The paragraph which we desire to leave out, as it stands, clearly covers a multitude of articles which the Government would not wish to touch. It is open to the most tremendous abuses, and it can be unlimited in its scope. There is no reference to any class of article which may come within its scope; it has no limitation whatever. The first thing I want to ask is whether, in fact, even for the purpose of the Treasury, it is necessary to have this paragraph at all. I understand the need for other paragraphs, dealing largely with such things as documents of title, which clearly would not come under any Board of Trade provision for the control of exports. But when we come to articles such as the Financial Secretary has enumerated, is it not a fact that those articles are, or at any rate could be, if necessary, already controlled under the export licensing provisions of the Board of Trade? In that case, this would be superfluous. Apart from that, I second the appeal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). As we go through this Bill, we begin to wonder why it was necessary to have a Bill of this length at all and why the Government did not simply come down to the Committee with a one Clause Bill, saying that for the purpose of controlling exchange the Treasury can do whatever it likes.
§ Mr. Stanley
That naturally draws cheers from the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife, who on this particular Measure is the most ardent, the most enthusiastic, and, although usually from a recumbent position, the most vociferous supporter of the Treasury. Of course, that appeals to him; that is the kind of legislation he would like. However, I understood that other hon. Members on that side of the Committee at least pretended to share our dislike for that kind of Measure. There is very little difference now between this Bill, with all its facade of Clauses and definitions, and a Bill of that kind, because every Clause contains powers which are so outrageous, giving rise to such anomalies, that the spokesman for the Government cannot possibly defend it, and the answer is, "Oh well, of course that is true, but we are never going to do that. We are going to deal with it quite differently." Would not it be possible on this paragraph to make a start, and to try to limit the powers taken by the Government to what they are actually likely to need? Would it not be possible, under this paragraph, to include some limiting words, such as "valuables, furs," or whatever it may be, which would cover the sort of list which has been in operation for some years, and which, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out, is very unlikely to be extended? Is it too much to ask that, at any rate that safeguard, that check upon these unnecessary powers, should be inserted? I cannot believe that by doing so the Government, the Treasury, or the Exchange Control would in any substantial measure weaken the control which this Clause will give them.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
I think I have a new point for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Financial Secretary. It is this. Looking at Clause 22 it will be noticed, first of all, that there is a very natural desire to prohibit the exportation of the things set out in (1, a) to (1, d); that is to say, notes, Treasury bills, postal orders, and gold We are not to be allowed to export them in any manner; that is to say, we must not post them, we must not ship them, nor must we take them out in any other way, by air or I cannot think of any other way—
§ Mr. Maude
Or by submarine. All methods are closed. The Government are trying to prevent these things—that is to say, Treasury bills, notes, postal orders, gold, etc.—going out. In addition to that, when listening to the Debate this afternoon I realised that the desire of the Government, very understandably, is to prohibit certain other things going out under exactly similar conditions; that is to say, by air, by sea, by post, by ship, and so on. They would include, for instance, pictures, postage stamps, diamond necklaces, and the various other things we have heard referred to today. Why on earth not put them into the Clause? The Committee will see that what they have done is to put in these articles of value, whether gold or platinum and so on, only when exported in a particular kind of way—only when exported on the person of a traveller or in the traveller's baggage.
I know the difficulties of drafting are infinite. Nevertheless, the point seems to me to be a good one. I looked at Clause 23 carefully to see if, in fact, the payment for exports would give the necessary powers, and to see what powers the Government want. They want to prevent people investing all their money, for instance, in postage stamps, or in pictures, and clearing off. It seems to be wise not to take refuge in this easy business of saying certain things are to be prohibited, and leaving it to the Customs and Excise to work out a list. I hope that, between now and the time when the Bill goes to another place, the Government will decide what things they do not want exported, and say so, and put a list into another Subsection.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I cannot help thinking that the Committee is frightening itself unduly, and setting up bogies. As the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) and the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said, it would be possible to put a list into the Bill; but that would be putting it there for as long as the Act subsisted; and it may well be that, as the years go on, things which are now thought proper to prescribe, for the reasons which I have already given, may not then be included in any list that could be used by the Customs and Excise authorities. We do not—and I think that this has been said before—want to put these prohibitions on for the sake of 556 putting them on. They have been put on, or are being put on, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said over and over again, in order to protect at the present, and, as. far as we can see, for some years ahead, the exchange resources of this country. Here in this Clause is listed a series of valuables of one kind or another—currency notes, Treasury notes, postal orders, gold, securities and titles to securities.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As I was saying, there is a list of the more generally known types of security which can be exchanged —I think that there is no difference of opinion in any quarter of the Committee on this—by the holder, if he takes them abroad, for foreign currency; and that, as I think I said—and I do not want to go on repeating myself—would mean putting in the hands of the holder overseas a claim on British exchange resources; and that is something that we should watch and guard against. That is the only reason why this Clause is here.
