[SIR ARCHIBALD WILLIAMSON in the Chair.]
|REGULATIONS CONTINUED FOR TWELVE MONTHS AFTER THE TERMINATION OF THE PRESENT WAR.|
|Number of Regulation.||Subject Matter.||Limitations, Qualifications, and Modifications subject to which extension is made.|
|14 H||Restriction on the use of assumed names.|
|15 C||Power to require particulars as to businesses.|
|17||Suspension of restriction on powers of making byelaws.|
|21 A||Provisions for the protection of homing pigeons.||Except paragraph (c).|
|27||Spreading prejudicial reports.||So far as relates to the reports and statements mentioned in paragraph (d) thereof.|
|28 A||Power to prohibit persons entering on Government property, &c.||Except subsection (1).|
|30||Restriction on manufacture, sale, &c, of arms, ammunition and explosives.|
|30 A||Restriction on dealings in war material.|
|30 BB||Restriction on dealings in interests in mines and oilfields.||Except the paragraphs (i) and (iii).|
|30 E, 30 EE, 30 EEE.||Provisions as to coinage and bullion.|
|30 F||Restrictions on new capital issues.|
|31||Restriction on import and removal of arms, ammunition and explosives.|
|33||Restriction on possession of explosives and highly inflammable liquids.|
|33 A||Restriction on the carrying of arms.|
|34||Provisions as to the storage of petroleum and other highly inflammable liquids.|
|35 A||Power to make rules for the securing of safety of factories, &c.|
|36, 36A and 37.||Control of navigation.|
|37 A||Duty of provision of signalling apparatus on ships.|
|37 B||Duty of providing wireless telegraph apparatus' on ships.|
|37 C||Provisions for securing the safety of ships.|
|37 D||Birth qualifications for masters of British ships.|
|38||Power to prohibit vessels entering or being in dangerous areas.|
|39||Provisions as to the pilotage of ships.|
|39 A||Provisions as to the discipline of crews of ships belonging to or requisitioned by Government Departments.|
|39 BB||Power to increase dock charges.||As if the words "for the successful "prosecution of the war" were omitted therefrom.|
|39 BBB||Powers of shipping controller.|
The CHAIRMAN: Before commencing business this morning I would like to mention to the Committee that I have received a message to say that it is very desirable to conclude the proceedings on this Bill as soon as possible, because the adjournment of the House depends to a considerable extent upon our concluding our proceedings. It would, I understand, be impossible to adjourn without passing this Bill because if it were likely, as seems possible, for the ratification of Peace to take place before the House met again, there would be a hiatus during which some of these powers, which no one desires to have removed, would cease to be operative. I understand I 872 am expressing the position correctly, and for that reason it is desirable, where there are points not of very great substance, not to speak at undue length upon them, but to raise the more important points. I cannot of course in any way say more to the Committee than this. Those are the facts, and it is in the hands of Members how long the speeches may be. It is the duty of the Chairman merely to keep order.
Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS: On that point I would like to call attention to a document which I received this morning, evidently from the Government Whip's Office. 873 "Standing Committee C.—You are specially requested to attend above at 11 o'clock Wednesday in order to endeavour to bring, the Committee stage on the War Emergency Laws (Continuance) Bill to a conclusion." What is the meaning of that? Is it the intention of the Government to burke discussion on this Bill, and to prevent us giving full consideration to it, or why have they issued that Whip? How can Members of the Government party influence this Committee to bring the discussion to a conclusion? I do not want to obstruct, and I am prepared to sit from now continuously until the Bill is finished in Committee. But I venture to enter a protest against the Government Whip's instruction to the Committee that they are to endeavour to bring the Bill to a conclusion before half-past one o'clock. It is not giving us a fair or adequate opportunity of discussing very important provisions. For instance, the power of arrest and the power of search have not yet been discussed. We are touching upon only two of the fundamental provisions of the Bill, and to ask the Government supporters to come here, evidently to burke discussion, is really not fair.
The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid the point of order raised by the hon. and gallant Member is one I cannot deal with, as the sending of circulars to Members is not a matter in my power.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: The Chairman apparently wants to bring the discussion to a conclusion.
