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Cluse 1—(Power To Require Returns, Etc)

Volume 66: debated on Wednesday 26 August 1914

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(1) For the purpose of obtaining information as to the quantity in the United Kingdom or in transit to the United Kingdom of any article of commerce, the Board of Trade may by notice served by registered post or otherwise on any person require him to make a return to the Board, within such time as may be specified in the notice, giving such particulars of any article of commerce of which he is the owner as may be required by the notice.

(2) For the purpose of testing the accuracy of any return made to the Board under this Section, or of obtaining information in case of a failure to make a return, any officer of the Board authorised in that behalf by the Board may enter any premises on which he has reason to believe that there are kept or stored any articles which have been or were required to be included in the return, and of which the person making or required to make the return is or was the owner, and may carry out such inspections of and examinations on the premises as the officer may consider necessary for testing the accuracy of the return or for obtaining such information.

(3) If any person—

  • (a) wilfully refuses or without lawful excuse neglects to make a return under this Act to the best of his knowledge and belief; or
  • (b) wilfully makes or causes to be made any false return; or
  • (c) obstructs or impedes an officer of the Board in the exercise of any of his powers under this Act; or
  • (d) refuses to answer or wilfully gives a false answer to any question necessary for obtaining the information required to be furnished under this Act;
  • he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or if the Court is of opinion that the offence was committed wilfully, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a period not exceeding three months.

    (4) No individual return or part of a return made under this Act and no in formation obtained under this Act shall be published or disclosed except for the purposes of a prosecution under this Act.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

    I notice that in Subsection (3) there is a definite penalty for this offence, but Sub-section (4) says—

    "No individual return or part of a return made under this Act and no information obtained under this Act shall be published or disclosed except for the purposes of a prosecution under this Act."

    But there is no penalty. I do not know why the Clause is in that form. What power is there to enforce Sub-section (4) without a penalty?

    This follows the precedent of the Census of Production Act, and I think the phraseology is almost identical with that Act. In that case it was not thought necessary to have a penalty, as this relates purely to Government officials. I believe that for Government officials to disclose a Departmental secret brings them under rather severe penalties.

    Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.