Skip to main content

Importation Of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, Amendment (No 2) Bill Hl

Volume 70: debated on Tuesday 8 May 1928

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a .—( Lord Danesfort.)

My Lords, I should have liked to make some observations when the Second Reading of this Bill was taken, but I was abroad at the time. I would now claim the indulgence of your Lordships on the ground that for the last five years I have been Chairman of the Statutory Committeee created under the Act of 1921 in order to carry out its provisions, though, of course, I hope your Lordships will understand that in what I say this evening I speak entirely on my own behalf as I have had no opportunity of consulting my Committee. The original measure enacted that the import of all plumage should be prohibited except under certain conditions. One of these provided that birds ordinarily used for food purposes in England, mainly game birds, should be admitted, and that licences could be given for scientific purposes, museums and so on, to import birds. The Schedule, which was to include birds of which the plumage could be legally imported, included the ostrich and the eider-duck, but a Statutory Committee was appointed with the special object of considering all the various birds whose plumage certain persons desired to import and to decide, subject, of course, to the assent of the Board of Trade, whether particular birds should be included in the Schedule or not.

That Committee was a very representative one. It was constituted to include two experts in ornithology, three representatives of the feather trade, four other members and an independent Chairman. It met in the earlier stages very frequently, in order to consider the various birds that were brought to its notice. Almost the first thing that the Committee did was to decide to exclude at all events the bird of paradise and the egret from the Schedule on the ground that the demand for these birds, which were among the most ornamental, was diminishing their numbers, and that in the case of the egret the acquisition of the feathers was also bound up with considerable cruelty. The Committee then considered the various applications made by chambers of commerce, by the trade and by individuals. The Committee took these applications one by one, and in the end decided to add eight or nine birds to the Schedule in addition to those already contained in it. These birds were included for various reasons: either, as in the case of the common rhea, on the same ground as in that of the ostrich, or because the bird was so common that there was no likelihood of it being diminished or exterminated by any demand for its plumage; or because the bird was pernicious and destructive and its extermination would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage; or because, like the golden pheasant, the bird was reared, like the ostrich, specifically for its plumes without any cruelty being involved. Birds in these classes were therefore included in the Schedule. As finally agreed upon, after very careful revision by the Committee, that Schedule was, I think, generally accepted at the time, and I have heard no criticism directed against it in regard to the birds that were included in it.

I should like to say here—and I think I can speak on behalf of the members of my Committee as well—that the Act of 1921 has been a distinct success in many respects. It has undoubtedly very much diminished the import of birds' plumage, it has discouraged the wearing of plumes and it has appealed also to humane feeling in regard to these birds. I should like to add—and again I think I can speak on behalf of the Committee—that the success of that Act, so far as it has been a success, has been mainly due to the efficient action taken by the Customs in regard to these imports of feathers. This was, to them, a distasteful task because they had no expert knowledge and it was very difficult sometimes to decide whether a feather was legally or illegally imported. Sometimes, indeed, the experts of the British Museum have been unable to decide. There was the additional difficulty that, instead of these feathers being imported in the form of whole skins, they were very often imported as single feathers or with feathers from various birds made up on one mount and often dyed and clipped, so that it became extremely difficult to decide their nature. Nevertheless, through their efficient action, the Customs authorities have undoubtedly reduced enormously the import of these birds, and I, for one, am very grateful to them for the interest that they have taken and the efficient way in which they have carried out their duties.

In spite of this fact, though this trade has been scotched, I do not think, watching this question carefully, that it has been by any means killed. I think that the present Act required the strengthening that it will receive if this Bill is read a third time and passed by this House and the House of Commons. I have said that there has been a diminution of the wearing of these feathers, but from time to time there is a curious recrudescence of a demand for them. Four or five years ago a considerable number of the reputable shops that deal in these things had in their catalogues a considerable number of advertisements offering egret feathers for sale, mainly in hats. I drew the attention of the Customs Department to these advertisements and asked them to inquire into each case as to whether the feathers that were advertised had been imported before the Act of 1921 came into force or subsequently, and I am glad to say that, so far as those inquiries went, they showed that the feathers had been imported before the Act came into force. In a letter to The Times I drew attention to this matter, pointing out that this constituted a considerable temptation to others to smuggle and provided an attraction for those who did not mind wearing these feathers.