The CHAIRMAN: I would call attention to the fact that I have made no ruling at all. I only brought the facts to which my notice has been directed to the attention of the Committee, but it is not my duty to limit the discussion in any way.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I have never heard any Chairman so direct a Committee, and I have been a member of the House for 14 years.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 14 H. Under this Regulation no naturalised alien can change his name. It must be understood that the non-naturalised alien has not been able to change his name in any case since the war began. This Regulation merely applies to the naturalised alien, a man who is a British subject; and it states that no man, after some date in August, 1918, shall be allowed to change his name. Now these 874 men have been naturalised under certain conditions. There has been a bargain. When they took up British citizenship, it may be 20 or 30 years ago, they undertook certain obligations to the British Crown, and the British Crown undertook certain obligations to them, one of them being that, after being naturalised, they should be treated like any other British subject, and have the full rights of British citizenship. Under this Regulation, for reasons which have not been made clear to the House or to the Committee, one class of British subject is deprived of a right to change his name which a British-born subject retains. So that a British-born subject called Levinstein can change his name to Lyonstein, but if he happens to have been naturalised, and thereby acquired all the rights of every other British citizen, he alone is singled out and deprived of his right to change his name. Then, under this Regulation, exemptions can be obtained from the Home Office, and altogether there are only 300 people whose right to change their name has been refused, so that we are legislating for the smallest possible number of people, and, at the same time, we are committing an injustice, because we are upsetting the promise made to them when naturalised. And what is the danger concerned? We know that there has been recently a passionate storm of hate raised against any man with an alien name, and I think we have seen that fire dying out. When the Aliens Bill got to the House of Lords, even that reactionary Chamber stripped it of all its offensive features. I do think we might try to prevent ourselves being treated over this Bill by the House of Lords in the same way that they have treated—and justifiably treated—the House of Commons over the Aliens' Restriction Bill. I submit that to pass a solemn Act of Parliament to deal with 300 exceptional cases, to deal with men who are British subjects, and who have become British subjects, on a bargain of which they have kept their side, and of which we are not keeping our side, would be a lamentable thing to do, and we ought to protest against the continuance of this Regulation.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir Gordon Hewart): I can put in a sentence or two, I think, what needs to be said with reference to this Regulation. It is important to the whole community, from the point of view of national defence. It is important because it enables the authorities to identify individuals who may be desirous of concealing their identity. As the Members of 875 the Committee are aware, this Regulation has been in force for a considerable time during the war, and if it suddenly ceased to be operative the effect would be that naturalised subjects, who, so far, have been refused permission to change their names. would immediately be able to do so, and all the work of investigation placed upon the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the War Office would simply be thrown away. It is said that the number of persons to whom this may relate is no more than three hundred. I do not know where that figure comes from.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Three hundred have been refused.
Sir G. HEWART: I do not know where that figure comes from. I do not know whether it means that three hundred persons have asked and been refused.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Yes.
Sir G. HEWART: That is very different from the statement that this Regulation only affects three hundred persons, because there may be a large unascertained number of persons who may be within the aggregate, and who have not thought it worth their while to make an application. No, this is a modest and necessary Regulation, and I hope it may be continued.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: May I point out, to begin with, that there is one grave defect in this Regulation as far as I can see? It does not prevent foreigners who are naturalised with foreign names from trading under assumed names by simply turning their businesses into companies.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Or transferring them to their sons.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Or, as my hon. and gallant Friend says, transferring their businesses to their sons, and remaining in control. I do not use too strong a word, after the speech of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords yesterday, when I say I suppose some of the hate-mongers are objecting to the trading activities of foreigners in this country. It is, I suppose, the high-protectionist ultra-nationalist feeling, but this Regulation will not prevent foreigners in this country with foreign names calling their business the "British Empire Production Co., Ltd.," or something of that sort, and, therefore, the object will be defeated. Furthermore, the learned Attorney-General said 876 that this was necessary for defence. I am glad to see his colleague from the Admiralty here. He will bear me out in this that no spy or agent over here calls himself by a German, an American, or a Japanese name. He calls himself by the most English, Scottish or Irish name he can get hold of, and it is quite simple for a highly organised espionage service to supply false papers and let their people disappear in the populations of our great cities. You are not going to get at the spy at all; he is not so foolish as to call himself Schleseiner or Osaki or anything like that. On the other hand, it does make unhappy and miserable the lives of many people who have a very thin time in this country—undeservedly, in many cases, because they have been quite loyal to this country. It is going to make their lives a little more pitiable in the future, when all this feeling against our late enemies and all foreigners ought to be dying down. And may I point out that the aristocratic alien, even of former enemy birth, is allowed to change his name? You get that very gallant admiral, Prince Louis of Battenberg, changing his name to Mountbatten. I am very glad indeed. I have served under him, and have a great admiration for him. And you have the Schleswigs and Tecks changing their names, but you prevent a like privilege to their humbler fellow-citizens of the same race, because they have not influential connection or, possibly, great wealth.
Captain BOWYER: May I make an appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman? In one or two cases, of which I happen to know, men who are saddled with unfortunate names have fought with great distinction in the British Army, and are now-deprived of the opportunity, so long as this Regulation stands, of changing their names. I know one particular case of a family in which a brother was recommended for the V.C., and was killed, and there were three other brothers, all of whom received either the Military Cross or the D.S.O., and they have a name which, for the moment, pervents them from succeeding in business. That seems to me a stigma which ought to be removed.
Sir G. HEWART: There is under the Regulation a quite unlimited power of exemption— "The Secretary of State may, if it appears desirable in any particular ease, grant an exemption from the provisions of this Regulation," and precisely to the extent to which the cases, to which reference has been made, are 877 hard cases, they are cases to which that exception may well be able to be applied. Of course, it is not for me, even if I could, to limit the discretion of those who have to determine these matters, but I cannot imagine that in a really deserving case the application would be likely to be refused. With reference to what was said a moment ago, I do mot want to dwell unduly upon the matter, but the experience of the War Office is that spies have been caught in almost every case during this war under foreign names.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I could wish there had been a representative from the Home Office here to explain how it is that the permission to assume an English name adds to the dangers of the country now that we are in a time of peace. If you want to consider the country's interests, I believe they would be better considered by the advantage that comes from a man with a foreign name and foreign antecedents identifying himself with the British race by being able to take a British name. Everyone knows that the name you go by has a great influence: it may be on the first generation, but certainly on the second or third generation. A man with an English name in the third generation would become absolutely
|Division No. 12.]||AYES|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick||Hacking, Captain||Macnamara, Dr.|
|Bennett, Mr.||Hewart, Sir Gordon||Matthews, Mr.|
|Birchall, Major||Jones, Sir Evan||Scott, Sir Samuel|
|Bowyer, Captain||Kerr-Smiley, Major||Sturrock. Mr.|
|Brassey, Major||McLean, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||White, Lieut.-Colonel Dalrymple|
|Galbraith, Mr.||Irving, Mr.||Wedgwood, Colonel|
|Henderson, Mr. Arthur||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Williams, Colonel Penry|
Sir F. BANBURY: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 15 C.