Let me come to paragraph (f). There are, in addition to the things listed by name, certain other types of valuables which are portable, which can be put into the pocket or a handbag, or into one's baggage, and carried abroad. Baggage is searched, and, if need be, individuals can be searched; but, normally, no one suggests that that should be done, and it is not done, and people come and go. But in this Bill we have to take powers lest they should be necessary, and suspicions are aroused. The powers will be used with the utmost discretion. It is absolutely essential that that power should be there so that we could stop, not the ordinary individual like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol or some other hon. Member opposite, but the person who, quite definitely, would make use of this loophole to carry on a trade between this country and abroad, and to take out a string of pearls, possibly —although there are not so many of them about as all that—or valuable collections of stamps; or. to stop a woman passing in and out of the country day after day in a different fur coat every time; to stop that sort of thing.
§ Mr. Stanley
As I read paragraph (f), the intent does not come into the matter at all. The hon. Gentleman says "people who go out for the purpose of evading." That does not seem to me to come in under (f) at all. In fact, if my hon. Friend went out carrying his gold pencil, without first having asked either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Governor of the Bank of England if he could take it out, and if he were found in possession of it, he would be liable for prosecution under this Clause.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As I say. we are setting up bogies between us. I am not quarrelling about this, but it is a fact that we are making very heavy weather of what is a simple thing. May I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was not so very many years ago that people passed freely out of this country without having to have their baggage searched at all? It was the party opposite that, believing in tariff reform, and objecting to free trade, saw to it that, sooner or later, in some directions, at any rate, baggage had to be searched for things prohibited from coming in. Therefore, if any party is free, in so far as any party is free—except the Liberal Party—I think the occupants of these benches have the right to say that, originally, at any rate, they were the custodians of the right to come and go with whatever one pleased. But the point is that the prohibition is there now,. It was there before the war, and it was there during the war.
The hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) put this question to me. He wanted to know whether this list was the existing list. In actual fact the items I listed are less than the existing list. During the war these things have been exported, where they have been exported legally, under export licences provided and issued by the Board of Trade, and that list, I am glad to think, is being shortened almost daily. We want to see it shortened, as far as we can, consistent with the safety of our exchange position. The list here is the existing list, and it does reinforce, and. in a sense, takes the place of, the licensing which previously has been operated through the Board of Trade. We are not prohibiting these things from being exported. We are not saying that ' in this Clause; we shall come to that in the next Clause. 558 We are not prohibiting people from exporting pictures, as the hon. Gentleman suggested. We are only too pleased if pictures are sent abroad and we get hard currency in exchange for them. We are all for that. All we are here trying to stop is somebody taking something out surreptitiously, which is robbing this country of exchange, enriching someone abroad at the expense of our exchange. I would ask hon. Gentlemen to look at it in that way, and to realise that this is nothing new, and that the articles to be prescribed will be prescribed with discretion. They may vary—I hope they will —as the years go on. To put them into the Bill would be a mistake. Therefore, for all those reasons, I think the wording is correct, and I hope that the Committee will allow us to stick to it.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I really think that the Financial Secretary has not met the point which has been put to him. He has satisfied me, at any rate, that something is needed here. We are not pleading for one moment that this loophole should not be stopped; but that does not in any way justify the words he has put into the Bill for that purpose. There is no reason at all why he should not list in this Clause the things he wishes to stop. I think he has given two reasons, and two reasons only, why he does not wish to list them. The first reason is that he might, by listing them, give them permanence, so that subsequently if he wished to diminish the list he would not be able to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may also conceivably wish to add something to the list in the light of experience. He is being grossly unfair, however, to the Parliamentary draftsmen if he thinks that they would have the least difficulty in accomplishing both those objects by a Clause that did not, as this does, enable him to stop everything. Let me give the sort of words that would do it:Such of the articles, jewellery, stamp collections, pictures … as may from time to time be prescribed, and such further articles of value as may from time to time be prescribed.