I am glad to say that this had an effect for some time; but that sort of effect wears off, and quite lately, even in the last few weeks, there has been another recrudescence of these advertisements and catalogues offering feathers in hats for sale. I hold in my hand an important exhibit—in contradistinction to my noble friend's exhibit the other day—of spring advertisements and other advertisements displayed by no fewer than twelve of our largest firms that deal with these matters, in which they offer these feathers for sale, either as plumes or in hats. I am having inquiry made with regard to these cases to see how far, as I hope and believe, they will be able to show that these feathers, like those of some years ago, were pre-Act feathers. The trade have played the game. There is no doubt that before the Act came into force, during the months between the passing of the Act and its coming into operation, the trade and these shops quite legitimately did lay in very considerable stocks, and so far as these shops are concerned, I think they are drawing upon those stocks.

On the second Reading some doubt was expressed by one or two speakers who supported the Bill as to whether these feathers could last as long as seven years without deteriorating, so as to make them valueless, and I think the Paymaster-General and my noble friend opposite spent an unnecessary amount of time in trying to show that these feathers will last longer than seven years. My noble friend opposite (Lord Peel) on the Committee stage produced the skin of a bird, which had been in the British Museum for forty years. Of course the conditions in the British Museum—under glass, or in drawers—are quite different from those which exist in the trade. It seems to me, however, that the question of the time for which these feathers will last is quite irrelevant to the present Bill for this reason: if the feathers which are offered for sale are shown to have been imported before the Act came into force then it shows that they will last for at least seven years. If, however, they have been imported since the passage of the Act the question of age or time does not arise. Therefore I think that the question of how long these feathers will last really has nothing to do with the merits of this Bill.

I have referred to these spring catalogues and circulars because my noble friend opposite founded one of his main arguments on the fact that, as he said, "there was no market for these plumes, that no one wanted to buy them," and that therefore it could not be to the interest of any one to run the risk of incurring penalties by smuggling them into the country. I hope I have shown that such a trade exists, that it is going very strong, that there is a considerable demand for these feathers, that they are sold at a considerable price, and that therefore there is great temptation and great inducement to persons to smuggle these feathers into the country in order to sell them.

As the Act was originally passed, your Lordships are aware that it only prohibited the importation of the feathers of birds not included in the Schedule, and that it made no reference to the illegality of their sale in this country. The question was raised when the Bill was going through this House, and it was then thought that it would be a rather hard measure at that time upon a perfectly legitimate trade, which was a large trade, and the traders in which had laid in large stocks. It was thought that any attempt to deal with sales at that time would be very harassing to the traders and, rightly or wrongly, the House decided against the proposal to include sales.

That, however, was seven years ago, and circumstances have altered very considerably since then. Traders have got accustomed to these prohibitions. Prohibitions have reduced enormously the imports, and plumes which were imported before the Act came into force must have become more or less exhausted. There is therefore nothing hard or harassing in now adding this provision to the Bill, and it does seem to me that it is a logical corrollory of the original Act. The original Act prohibited importation, and if feathers are illegally imported there can be no hardship in prohibiting their sale in this country.

The Government's position was explained on the Second Reading by the Paymaster-General and by the Leader of the House. They, at first, proposed to oppose the Bill. On second thoughts, however, and seeing that there was considerable feeling in the House, they did not challenge a Division on the Second Reading, but said that they would consider the matter and their position on the Third Reading.

I do not think it is quite that. I have read the debate, although I was not here. My noble friend the Leader of the House said there was evidently a good deal of feeling on the subject, and also a great deal of difference of opinion on the evidence, and he thought that it would be a good thing to postpone decision until the Third Reading stage, between which and the Second Reading he hoped the matter of the evidence would be carefully gone into. It was in consequence of that, as the noble Earl will remember, that I made what I am afraid was a rather long statement on that question of evidence on going into Committee.