Sir G. HEWART: It is necessary for a time to continue this Regulation for this reason. Various liquidations are taking place in the case of contractors who have supplied the Ministry of Munitions with goods that the Ministry required for the war, and it is necessary that for a short time the Ministry of Munitions should be at liberty, as they are now, to go into the contractor's books for the purpose of verifying the cost of production of articles already supplied to the Ministry.
Captain BOWYER: I shall not move the next Amendment on the Paper if I can put my point briefly now. Under this Regulation any of the four Government Depart-878
identified with the people of this country, whereas, if he continued to bear a Jewish or a German name, he would still have leanings towards and connections with the country of his origin. The best thing we can do is to amalgamate the aliens and absorb them as we have done in the centuries past. The other day I received a pathetic note from a Jew whose name was something like "Wine-and-whisky." He wrote to say that he so much admired my attitude in the House of Commons that he had decided to take the name of Wedgwood, and he signed his name "Isaac Wedgwood." Obviously he was most illiterate and had just come here from Poland. I wish that man were allowed to take my name of Wedgwood, because I am quite certain that if he were allowed to take that name he would be a better citizen of this Commonwealth than if he were known as "Wine-and-whisky." In any case his children and grandchildren would be better citizens for having that name. I have no objection to the whole of the Jews in the East End taking my name if they look after it as well as I do myself.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
The Committee divided: Ayes 16, Noes 6.
ments concerned can ask any question of any firm on any matter. If one turns to Regulation 2 JJJ, one gets some hint of the way in which information so received will be tested, because it contains these words: "For the purpose of testing the accuracy of any return made to the Board under this Regulation, or of obtaining information in the case of failure to make a return or to give any prescribed notice, any person authorised in that behalf by the Board may enter any premises belonging to or in the occupation of the person who has made or has failed to make the return."
So that making a return will not save you from invasion by Government officials. It is specifically stated in Regulation 15 C that any of these four Departments "may require any such particulars to be verified as they may direct."879
Reading those words with 2 JJJ, it does not require any great stretch of imagination to imagine that they would be applicable under this Regulation. By the Amendment, which stands next on the Paper, I propose to limit the application of this Regulation by inserting in the third column of the Schedule the words: "So far as may be necessary in respect of any contract entered into during the war, or so far as may be necessary for the purposes of the Regulations continued by this Act." I suggest to the Attorney-General that that is a very reasonable Amendment, and will satisfy what the Government want.
Sir F. BANBURY: I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, in order that the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend may be moved.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Captain BOWYER: I beg to move in Regulation 15 C, column 3, to insert the words "So far as may be necessary for respect of any contract entered into during the war, or so far as may be necessary for the purposes of the Regulations continued by this Act."
Sir G. HEWART: I think I can meet my hon. and gallant Friend and, indeed, go a little further. I am not sure that the second alternative in his Amendment is necessary. If we say, "So far as may be necessary in respect of any contract entered into during the war," and the remaining words are left out, the matter would be still more simple.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: In Regulation 15 C, in column 3, insert the words "So far as may be necessary in respect of any contract entered into during the war."—[Capt. Bowyer.]
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 17. I do this in order to ask for an explanation.
Sir G. HEWART: This Regulation is necessary because under the Military Lands Acts, 1892-1900, the Secretary of State for War can, by a procedure which is prescribed in those Acts, make bye-laws for regulating the use of military lands and for securing the public against danger from that use, together with power to prohibit all intrusions on the land. There are various safeguards in those Acts. For example, my hon. and gallant Friend is aware that no bye-law 880 shall prejudicially affect any right of common and matters of that kind. It is necessary for a time at any rate that this power to make bye-laws should continue.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: If this Regulation were omitted, would it hasten the removal of these camps and prevent them going on indefinitely?
Sir G. HEWART: No, Sir. I cannot imagine that any person is retaining a camp unnecessarily for the purpose of making bye-laws.
Sir F. BANBURY: This matter is somewhat confused. We ought to know what we are doing. The Regulation says: "The restriction on the power to make bye-laws under the Military Lands Acts, 1892 to 1903, imposed by the following provisions of the Military Lands Act, 1892, that is to say, the proviso to sub-section (1) of section fourteen, section sixteen, and sub-section (1) of section seventeen of that Act, and by the following provisions of the Military Lands Act, 1900, that is to say, the provisoes to sub-section (2) of section two, and sub-section (3) of section two of that Act, are hereby suspended." So that apparently the bye-laws under all these numerous provisions are suspended.. The Regulation goes on to say: "and the powers of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State to make bye-laws under the said Acts shall extend to the making of bye-laws with respect to land of which possession has been taken under these Regulations." If these bye-laws have been suspended, how can they be extended to something else? It is an extraordinarily confused matter, and I would ask for some explanation.