§ Mr. Dalton rose—
§ Mr. H. Strauss
May I finish the point first? In that way we should include the articles in the present list; which I am content to leave to the Treasury to operate, as it will no doubt do quite properly 559 and safely, and there will also be power to relax. Additions to the list would not be wholly at the discretion of the Government because, if the Clause were properly drawn, it would be construed by the courts by the ejusdem generis rule, as to whether the articles prescribed were articles of value of the same sort as those enumerated, and that would cover what I think the right hon. Gentleman wishes to put in.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am anxious to understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion. I should have thought that his suggestion would not help his case alt all. As I understand it, in effect he proposes to insert an additional category. He would not in fact get rid of paragraph (f) at all.
§ Mr. H. Strauss rose—
§ Mr. Dalton
May I state what I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say; if I am wrong he will correct me. He would wish to insert these articles which he enumerated, articles of gold or platinum, diamonds, stamp collections, etc., and then he would go on to add "such other articles as may be prescribed from time to time." He would be adding a paragraph (g) as well.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I did not say "and such other articles as may be prescribed." but "such other articles of value," but if the words I proposed are not sufficiently accurate to cover the point I have in mind, the Parliamentary draftsmen will tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is quite simple to set out the sort of things he has at present got on the list and to add a general group by words which would be construed under the ejusdem generis rule to cover other articles so that the list could be varied from time to time. It would not enable him to start doing the sort of lunatic things which I do not suppose he wants to do, but it will not escape the right hon. Gentleman's quick mind that, when my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was suggesting that there might as well have been a one Clause Bill to enable the Treasury to do anything, there was loud applause from the representative of the totalitarian party. This Clause, as it is now in the Bill, could be operated by the totalitarians for 560 the sort of tyranny the totalitarians want. I acquit the Front Bench of wanting anything of the kind, and I cannot see why they axe causing all this suspicion of their actions by insisting on words which they do not need and which would enable them to do things which, if one may judge their intentions from the speeches made so far, they have no intention of doing. Such words as I have suggested, or similar words which may be suggested by the Parliamentary draftsmen, would cover the whole thing quite satisfactorily. I am not arguing against having a paragraph (f). We have no desire whatsoever to leave a loophole which it is in the national interest to stop, but we do not wish to give unnecessary and improper powers which would enable the right hon. Gentleman to do anything, merely on his assurance, which I accept, that he would not make improper use of them.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
In my view there is a lot of unnecessary apprehension about the wording of this Clause. The Clause itself is intended to cover the case of a dishonest person, and not an honest person at all.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If the hon. and learned Member thinks I have been arguing, he is mistaken, for I have not spoken.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I should have said, we were listening to a lot of unsupportable arguments from the Opposition, and, therefore, they ought to listen to some of ours, which are very much better. The point is this. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman who raised this matter that naturally no one who is travelling abroad wants to be disturbed about the mere fact that he is carrying some personal jewellery. That is right, and it would be absurd, and quite wrong, to disturb anybody in that way, but this Clause is not intended to apply to such cases.
§ Mr. Eccles rose—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Do not be in such a hurry; get used to listening for a while. 561 The Clause provides for the case I referred to in the words I will point out in a moment. This particular Clause confers upon the Treasury the right to prescribe a list of things which are to be dealt with under it. That is perfectly clear. In doing that, therefore, it will either be expressly stated that certain things are prohibited, and the mere fact that they are not in the list will show that they are not within the prohibition. It stands to reason that any list of this kind will certainly not include anybody's personal jewellery.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
You cannot use the words "it does" in that way about a thing that is not yet in existence.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The Opposition cannot use the phrase it does about something that is not yet in existence. All I am saying, and I am certain that I shall have the right hon. Gentleman's agreement on this, is that his point is good to this extent—that the Treasury, in dealing with this matter and producing their list, or in using certain words in some document that has to be produced, must be very careful to see that the sort of apprehension the right hon. Gentleman feels about the cases he has in mind is covered, so that this personal and obviously unjustifiable disturbance does not take place.