I quite agree. I entirely accept the position as stated by my noble friend. At all events there was considerable feeling, and so my noble friend was called in to assist in the matter. He is a sort of handy man, a maid-of-all-work, who is called in to introduce and to help Bills, and in this case, perhaps, to sweep up some of the broken crockery, when necessary. He made, what is a very unusual thing in this House, a long Second Reading speech on the Motion to go into Committee, in order to put before the House certain facts from returns in regard to these matters. I am glad that he has done so, because it is these very figures that I propose to traverse on the present occasion, and I am glad to know exactly what his position was. He based his arguments on some return given in reply to a Parliamentary question in another place. This return was originally prepared at the request of my Committee, and unfortunately it is not in the same form as the earlier returns, and it is therefore not easy to compare with them.

I think that any noble Lord who was here the other day, and heard my noble friend opposite, would have come to the conclusion that the seizures contained in that return were practically the imports of feathers, but they are in fact only the figures of seizures by the Customs House, and it is quite certain that while a good number are seized, a certain number must elude the vigilance of the Customs House officials, because feathers are especially easy to hide from observation. They are soft, light, and easily packed away so as to elude detection and observation by the Customs House officers, and I should think there is nothing easier to conceal or more difficult to detect than feathers. Then there is the individual person, male or female, who can very easily bring in these feathers on his or her person to a considerable amount without any declaration and afterwards put them on the market. Now I come to the return which my noble friend quoted and on which he based his definite opposition to the Bill. My noble friend committed himself to this very definite proposition. After mentioning two bad cases, one of which was the grebe case and the other the case of a valuable consignment of egret feathers, he said:
"Those were no doubt two bad cases of attempted smuggling during the last seven years and they were the only bad cases."
I must traverse that statement. I am quite certain that my noble friend had no intention whatever of misleading the House, but I can put forward quite a different proposition to that stated by my noble friend.

In the first place I will take the figures as a whole. These returns are very remarkable because they show that the number of sections of plumage of different sorts imported into this country which are seized by the Customs still amount to many thousands a year. Although I admit to the full that there has been a diminution in them, the amounts at the present moment are alarming and give cause for great disquiet. What is still more remarkable is that the figures go up and down. The figures are given for three years. In the first year, 1925, 4,000 bits of plumage, as I will call them, were seized—a great deal more, of course, were imported; in 1926, 5,000 bits of plumage were seized; and last year 2,000. But what is rather disquieting is that in 1925 1,000 of these plumages were egret feathers of different sorts, whereas in 1926 no fewer than 3,000 of them were egret feathers, which are specially desired in the market. That, I think, shows that there is at all events something wrong in the present position.

Then my noble friend took the total and presumed that unless there was a prosecution in the case of imports those imports, if seized, were of an innocent character and their introduction was not made with any intention of deception. I agree to this extent, that a very large proportion of these imports are undoubtedly brought in by persons who are ignorant of the law, who are innocent of any deceit, and the feathers are seized because they are illegal. But it is certain that there must be a very large margin of cases in addition in which there is intentional deception, either by concealment or by misrepresentation, and a large number of feathers come in undetected. My noble friend knows two bad cases. One of those cases was the case of 130,000 grebe skins which were brought in a few years ago. I believe it is a fact that, though those 130,000 skins were seized, they escaped detection at the Custom House; and it was only after they had got through and were being despatched that information came to the Customs, and they were able to seize them.

It makes no difference. My point is that if 130,000 grebe skins can get through in one consignment alone surely there must be plenty of other holes in the net which allow other feathers to be brought in under wrong declarations. My noble friend's assumption is that these cases in which there is no prosecution on behalf of the Customs are innocent cases. I think the important fact ought to be borne in mind that no Government Department, and the Customs still less than any other, can afford to bring a prosecution unless it is certain that it is going to win. It has to make its position water-tight before it can venture to bring an action against those who are bringing in illegal goods. Some time ago the members of the Committee had before them the evidence of one of the representatives of the Customs, and this is what he said—and I think it is very important from the point of view of the number of prosecutions and why there have not been more owing to the difficulties of dealing with them from the Departmental point of view:—

"It is of the utmost difficulty for us to produce a case which is water-tight in a Court of Law.—
That is a case of illegal importation—
"Quite clearly we do not want to institute a prosecution which is not going to succeed. The result is that the proportion of importations of prohibited plumage in regard to which we can take proceedings with any chance of success is only an infinitesimal proportion of the whole number of seizures."
He does not say anything about the other cases being innocent cases; he says they often cannot prosecute because they have to make their case clear first.