Sir G. HEWART: With great respect the right hon. Baronet has failed to observe that what is suspended is not the bye-law, but the restriction on the power to make bye-laws. The effect, therefore, is that so long as this Regulation remains there is power to make these bye-laws without the limitation contained in those Acts. For example, it is not possible under those Acts to make-a bye-law which interferes with any highway, unless it is made with the consent of the highway authority. These bye-laws are desirable in order to secure the safety of the public passing along the highway. That, I understand, is one of the commonest purposes of the bye-laws. Again, under the Acts as they stand, no bye-law may affect any public right along the foreshore unless made with certain consents. The object of the Regulation is to get rid of these restrictions 881 or rather to continue the absence of those restrictions in the way we have known during the war.
Sir G. HEWART: I beg to move, after Regulation 17, to insert "18 A.—Prohibition on communications with agents of foreign powers." Regulation 18 A has to do with communications with agents of foreign powers. That Regulation, as no doubt the Committee is aware, was amended a few days ago so as to substitute the term "foreign agent" for the term "enemy agent," the term "enemy agent "being likely to become very soon obsolete. The fact is that the Regulation was found necessary at the commencement of the war because at that time the only legislative prohibition against espionage was that contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1911. It was very soon found that these provisions were inoperative against the rapid, ingenious development of enemy methods. In order to deal with these methods Regulation 18 A was provided, and has from time to time been successively amended. I am told that practically every foreign agent who was convicted and executed during the war had brought himself within the provisions of Regulation 18 A. It is entirely unsafe to assume that, although actual hostilities are over, foreign powers have ceased to employ agents for the collection of confidential information which vitally affects the security of this country or of their own country. On the contrary, I am told that definite information is in the possession of the Executive that there is no cessation of these dangerous activities, and, accordingly, it is desired to continue Regulation 18 A in its amended form relating to foreign agents until the time comes when we can deal, as we hope to deal, with the matter in permanent legislation.
Sir F. BANBURY: This is an extension of the Bill. I presume that it is done because information has recently come into "the hands of the Government which requires that this extension should be made. Is that Tight?
Sir G. HEWART indicated assent.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: While desiring to strengthen the hands of the Government in connection with foreign espionage, it seems to me that this Regulation is very wide. Does it refer only to 882 naval and military secrets? Will the proposed legislation be an amendment of the Naval and Military Secrets Act? The words "communication with foreign agents" are very wide. Is it only aimed at naval and military espionage or the collecting of details about the armed forces of this country?
Sir G. HEWART: I must not, even if I could, by words limit the operations of Regulation 18 A. The words of it are perfectly clear. If the hon. Member would be good enough to refer to them he will see that Regulation 18 A provides that where a person without lawful authority or excuse has been in communication with a foreign agent, and is subsequently found within the United Kingdom, he shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations unless he proves that he did not know and had no reason to suspect that the person with whom he was communicating or attempting to communicate was a foreign agent. In other words, if a man has been in communication elsewhere with someone whom we know to be a foreign agent, and then comes here and has communication in this country with another person, he is deemed to be guilty of an offence unless he can show that he is not guilty of the offence. For that purpose the person shall, unless he proves to the contrary, be deemed to be in communication with a foreign agent, if he has either within or without the United Kingdom visited the address of a foreign agent or consorted with him, or if, either within or without the United Kingdom, the name or address or any other information regarding a foreign agent has been found in his possession or has been supplied by him to any other person or has been obtained by him from any other person. There is a definition of foreign agent, and further provisions which I need not read. No doubt in practice, as has been suggested, the subject-matter of the communication which it is hoped to make more difficult, if not absolutely to prevent, is subject-matter relating to naval and military topics, but I am by no means prepared to say that that exhausts the whole field of the kind of communication with foreign agents which it may be necessary to prevent.
Colonel WILLIAMS: I am sorry the Attorney-General has not given more detailed explanation why this Regulation should have been included in the Bill at a somewhat late hour.
Sir G. HEWART: It would have been in at the beginning if we had not then enter- 883 tained the hope that before the House rises we should be able to pass the Official Secrets Bill: If that Bill had been passed it would not have been necessary to put in this Regulation. That Bill cannot be passed yet. Therefore the Regulation becomes necessary.
Colonel WILLIAMS: The Attorney-General has given no explanation why this Regulation is necessary after the conclusion of the war. If it be necessary in peace time, then surely it was necessary before the war. It may be necessary to introduce legislation such as he has indicated for continuance after the war, but it is unjustifiable to continue this Regulation, which was undoubtedly valuable in war time, for the mere purpose of facilitating new legislation, which perhaps the House in ordinary circumstances would not be prepared to pass. We have had no explanation why, now peace is signed, this Regulation is necessary. We have had no definition of what is a foreign agent. It may be that a man would get into trouble under this Regulation because he has conducted a bona-fide business negotiation with a man who during the war was employed by one of the enemy Governments. He may not visit his address or he may not be seen to consort with him. The inclusion of this Regulation is entirely unnecessary. If the Government want fresh legislation let them come to the House for it. This is one of the typical cases of carrying on war legislation during peace time, and I object to it.
Sir G. HEWART: I did not read the whole of the Regulation. I thought I was safe in not doing so; but it seems I was not. The old Regulation contains a definition of an enemy agent. The new Regulation contains a like definition—it is not altered in substance—of the term "foreign agent"— "The expression 'foreign agent' includes any person who is, or has been, or is reasonably suspected of being, or having been, employed by a foreign power directly or indirectly for the purpose of committing an act either within or without the United Kingdom prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State."
Colonel WILLIAMS: Supposing Herr Ballin had been alive to-day. He was undoubtedly employed by the German Government during the war. Would it be an offence for anyone to conduct and negotiate business with him in a shipping transaction?