§ Mr. Stanley
I would point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that we have been told quite categorically by the Financial Secretary that that kind of case will not be covered, and the list, as far as I can make out, does, and will in the future, cover exactly those pieces of personal jewellery to which the hon. and learned Member has referred.
§ Mr. Stanley rose—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The list of prohibited articles has not been issued, the 562 Opposition's time for protest has not arrived yet. I do ask the Opposition to treat this matter seriously. [HON MEMBERS: "We do."] This far-fetched idea that we are to use words in this Clause to include such articles as diamonds and jewellery or something of that kind, and then go on to say "or such other things as may be prescribed," of course, is not draftsmanship at all. The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) knows that it is merely making more confusion, and that it is not clarifying the matter at all. I must say that I listened with surprise to his statement that the doctrine of ejusdem generis would apply. In my view it would not do so in a case of this kind at all. Where you have a recital of specific articles or goods mentioned in a context of this general kind it does not follow that the use of comprehensive general words are to be read ejusdem generis at all. I ask the Committee to reject this Amendment.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I hardly thought that the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) lived up to his usual high standard of argument in what he has just said. As I understand it, there is in existence at present a list of articles, and if I understood the Financial Secretary, it is proposed to prescribe a list of articles at least comparable to that. I fail to see that there is anything in the Clause, or anything in the list, which would prevent an intolerable burden being put upon the bona fide traveller, which I am perfectly certain the Government do not wish. It is in vain that the Government suggest they are aiming only at dishonest travellers, because there is nothing in the Clause which refers to a person's intentions, and there can be nothing in the list, because that power would be ultra vires. The Government are seeking to prevent people converting their money into articles of value and selling them abroad. As I understand it. there is no difference between the two sides, because that is a practice which it is desirable to prevent. Suppose that I went abroad to Paris for a fortnight, or to Switzerland, and I wanted to take a valuable camera or wristwatch in order to enjoy my holiday, or suppose that my wife wanted to have a brooch or a string of pearls to wear on holiday. What can there be in the list, simply from the 563 description of the articles, which would allow the bona fide traveller to take out such articles, and would prevent a man from taking out the same articles for resale? That is what I do not understand.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels rose—
§ Mr. Hogg
I am asking the Government a question. I know that the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester is always anxious to help them, but I would rather have an answer from the Government, although no doubt there will soon be no difference. At present the hon. and learned Member is not on the Front Bench, and I prefer to have an answer to my question from, the Front Bench. Where, in the description of an article, can there be anything which will allow a bona fide traveller to take out an article, and prevent the traveller taking out precisely the same article for resale? It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he desires to stop an undesirable practice, and I sympathise with him in his intention. I see that the right hon. Gentleman is making use of the services of a third Law Officer of the Crown before he has been appointed.
§ Mr. Hogg
How is it possible to specify an article merely by the description, so that it is possible for the bona fide traveller to take it out of the country for the purpose of enjoying his holiday, and, at the same time, prevent a person taking out the same article for the purpose of resale? If it were a camera, there is nothing in the description which could possibly be mentioned, because any article which is permitted to be exported could be taken out of the country by a dishonest person. If it be said that it is intended only to punish the dishonest person, is there anything in the Clause which confines it in that way? However much one may sympathise with the desire of the Government to stop an undesirable practice, one must recognise that we have a duty in this House to the ordinary bona fide person who wants to carry on his ordinary bona fide business. It may well be that although the Government have their eyes on a genuine disease which they are proposing to remedy, it is going to make life intolerable for those who do not suffer from the disease.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I should like to answer the point put by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). Very shortly, the answer is this: We must not make easy the way of transgressors. There are a lot of clever people hanging about who read HANSARD. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I was not particularising locally. There are those who would like to know just how they can defeat this Measure of national financial defence, and many possibilities are ventilated in such a discussion as this. Ingenious legal minds in all parts of the Committee can make play with this and that.