Rather remarkable confirmation of that is to be found in the grebe case—the Arcos case. They were able to confiscate these 130,000 grebe skins illegally imported, but they were not able to prosecute those who imported them, because their difficulty was to prove the guilt of the consignee. That shows what the difficulty of the Customs is when it comes to a prosecution. My noble friend said that in seven years there have only been two bad cases of attempted smuggling. It is a minor correction, but I may point out that it is six years, and not seven, that the Act has been in force.

It did not come into force until 1922. It is six years this month since it came into force. I would also point out that in giving his figures my noble friend had before him the returns of the last three years only. Perhaps he did not realise that it did not cover the whole period that the Act has been in operation. And even then it is curious that he did not quote among his bad cases two cases which were in these returns. One was the case of the illegal importation of storks' feathers, for which the introducer was prosecuted, convicted, and fined £5, and the other was a very serious case which occurred in 1927, only a few months ago, a case of illegal importation of some egret feathers, which were not brought in innocently but as a consignment declared as isinglass, not feathers at all. That was a very clear case of smuggling, and to my mind quite sufficient to justify the passing of this Bill.

My noble friend stated that since the Act has been in force, which is the period covered by the discussions, there have been only two bad cases. My noble friend will bear in mind again what I said about the difficulty of prosecution on behalf of the Customs, which to a certain extent accounts for there not being a very much larger number of cases brought into the Courts. During the whole period since the Act came into force, excluding the grebe case, which was not prosecuted, and including one case in which the man charged absconded before the action was brought on—a confession of guilt—there were fifteen cases in all as against the two which my noble friend mentioned. Only one of those cases was dismissed. In all the others the Customs were successful in obtaining a verdict. Curiously enough, in the worst case of all, a case in which the declaration of consignment stated that the cases contained eggs and nothing but eggs, the Customs House officer in probing the eggs came across some feathers by accident. In the five cases of eggs feathers of the bird of paradise were found to the value of £2,500 concealed amongst the eggs. Unfortunately, though the suspicion was as grave as it possibly could be, they were not able to bring home actually to the consignees a guilty knowledge of the consignment and therefore that case was dismissed. It was a very bad case and one of the worst of the lot.

That leaves fourteen cases of attempted smuggling, of attempts, in other words, to bring these illegal feathers in by means of false declarations. In some cases they were declared as feathers, but the designation of the feathers was false; that is to say, they were not what was stated in the declaration, but were feathers of birds in the Schedule, feathers which were legally imported. Still worse, in the other cases, as in the case of the eggs, the declaration of the contents of the consignment did not mention feathers at all but articles of another description. One lot was brought in as a Japanese screen, another as eggs, another as toys and another as silk, etcetera. In other cases there was no declaration on the part of the person concerned, but it was discovered that these feathers were concealed about his person. That, these were all grave cases is shown, I think, by the fact that the magistrate imposed in each case a heavy fine, and very heavy costs in some of them.

Might I interrupt the noble Earl? I do not want to have any dispute about questions of fact. The noble Earl says there were fifteen prosecutions. What years do they cover?

I am answering what my noble friend stated—that there were only two cases during the seven years that the Act has been in force. I am endeavouring to show that not only were there fifteen of these bad cases but that two of them came under the returns that he had in his hand of recent date, which in themselves were bad cases and either of which would have justified the passing of the Act. In order to show the gravity of those cases the magistrates imposed fines of £50, £20, £10 and so on, with costs up to £30, £20, £7 and less. That shows at all events that the magistrates considered these were cases of great gravity. In those circumstances, and in view of the figures I have given, I would like to ask my noble friend whether he adheres to the statements he made on going into Committee, and by which he rather desired, as I understood, to induce the House to throw out this Bill. The first statement he made was that "it was true to say that there was no attempt to smuggle" these articles into this country. After the figures I have given of these prosecutions and the reasons why they are not more numerous, can he still make that statement to the House? I should think it would be impossible to repeat it with any truth.