Sir G. HEWART: I am not prepared to express an opinion about that gentleman without having all the materials before me.884
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: This Regulation is much too wide and dangerous. The word "interests" may cover anything. It may be used in all sorts of ways quite unnecessarily, and have nothing to do with the naval and military forces of the country. I protest against the way this is being rushed through the Committee, and against the evils outside that may accrue from such a Regulation.
Colonei WEDGWOOD: I hope the Committee understand that this Regulation does not deal with Germans simply; it deals with any foreign powers. I am confident that this new Regulation has been brought forward at the instigation of the Secret Police of the Home Office in order to deal with what they call Bolshevik agents in this country. It will be seen that the wording of the Regulation deals precisely with this class. Any one of us who has met Mr. Litvinoff at the 1917 Club may well come within this Regulation. You entrust absolute authority to the Secret Service and allow them to deal with anyone who communicates with "any person who is reasonably suspected of being, or having been, employed by a foreign Government for the purpose of committing an act within or without the United Kingdom prejudicial to the safety or interest of the State." Such a person would be deemed to be guilty of a contravention of these Regulations. We know what these Regulations are. They include everything under the sun. We are deliberately saying that anyone who has, perfectly unwittingly, dealing with any Russians who may be suspected of Bolshevik sympathies is committing an offence and may be penalised under this Regulation. It would be calamitous if we were to allow that sort of legislation to go through without entering a strong protest against it.
Mr. A. HENDERSON: I wish to associate myself with those who are making a protest against the widening of this form of legislation. When we have it broadened to the extent explained this morning, how are we to know that we are not doing something that may be considered by someone prejudicial to certain interests? I have had a little experience of this sort of thing. I have had a little experience of the secret spying system that has been set up officially in this country. With a few of my colleagues I went to an international conference recently. I went with the consent of H.M. Government. I obtained the passports that were necessary from the Government. I took no. steps to arrange the conference until I had 885 informed the Government. Yet in spite of all this what did we find? The Committee will probably be not only interested but amused to know what our experience was. After the conference closed a representative from the Berne Police came to see me and said that a considerable number of documents had been found in the streets. I asked if I could see the documents and he said, "Yes." I said, "Are there any more?" and he said, "Yes, we have quite a number at the Police Office." I said, "Can we have them?" and he said, "Yes." A number that they had opened merely contained copies of the resolutions that had been agreed upon at the conference, but when he brought the remainder and I opened them five were the reports of a spy sent officially by the spy department of the Government.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: The British Government?
Mr. HENDERSON: By the British Government. One of the reports from this spy was to Sir Basil Thomson, who is the head of that Department; one was to a Chief of Police in London, or at any rate to one of the heads of the police, Chief Superintendent Brian; and two were to the head of the Police Department or the Detective Department which was then at the Hotel Majestic in Paris. I did not know what to do with these reports when they came to my notice, but I decided to take notes of them and then I sent them to the Minister at Berne and asked him to be good enough to forward them to those to whom they were addressed, with my compliments, and to say that they had been handed to me by the Berne Police. I thought it was the best thing to do with them. If we go to an international conference, not for the purpose of inciting to mischief, but in order to bring the peoples of the world together on such a basis that mischief will be altogether unnecessary, we shall come under this Regulation, as I have heard it explained this morning. We are in touch with foreign agents sent by the peoples they represent to this international conference, and yet under the spying system, such as I have described this morning, we are exposed to the dangers of being, I suppose, arrested, or something of the kind, because we have been in touch with these people. It does seem to me necessary that the Attorney-General should reconsider the widening of this Regulation. If further measures are necessary they should not be brought forward in a Bill like this which is so difficult to understand. We had 886 a clause read by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Frederick Banbury) a few moments ago, and he had to be corrected by the Attorney-General. If the right hon. Member for the City of London has to be corrected in these matters, what about the poor helpless amateurs, the workmen in the street, or the representatives who go to the international conferences?
Sir G. HEWART: They know when they are doing wrong.
Mr. HENDERSON: You read out the words "prejudicial to the interests of the country." How am I to know when someone may be considered to be acting prejudicially to the country?
Sir G. HEWART: The right hon. Gentleman forgets that the foundation of the whole matter is "communication with a foreign agent without lawful authority or excuse."
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: What does that mean?
Sir G. HEWART: It means exactly what it says.
Mr. HENDERSON: I have lawful authority or excuse if I get passports from the British Government to go to an international conference. I do not know the people who are coming to an international conference. I can only hope they are as honest as myself, but I cannot do more than that, and still I have to be spied upon. It is this spying system which is being set up under this form that is the danger. Most of those spied upon were Members of this House, and are we to be subjected to it to a greater degree by the broadening of this form of legislation? I appeal to the Attorney-General. If the language be not wide enough as it is, let the Government proceed by legislation and have the matter brought before the House and discussed openly, and let them say that they still want powers against even Members of this House, who are being spied upon in the way I have stated.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Can we have an assurance that the insertion of this Amendment has not been asked for by Sir Basil Thomson and the Secret Police? What are the Government driving at by putting this power in? We are afraid it is being put in at the instigation of Sir Basil Thomson and the Secret Police. If it be intended merely to be used against German spies, well and good, let us have it. If it is going 887 to be used against people who have advanced political ideas in any other continental country, and who may be deemed to be acting "prejudicially to the interests of this country," leave out Regulation 21 A.