§ Mr. Dalton
We wish to retain the power to drop on crooks, and if we have that power it must be strong and not circumscribed by the introduction of too many qualifying words. There is no essentially new provision here, except that we are putting on to the Statute Book what previously has been in a Defence Regulation. If the hon. Member for Oxford has not travelled abroad recently, any of his honourable Friends who have will be able to reassure him that this is not interpreted by the officers charged with the administration of Defence (Finance) Regulations in a harsh or unreasonable fashion, nor will it be now.
I know that we are apt to ask much when we ask for the confidence of the House too often, but if we fail to justify that confidence there are many methods, from a Vote of Censure downwards according to the gravity of the situation, which may be invoked. We must ask for a very wide discretion here, and particularly in this part of the Bill where crooks and unpatriotic people, advised by highly skilled advisers, are most likely to bore their way through the defences we are seeking to maintain. I must be excused from commenting on any particular suggestions as to how this can be dodged. It is not desirable that there should be too much discussion in public on how the crooks may become more crooked. I must ask the House not to accept this Amendment, for reasons Members will appreciate we cannot go into in more detail.
§ Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)
I apologise to the Committee for not being here for a long time, but I have been on 565 a Committee upstairs. I want to ask the Chancellor—and perhaps he will tell me whether I am right or wrong—a question regarding the exchange position in France. As I understand it, under Treasury regulations a person can take £5 in British Treasury notes to France and, on the black market, sell one of the £1 notes for 700 or 800 francs. This will give—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I fail to see what the hon. Gentleman is now saying has to do with the Amendment.
§ Sir W. Smithers
Then may I raise this point on the Motion that the Clause should stand part of the Bill?
§ Mr. Eccles
I moved this Amendment in a reasonable way, because we on this side felt that certain powers are required. But the Debate has shown that there is a general feeling that these words are too wide. The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) said that the Subsection was designed to cover dishonest persons. We feel that in the process of covering those persons every honest traveller will be stripped. I therefore hope that my hon. Friends will take this Amendment to a Division.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 266; Noes, 124.567
|Division No. 24.]||AYES.||[6.22 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Daggar, G.||Holman, P.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Daines, P.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Horabin, T. L.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||House, G.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hoy, J.|
|Austin, H. L.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Deer, G.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Baird, J.||Delargy, Captain H. J.||Irving, W. J.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Diamond, J.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Barton, C.||Dodds, N. N.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)|
|Battley, J. R.||Donovan, T.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Benson, G.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Berry, H.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Keenan, W.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Dye, S.||Kenyon, C.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Edelman, M.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Kinley, J.|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Fairhurst, F.||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Farthing, W. J.||Leonard, W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Field, Captain W. J.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Follick, M.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Gallacher, W.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Longden, F.|
|Burden, T. W.||Gibbins, J.||Lyne, A. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Gibson, C. W.||McAdam, W.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Gilzean, A.||McAllister, G.|
|Byers, Frank||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Callaghan, James||Goodrich, H. E.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Carmichael, James||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Mack, J. D.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Grey, C. F.||McLeavy, F.|
|Chater, D.||Grierson, E.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Gunter, R. J.||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Guy, W. H.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Coldrick, W.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Collick, P.||Hale, Leslie||Mathers, G.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hall, W. G.||Medland, H. M.|
|Callins, V. J.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Hardy, E. A.||Messer, F.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Harrison, J.||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Haworth, J.||Monslow, W.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Montague, F.|
|Crawley, A.||Hicks, G.||Moody, A. S.|
|Crossman, R, H. S.||Hobson, C. R.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Tiffany, S.|
|Murray, J. D.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Tolley, L.|
|Nally, W.||Royle, G.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Sargood, R.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Scollan, T.||Usborne, Henry|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Segal, Dr. S.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.||Viant, S. P.|