After the figures I have given showing in detail the cases of the last few years (I have them here), can he repeat the statement to which I have referred, that there were "only two bad cases of attempted smuggling during the last seven years"? I have shown that there are at least seven times as many. And if the Act was necessary in regard to the two cases on which he based himself, surely, when I have shown him that there are seven times as many, he may alter his view in regard to the necessity for the Bill. After I have produced them to him and he has had the advantage of looking at these advertisements, catalogues and so on, does he still contend, as he did on going into Committee, that "there is no market for these plumes and that nobody wants to buy them"? Surely that has been shown by the facts I have given to be entirely contrary to the fact. Will he also contend, in the last place, with this market and with obviously a considerable demand still in existence, that "there is no temptation to smuggle these articles"? If, as I hope, I have somewhat weakened his position on all these points which he made against the Bill, surely the Government may be induced to look more favourably upon the measure and to feel that it might very well be allowed to pass.

The two Government speakers on Second Reading fell back on two arguments. In the first place they said—and my noble friend repeatedly told us but did not emphasise it as much as they did—that this Bill creates a new offence and that that was a great mistake. I think everybody agrees that gratuitously to create a new offence is a mistake and a disadvantage. But I deny altogether that this Bill creates a new offence. The Act has been in existence for seven years. During the whole of that time it has been known that these particular feathers must not be imported and that it is against the law to import them. Surely, therefore, any one who deliberately imported them for sale during that time or imports them in the future would know that he was not only acting against public opinion but breaking the spirit if not the letter of the law. It seems to me that a new offence is not in any sense set up, but that an opportunity is given of removing the temptation to commit an offence.

The second objection taken was that the part of the Bill which provides that if those who imported this plumage can prove that they did so before 1922 they will be removed from its provisions, was contrary to the spirit of the English law and the Constitution. That point will be raised by Amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and, no doubt, noble Lords on both sides of the House will deal effectually with it. Therefore, I will not say more about it than that it seems to me to be founded on a fallacy. As I have already said I have more than once—and I am proposing still to do it—asked the Board of Trade and the Custom House, when I have shown them advertisements for these plumes, to find out whether the plumes so advertised were pre-1922 plumes or not. If the House decides that the Act ought to be amended in that way, I am afraid that I, myself, the Board of Trade and the Customs will have to plead guilty to having broken one of the main provisions of the British Constitution.

I believe the body who would welcome this Bill most would be the Customs themselves. It was a distasteful Act to them, and they have had great difficulty in enforcing it. Nothing would help them more than the passing of this Bill under which all smuggling would necessarily cease, because then there would be no market for the goods here. That would immensely relieve the Customs of the work in which they are involved. May I make one appeal to the Government that at all events they should leave this Bill to the House to decide for itself? I would go even further than that. The Government have argued—and I hope I have by my figures convinced them that their case is weaker than they thought—that there is practically no smuggling existing, and therefore that it is not necessary to pass this Bill. If the Bill can do no harm, it will at all events be an emphatic declaration on the part of the public that this great trade should be brought to an end. Many of my friends believe that there is a substantial amount of smuggling going on, and we want complete security as regards this matter. Let it once and for all be brought to a final conclusion so that there can be no further evasion in regard to this question of plumage.

My Lords, I did not know I should be asked to reply so soon, because I thought that probably other noble Lords wished to speak. I will deal with some of the points raised by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Buxton). First of all I would say that the noble Earl was a little ungrateful to me. He complained that I had made what he called a long Second Reading speech on going into Committee. I explained at the time why I did it. It was because I wanted at the first possible moment to place the facts at the disposal of the Government before the House, and I expected to be thanked for it rather than otherwise. Indeed, I think the noble Earl himself is the last person who ought to have attacked me on that point. See what an advantage it has given him. He has read, evidently, every word of the statement I made, and not only read it but has marked and learned and criticised it. Therefore I do not see why he should attack me for giving him such an unusual opportunity for making a speech. I do not wish to repeat, except by way of summary, the statement that I made on going into Committee, but I will say something about some of the points that were raised by the noble Earl and the questions he asked me.