Sir G. HEWART: This proposal deserves to be considered on its merits, and it would have been no worse if it had been recommended by Sir Basil Thomson, who had nothing whatever to do with it. It comes, and comes only, from the War Office.
Amendment agreed to.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 21 A. Are homing pigeons suspected of being a means of communication with Bolshevists, or what is the object of the Regulation?
Sir F. BANBURY: Is it necessary now that we have peace to continue this Regulation? I have never kept a homing pigeon, but many people do, and why should they have to go to the police?
Sir G. HEWART: This Regulation 21 A has been greatly relied on by the Air Force for the carrying of messages, and in some cases air machines which have fallen into the sea have been able to communicate their whereabouts by sending messages by pigeons, and in that way many lives have been saved.
Lieut.-Colonel D. WHITE: There is a very large amount of flying done in my constituency, and I know that those engaged iu it hope that this Regulation will be continued, because otherwise they would suffer great loss if irresponsible people were not prevented from interfering with the pigeons.
Colonel WILLIAMS: It is an offence now to shoot a homing pigeon, and I believe it is actionable and that the owner can obtain damages in the Civil Court. Is not that enough protection?
Amendments made: Leave out Regulation 27.—[Sir F. Banbury.]
Leave out Regulation 28 A.—[Sir G. Hewart.]
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 30. I do so in order to get an explanation as to its meaning.
Sir G. HEWART: I am sorry the representative of the Home Office is not able to be present, as he has been detained on important business. He has sent me a communication and, as I understand, the 888 reason why it is necessary that these Regulations, 30, 30 A, 31, and 33, which hang together, should be continued is that there are at present large quantities of arms and ammunition in this country as the result of war output. It is extremely undesirable that the sale and distribution and use of those should be released from all control. The power is also required to give effect to a Convention to which the Government has subscribed for regulating the export of arms and ammunition. A Bill dealing with the whole subject has been drafted, and I hope will be introduced next Session.
Sir F. BANBURY: I received a letter from the London Gun Makers' Association protesting against the continuation of this Regulation. Regulation 30 provides: "No person shall without a permit issued under the authority of the Admiralty, Army Council, or Air Council, or the Minister of Munitions, either on his own behalf or on behalf of any other person, buy, sell, or deal in any war material to which this Regulation may for the time being be applied." That is a very strong order. The letter from the Gun Makers' Association states that the methods of carrying out the Regulations vary a good deal in different districts. They have endeavoured to obtain information as to what course is really to be pursued in the future, and hitherto without success. I have not heard any sound argument as to why those Regulations are really necessary.
Sir G. HEWART: There are two grounds for these Regulations. First, there is at this time, owing to the abnormal circumstances in which we are placed, quite an unusual quantity of firearms to be disposed of. Secondly, we are bound, under a recent International Convention, to control commerce in arms and ammunition. At present the control of the export of arms and ammunition is exercised under these Regulations, and no export licence is granted by the Customs until a permit under the Regulation is forthcoming. I am told that if the Regulations were taken away, the control of the Customs House would not be adequate for the purpose and we should not be fulfilling the obligations into which we have entered under the International Convention. It occurs to me, on re-reading the Regulations, that the matter might be met, and I rather think the complaint of the right hon. Baronet's correspondent would be met, if we dispensed with Regulation 30 and limited 30 A by inserting in the third column, "So far as is necessary to control the export 889 of arms and ammunition." If that be acceptable I would be willing to forgo Regulation 30.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In Regulation 30 A, column 3, insert the words "So far as is necessary to control the export of arms and ammunition."—[Sir F. Banbury.]
Leave out Regulation 30 BB.—[Sir G. Hewart.]
Sir F. BANBURY: I beg to move to leave out Regulations 30 E, 30 EE and 30 EEE.
Sir G. HEWART: These Regulations relate to coinage and bullion. 30 E says that "a person shall not melt down, break up, or use, otherwise than as currency, any gold coin which is for the time being current in the United Kingdom or in any British possession or foreign country." 30 EE says that no person shall "have or retain at any time in his possession or under his control silver coins current in the United Kingdom of a value exceeding that of the amount of silver coinage reasonably required by him at that time for the purposes of the personal expenditure of himself and his family and of his trade or business (if any)." It also provides that any person who sells or purchases any coin exceeding its face value shall be guilty of an offence. 30 EEE enables the Treasury to make orders fixing a maximum price for silver bullion. I apprehend that all these Regulations are necessary at this unusual period.
Captain BOWYER: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 30 F. Paragraph (5) of this Regulation starts with the words "Notwithstanding anything in this Regulation." I would like to have an explanation.
Sir G. HEWART: I understand this Regulation is desired both by the Banks and Stock Exchange. I do not understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman's difficulty in reading it. If the next Amendment in my name be carried, we except Sub-sections (1), (2), (3) and (4), and then the effect is that the words "Notwithstanding anything in this regulation a person may without a licence from the Treasury issue a security (being a security the issue of which would otherwise be prohibited by this regulation), where the issue is solely for the purpose of securing an overdraft," 890 and so on, are the operative words.
Amendments made: In Regulation 30 F, column 3, insert the words "Except Subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4).—[Sir G. Hewart.]
Leave out Regulation 33 A.— [Sir G. Hewart.]