|O'Brien, T.||Sharp, Granville||Wadsworth, G.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Walkden, E.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Walker, G. H.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Simmons, C. J.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Skeffington, A. M.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Skeffington-Lodgs, T. C.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Peart, Capt. T. F.||Snow, Capt. J. W.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Perrins, W.||Solley, L. J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Piratin, P.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Popplewell, E.||Sparks, J. A.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Stamford, W.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Pritt, D. N.||Steele, T.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stephen, C.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Randall, H. E.||Stokes, R. R.||Willis, E.|
|Ranger, J.||Stross, Dr. B.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Rankin, J.||Symonds, A. L.||Woodburn, A.|
|Rees-Williams, D. R.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Woods, G. S.|
|Reeves, J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Yates, V. F.|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Rhodes, H.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Richards, R.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Robens, A.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Thurtle, E.||Mr. Hannan.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Glossop, C. W. H.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Grant, Lady||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Gridley, Sir A.||Rayner, Brig R.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Grimston, R. V.||Reid, Rt. Hon J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Renton, D.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Beechman, N. A.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Ross, Sir R.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Herbert, Sir A. P.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Boothby, R.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hollis, M. C.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Bower, N.||Hope, Lord J.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Howard, Hon. A.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Snadden, W. M.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Spence, H. R.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hurd, A.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Keeling, E. H.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Carson, E.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Challen, C.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P (Monmouth)|
|De la Bère, R.||Macdonald, Sir P. (Is. of Wight)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Turton, R. H.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacLeod, Capt. J.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Marples, A. E.||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Maude, J. C.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Mellor, Sir J.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Gage, C.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||York, C.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Pickthorn, K.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Drewe and Major Conant.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Williams
Before we pass from this Clause, I should like to ask if it is seriously intended to keep in paragraph (c), which has reference to postal orders. We had a warning just now from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he said, with his utmost pomposity, that we must not make easy the way of the transgressor. No one wants to do that. This Clause is not doing that, but it is making almost every human being a possible transgressor. All I am asking is that between now and the Report stage consideration should be given to this paragraph. It prohibits the export of postal orders, which cannot be very much in amount, because if great wads of postal orders were sent abroad notice would be taken of them and the necessary action could be taken. I would ask the Government to look again at this little bit of the Bill to see if it is really necessary to include postal orders, as to do so seems rather ludicrous and absurd.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
I am glad to support the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) in what he has said. I hope that he will be successful in dragging some little concession from the Financial Secretary. It would be out of Order for me to go at any length into paragraph (f), as we have already had a long Debate on that, but I would like to say that I was very disappointed with the way in which the Financial Secretary dealt with it. We are discussing now the whole Clause, so perhaps I may say that I do not think the Financial Secretary was particularly generous in the way in which he dealt with us earlier in the Debate.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will have something to say in reply to the hon. Member for Torquay, and I was endeavouring to show that under this and paragraph (f) the most fussy and unnecessary restrictions are being imposed.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am afraid that the hon. Member is repeating the argument, and I do not see any reason 570 why he should start a Debate on his own account.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I would again ask the Financial Secretary two questions on this Clause to which I did not receive a reply earlier. The first is as to why the exportation of documents that have been cancelled is to be prohibited. As he probably knows, there is a considerable trade in ancient certificates, some of which are, say, 150 years old, which are exported to foreign countries as souvenirs. The Americans pay a very high price for them. It seems to be a pity to make an exclusion under the Bill of documents which could provide currency for us.
My second question relates to paragraph 1 (a), which says:any notes of a class which are or have at any time been legal tender.When I raised this question on another Clause, the answer was that certain notes may or may not be legal tender at any given moment, and the Bank of England may have an obligation to redeem them, even if they were obsolete. There is a considerable trade in very old bank notes as souvenirs, and people outside this country, both in the Dominions and America, collect them. It is a great mistake to put such a phrase as "at any time" into this paragraph, and I should be grateful if the Financial Secretary would look at this between now and Report stage, and see if he cannot substitute some date like 1900. If he would answer those two questions I should be very grateful.
§ Mr. Eccles
The Clause says that no policy of insurance may be exported. There is one class of assurance policy which I think ought to be made an exception. It has now become customary when British engineers and the personnel of companies are operating overseas to take out for those people assurance policies, and we should not like to put anything in the way of the reasonable conditions which British technical personnel have become accustomed to receive when they go abroad to work in foreign countries.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I will answer, first, the question put to me by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles). Life 571 assurance policies are included in this Clause, and. that is done because, in certain conditions, they can be turned into foreign currency. It is possible, if they are exported, to assign them to another individual, or to sell them for cash before their due date. Therefore, in order to stop up all loopholes, it was thought fit and proper to include those policies. At the same time, in the case of a policy of the sort which the hon. Member envisaged, which I gather is quite legal and proper, nothing would be done to prevent such a transaction from taking place. All that a person would have to do would be to go to the proper authorities and tell them what he wanted to do, and if the transaction was legal and proper, they would give him full permission to do it. The provisions of this Bill are very drastic, but unfortunately, they are essential in the present troubled state of the world. We want to use the powers conferred with the utmost discretion, and to try, if we can, to see that they do not hurt any person going on his lawful occasions.
The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) asked about bank notes. I do not know whether he was in the Committee when I answered that question when it was put by another hon. Member. The hon. and gallant Member has asked the question in reverse, but the answer, of course, is the same. I tried to explain that the reason we want to prevent the importation of sterling notes is that it is a corollary to the prohibition of their export, and that if we allow them to go out it means that black marketeers will find a method of getting them in. The same thing applies to bank notes. I would add that where the bank notes are so old that they become valuable not because they are currency, but because they are things of interest either to a museum or a collector, they enter an entirely different realm, which is covered by Clause 23. They become articles for sale, and they cease to be money in the strict sense, and we would be only too glad if someone possessing such things found a buyer in the United States. We would do everything we could to assist him, so that the things would go to America and we would get dollars in exchange.
572 Of course, postal orders are small things. They axe included under one of the Defence Regulations, and we have continued the ban in this Clause. Postal orders have a short life of three months, and they are not negotiable, and therefore, they do not come into the same category as some of the other securities, but, here again, there is a loophole, and we see no reason for not including postal orders under the present Clause. Some people might want to send them abroad, but, on the other hand, facilities for sending abroad foreign money orders are quite good. All people have to do is to go to a post office, and the control between the post office and the Bank of England acts very well. Anybody who wants to send money in the form of a foreign money order can do so with the utmost facility. I hope that with these explanations the Committee will agree to this Clause standing part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Assheton
Would the Financial Secretary be good enough to refer to the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) about documents, including any document that has been cancelled?
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I am not quite happy about the answer which the Financial Secretary has given in regard to insurance policies, which is a much more important question than he realises. I feel that it would be possible to do something to cover legitimate cases which arise when people are sent overseas. I am anxious to protect British employees. What would happen is that the man would proceed overseas and the insurance would be effected at one of the offices in other parts of the world from funds standing there, which, instead of their coming to England, could be used for that purpose. I am most anxious that nothing should be done which would put anything in the way of our extending insurance to men who are sent overseas. I hope the Financial Secretary will have this matter looked into with a view to covering it.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I can give an assurance now, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that we are very willing to look into this matter. I would, however, add that we have looked into the matter already, and we have been in touch with the life assurance offices on the matter. The hon. Member will see that when we reach Clause 28, which deals with this particular type of security, there are on the Order Paper certain Amendments on which a discussion can take place, if hon. Members are so minded. I will, in addition, call my right hon. Friend's attention to what has been said. I can assure the Committee that all legitimate transactions will be allowed, and that every facility will be given for them.