Sir F. BANBURY: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 34. This seems to me unnecessary. It says: "Every place used for the storage of petroleum, turpentine, methylated spirits, wood naphtha, or any other highly inflammable liquid, exceeding in the aggregate one hundred gallons shall be surrounded by a retaining wall or embankment so designed and constructed as to form an enclosure which will prevent in any circumstances the escape of any part of the petroleum or other inflammable liquid." It might have been necessary when there was a great shortage of petroleum, but surely when the war is over these Regulations might be withdrawn.
Sir G. HEWART: I am very anxious to give way where I can, but the information I have from the War Office is that this is a provision necessary for the prevention of danger to life. There are at the present time large supplies of this inflammable material in the country, and it is felt that the time has not yet come when this Regulation can safely be dispensed with. It is purely for the protection of the public.
Sir F. BANBURY: That is what they always say. I will not press it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments made: Leave out Regulation 35 A.—[Sir F. Banbury.]
Leave out Regulations 36, 36 A and 37.— [Sir G. Hewart.]
Leave out Regulation 37 A.—[Sir F. Banbury.]
Sir F. BANBURY: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 37 B.
Sir G. HEWART: I should desire to keep this Regulation in. It provides for wireless installation on ships. It is thought necessary to keep this Regulation in with a view to further legislation.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: Leave out Regulation 37 C.—[Sir G. Hewart.]
Colonel WILLIAMS: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 37 D. 891 I hope the learned Attorney-General will be able to meet us on this point. This seems to be far too drastic. I can quite understand that a man should apply for permission to serve as a master of a British ship if his father had been a foreigner, but I think it is carrying it a little too far to insist that both his father and mother should be either British subjects or naturalised British subjects, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman can either take out this Regulation or meet us by the insertion of words requiring the birth certificate of the man's father, but not the birth certificate of his mother also.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD OF ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara): My hon Friend near me says that this is already covered by the Aliens Bill. That is not so. This requires that the master must be of British origin, his parents being British subjects at the time of his birth. The Naval Staff do press very strongly for the retention of this Regulation.
Colonel WILLIAMS: But if the man's father was an Englishman, and he married an American girl, surely there could be no justification for refusing him a certificate as the master of a British ship. I do submit that this is carrying this anti-foreign legislation to an absurd extent, and that the Government cannot defend such a proposition. I do not mind if it be necessary with regard to a man's father, but not his mother, or stepmother, or grandmother.
Dr. MACNAMARA: We shall go to the Board of Trade with a view to securing legislation to carry out this proposal, though, after what has been said, I do not know that I need press this at the moment.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: Leave out Regulation 38.—[Sir G. Hewart.]
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 39.
Dr. MACNAMARA: It is a fact that the point has been met by the Aliens Bill, or will be met when it becomes law. In the meantime, I think we should keep it in force until Regulations are made to carry out the provisions of the Bill.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: In any case, that Bill has passed through the House of Lords, and must become law in a few days.
Dr. MACNAMARA: Until the Regulations are made under the amended Aliens Act, dealing with pilots' certificates to Aliens, we want this retained.892
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I do not press the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: Leave out Regulation 39 A.—[Sir G. Hewart]
Sir G. HEWART: I beg to move to leave out Regulation 39 BB.
Colonel GRETTON: There is a case here which requires some consideration. There are certain small docks which are unable to increase their charges without this Regulation. If this Regulation be withdrawn, these small docks will have no further power to increase their charges and will be brought into a very dangerous financial position. I have had considerable correspondence on this matter sent to me with a view to securing consideration of these cases. One of the cases is that of the Upper Mersey Navigation Commission. It is a small undertaking, with an income of about £3,000 a year, and the Commission carry out the important function of lighting and buoying the upper reaches of the River Mersey, which is largely used by small craft carrying goods to and from the Liverpool Docks. About 25 per cent of the trade of Liverpool is carried to and from shipping by barge, a great portion of which comes over other canals, all of which communicate with the Upper Mersey. Consequently, the proper lighting and buoying of the Upper Mersey is of considerable importance to the Port of Liverpool. The Board of Trade made an Order in October, 1918, authorising a large increase in the existing maximum dues and charges leviable by the Upper Mersey Navigation Commission. If this Regulation comes to an end, the Commission will become bankrupt, unless it goes to the expense of obtaining a Private Act of Parliament to continue the present increase of its rates. What I suggest should be considered by the Government is that, in any case, this Regulation will only last until the 31st August next. No doubt this Commission will eventually have to obtain a Bill, but in the meanwhile, if they do not obtain a Bill before the 31st August next or before the end of next Session, and this Regulation falls, they will be in a dangerous and perhaps, a bankrupt position. That is not desirable in view of the fact that they are performing a necessary public function. I suggest that, in the circumstances, the Regulation should be retained with limiting words applicable only in certain cases. I am quite sure that this matter has been overlooked by the Government, otherwise it would have received consideration.893
Sir G. HEWART: The difficulty is that in order that the Board of Trade may authorise the charging of the higher rates, it must appear to the Board of Trade that it is necessary for the successful prosecution of the war that the undertaking should be carried on. It is a little difficult at this time of day to say that. Personally, I doubt very much whether, even supposing the Regulation were retained, it would be of assistance to the kind of case to which my hon. and gallant Friend has referred.
Colonel GRETTON: In answer to that, I think the Attorney-General will find that some of the Regulations which are retained are dependent on the words "necessary for the successful prosecution of the war." Those words apply as a kind of aftermath. If they are applicable in those cases they might apply in this case also, which is a clearing up of war conditions.
Sir G. HEWART: I am not aware of any case that goes so far as this. Under this Regulation it is a condition precedent.