The right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) suggested that I had not answered the question about cancelled documents. I have dealt with it, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was not in the Committee when I did so. The reason we have included them is that, here again, there is a loophole. It would be possible for a person to connive with a resident abroad who might have bearer securities. If he had a security registered in his name, and he wanted in some way to obtain the cash or to get the security back to this country, one way of doing so would be for him, with the connivance of a friend in this country, to inform the registrar that the certificate had been lost, perhaps during the troubles in Germany, or when the war reached a certain town in Italy, and to get the registrar, on declarations and affidavits made, to issue a new certificate, which could be issued in the name of a person here quite easily. [Interruption.] One could have cancelled certificates of that kind. It could be assumed that the certificate was cancelled abroad, or it could have been lost or damaged in some way or another.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
Is the Financial Secretary asserting that when a certificate is cancelled, it can once again be encashed? He must know also that in fact before a certificate or bearer bond can be paid, not only an assurance must be given that the document was genuinely lost, but a guarantee must be given to the company—and the guarantee must come from a responsible financial institution—that in the case of any fraudulent transaction, the person who pays can recover.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
All that is true, and the person giving the assurance would be only too willing to do so, because he would be one of the parties to the fraud. I do not say this sort of thing would happen often. One could get cancelled documents as between one registry abroad and another here, in the case of a company which perhaps operated in South Africa and also had a London office. All sorts of transactions are possible. I will not particularise, because these things are technical, and one does not want to go into them, and nor, indeed, am I the best person to go into them; but I am assured by my advisers that these words are essential, that there are transactions of this kind which could take place, that the things could be declared to have been cancelled abroad, burned, or destroyed in some way, which made it essential that a new certificate should be issued here in London and that the new certificate of the registrar here would rely on a declaration which might in various particulars not be correct.
There might, for example, be resident here in this country a man who is not an Englishman or not of our nationality in the strict sense of the word—and this thing does not go by race; we are not dealing with nationalities throughout the Bill but with areas—who had securities in this country and oh going abroad was anxious to get them out or transfer them to someone- else in this country. Many of these methods I am told can be adopted and we want, if we can, to prevent them.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Does the Financial Secretary suggest that a used cancelled certificate should be used in any sense to obtain a new certificate, because the object in company law of cancelling a certificate is to render it null and void, and it is of no use to anyone unless to the bearer for sentimental or some such reason? I suggest that the Clause should be taken out of the Bill, because there is no point in having it there. When the Financial Secretary was speaking on the last Clause he touched on other questions and I followed his arguments, but I appreciate that they do not apply to the cancelled certificate. Once a certificate is cancelled it is of no value whatever, and I suggest that if the Government think that a cancelled certificate, cancelled on the main register in South Africa, is going to be of any value to the London Registrar in issuing a new 575 one, that is sheer nonsense. Their only value is in export, and that is what is prevented under this Clause.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I am not sure whether I ought to be pleased or sorry with the Financial Secretary. I think he could have accepted—and I will not venture the arguments over again—my suggestion to get out of the postal order difficulty. He has now helped me still further by giving me an explanation which makes it even more ridiculous than ever. The Financial Secretary said he wanted to stop up a bolt hole. In point of fact, he is shutting up something infinitely more minute than a pin hole. We have had the refusal of the Government to meet it, and this is one of the most marvellous illustrations of the desire of the Government to control even a few shilling postal orders moving freely out of this country. While this remains in this Bill it is simply and purely an illustration of how the Government really confine our movements in every way.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
Unfortunately I could not be here all the time and so I did not hear all of the reply, but might I ask whether an explanation has been given as to whether personal articles like watch chains and so on can be prescribed?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
I do apologise, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could tell us if, in fact, that can be done or whether the Government are willing to do so?
§ Mr. Dalton
I apologise to hon. Gentlemen who have heard the previous discussion. Any of these things might be prescribed, and the reason for keeping the power to prescribe is in order that we may catch crooks. The great majority of innocent people will be able to pass quite freely, but there is a minority guilty of unpatriotic attempts to diddle their country and we are going to catch them.
§ Mr. Assheton
I should like to express to the Financial Secretary my regrets that he has not been able to satisfy me with regard to cancelled documents, and I would ask him to look into the matter again before the Report stage, when it may be possible for him to come forward with a suggestion for alternation.
§ Mr. J. Foster
There are a number of administrative exceptions which are granted under the corresponding Regulation No. 3 of the Finance Regulations. One point is that the Isle of Man is not in the United Kingdom, and I believe that there is a provision for allowing through export of these things to the island.
§ Mr. Foster
When the Chancellor comes to Clause 31 perhaps he will deal with that and also with the large number of things granted exception not by Treasury Order but by permission of the Bank of England. For instance, one is the sending of postal orders to the sterling area for civilians only. I would ask the Chancellor when he comes to the financial statement to go into details like that under this Clause as shown on page 30 of Howard on the Defence (Finance) Regulations.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.