Amendment agreed to.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out Regulations 39 BBB, 39 DD, and 39 FF. I want to know why these powers require to be continued and what is the Government view of them.
Sir F. BANBURY: I hope the Government will accept this amendment. Regulation 39 BBB gives the Shipping Controller power to make orders restricting or giving directions with respect to the nature of the trades in which ships are to be employed and to requisition any ships. Regulation 39 DD gives the Shipping Controller power to prohibit any ship of 500 tons and upwards from proceeding on any voyage whatever except under his licence. A large number of things which were quite necessary during the war are absolutely unnecessary during the present time. We want to get rid of all these hampering restrictions on trade and commerce which are imposed by the Government. They might have been necessary during the war, but are not necessary now.
Colonel WILLIAMS: I hope the Attorney-General will agree to let this Regulation go. I understand, not from anything said in this House, that the Shipping Controller is very shortly going to de-control shipping. There is quite a flutter in shipping circles. I believe a good many people are selling their ships at to-day's rather inflated value, 894 because they believe that on de-control there is going to be a serious slump in freights, that there is more shipping available than is required for carrying the world's tonnage, and that the scarcity of shipping is entirely due to the control of shipping. Everyone in commercial circles is looking forward to the day when the Government will take off this control and put back the shipping in the hands of those people who can manage it efficiently. I hope the Government will be able to see the matter in that light and allow these Regulations to go, so that we may have shipping de-controlled straight away. I can give the Attorney-General the case of a very big shipowner who, within the last few days, has sold his fleet of ships, I am credibly informed, for the reason that he thinks that on the de-control of shipping we are going to have a serious slump in frieghts. That also comes to me from the shippers in the East, who are all expecting a slump in freights as soon as the Government let go.
Sir SAMUEL SCOTT: I hope the Government will agree to this Amendment. I am told that at the present moment there is more merchant shipping in the world than there was before the war, and also that this country has a certain amount less than it had before the war, although not a very great deal less. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will correct me if I am wrong. We are losing a great deal of trade abroad owing to the action of the Shipping Controller. While merchant tonnage in other countries has grown ours has decreased, and other countries are capturing the foreign trade which formerly belonged to us, largely owing to the action of the Shipping Controller.
Sir G. HEWART: I am sorry that there is nobody here this morning in any way representing the Shipping Controller. So far as my information goes, the point is reasonably clear. What is it we are doing with regard to this Regulation? We are providing that for an emergency period it may continue. It is not in the least necessary, because this Bill is passed, that any one of these Regulations shall continue right up till August next, but it is necessary to provide for the emergency period. Let it be granted that it is desirable that the work of the Shipping Controller should come to an end at the earliest possible moment, I do not know what the merits of that proposition may be, but I will assume for the sake of argument that it is so. What would 895 be more unfortunate than that the work of the Shipping Controller should suddenly be brought to an end by the circumstance that before he had completed his work something happened which put a term to the Regulations under which he was working? It might lead to the greatest confusion.
Colonel WILLIAMS: He never will complete his work unless we put some pressure on him.
Sir G. HEWART: I suggest to hon. Members that it would be an extraordinary method of putting an end to such a great series of transactions as those in which the Shipping Controller is engaged to leave it to chance when his affairs may come to an end or not. That is not the way to wind up a great undertaking. The right course is that the Shipping Controller should remain armed with the requisite powers, and that his work should be brought to an end as soon as possible, if that be the right course, upon which I express no opinion.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Could we not postpone this question, because there is no one present to answer for the Shipping Controller? The Attorney-General has rendered yeoman service to the Committee by answering for every Department, and he has done so with extreme ability. The Shipping Control Department is a specialised Department. We cannot proceed with the discussion of the question, because the Government's case is not stated. It is our duty either to postpone the question until the end of the Regulations or to vote against these particular Regulations as a protest against the absence of the representatives of the Government from these Debates. If the Government are defeated on a Division it would always be 896 possible for them to reinstate the Regular tions on the Report stage, when we could get a real statement from the Shipping Controller. I submit that this course would be the best way of securing a statement of the case from the Government and of indicating to the Government that they might be here to present their own case.
Sir F. BANBURY: There have been something like 13 months from the 11th November, 1918, to the present day in which the Shipping Controller could have wound up his Department. It is quite certain that he never will do so until he is told that he has got to wind up. If we pass the Amendment he will have another three or four months, which will be plenty of time for him to wind up. The sooner he does it the better.
Colonel GRETTON: I agree with my hon. Friends that this Department ought to be wound up as soon as possible, but unfortunately the shipment of wheat, sugar, and other supplies obtained by the Government depend upon these Regulations.
The CHAIRMAN: There is no quorum.
Sir G. HEWART: If the House is to rise on the 23rd December, it is quite essential that we should press on with this Bill. Could the Committee meet this afternoon?
Hon. Members: Tuesday.
The CHAIRMAN: It seems to be the general view that we should meet as soon as possible, and Tuesday appears to be the earliest date. Therefore we will sit on Tuesday next at 11 o'clock.
The Committee adjourned accordingly at twelve minutes before One o'clock till Tuesday, December 16th, at 11 a.m.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Sir Archibald Williamson (Chairman)
Banbury, Sir Frederick
Henderson, Mr. Arthur
Hewart, Sir Gordon.
Jones, Sir Evan
McLean, Lieut.-Colonel Charles
Scott, Sir Samuel
White, Lieut.-Colonel Dalrymple
Williams, Colonel Penry