I was glad that he admitted that in his opinion, owing to the action of the Act of 1921, the import of these prohibited feathers had enormously decreased. I am very glad to pay tribute to the active work of the Customs. But the noble Earl thinks that there is still a certain amount of smuggling going on, and that some further Bill is necessary to deal with that. I want to make this clear in one sentence, if I may, that any criticism I make on the Bill is founded on this, that the Act of 1921 did not prohibit the sale of this particular class of plumage. It permitted, and deliberately permitted, the traders of the country to dispose of those stocks which they had in hand, and forbade the import of further quantities of these feathers. Amendments were moved during consideration of the Act of 1921 to prevent traders dealing with existing stocks, but an Amendment to that effect was rejected in another place, and the Bill was passed in its existing form. As very often happens before prohibitions—we are familiar with this in the case of the Budget taxes—unusually large stocks were imported into the country and, unfortunately for the traders, coincident and perhaps connected with the prohibition of import, there was also one of those remarkable changes of fashion which upset traders so much—that is to say, there was practically an entire falling away of the trimming of hats with feathers, and in the fashion of wearing feathers. If things had gone on normally as they were going in the years 1920 and 1921 probably in about seven or eight years those stocks of feathers would have been disposed of, and the whole matter would have been completed. But that has not happened. We have these large stocks still existing in the country, and traders find it very difficult to sell them.

As naturally follows when fashion changes, the price of these feathers has steadily fallen. If it were necessary, I could give figures to show that there has been a tremendous fall in the price of this class of feathers during the last few years. Noble Lords will see that that has a very close bearing on this present inquiry. If the price of these feathers has fallen so heavily, and if it is very difficult to sell the feathers, obviously it is hardly worth while the trade, or any one else, running the risk of paying heavy penalties by smuggling in an object for which they can get very little when it has come into the country. I think the point that I made as to the durability of these feathers is not so entirely irrelevant as the noble Earl thought it. I had not to deal with the case of the egret. That was no doubt kept under ideal conditions. The noble Earl did not complete the sentence from my statement, which was a statement from the experts, that not only under museum conditions, but under ordinary conditions of fair management these feathers would last for practically an indefinite period.

I pointed out that in my view it was not irrelevant, because, supposing feathers would only last three years and supposing that stocks of feathers were now being accepted for sale in shops, it would be an almost inevitable inference from that that they had been brought in since the year 1921. But you cannot draw that inference, because these feathers do last a considerable time. I submit, therefore that my suggestion was not at all as irrelevant as the noble Earl intimated. He then went on to criticise some statements that I had made about the Customs, and laid great stress upon the fact that I had stated that there were few substantial cases of smuggling during the last few years. He said that I was very much under-estimating the situation, but the other cases of smuggling which I gave were nothing like so substantial as the two cases—I think I have dealt with them—which occurred in the years 1924 and 1925. I submit that the years when they did occur is relevant, because if you are going to introduce legislation in order to penalise certain mischief it is very relevant when that mischief took place. If you find it has taken place, not in the last year but four or five years ago, that fact of date is very relevant. I have dwelt on these two particular cases because they were by far the most substantial cases of attempted smuggling which had occurred during those six years.

My figures as to prosecutions do not quite agree with the figures given by the noble Earl. The figures that I have been supplied with are eight prosecutions in 1923, two in 1925 and one in 1927. That seems to show that the prosecutions in 1923 killed the business. The prosecutions have been gradually reduced so that there were none in 1924, two in 1925, none in 1926, and one in 1927. If you look into these cases you will see that certainly they cannot be called very large cases.

Is the noble Viscount quite correct? Was it not in 1924 that the grebe case was taken?

I think the importation took place in 1923. I have admitted that these are two bad cases and I have laid stress on them. The point I wanted to make was that in introducing a new and penal Bill the onus of proof lies on those who bring in the Bill. Those of your Lordships who were not here when the matter was discussed before will perhaps like me to repeat the figures as to seizures. May I say in reference to these seizures that in the three years to which the figures relate the great bulk were what I may call private, that is to say, they were mere single feathers sent by people's relations to this country with no desire of smuggling or of concealment and in most cases in ignorance of the existence of prohibition as regards particular feathers.

I come now to the trade question, because it is the trade question we are discussing. In 1925 there were 48 seizures, in 1926 there were 26, and in 1927 there were 17. There has been a constant decrease during the last three years. It must not be supposed that all these seizures are seizures of smuggled feathers. They are not. The great bulk of these feathers come in quite openly. They are declared and there is no intention of deceiving the Customs or of smuggling at all. I make this general declaration after consulting with the Customs authorities, that they do not consider there is any substantial evidence of any general smuggling of these prohibited feathers into this country. That is the statement of the Customs authorities and your Lordships will no doubt give great weight to their experience. It will be said, no doubt, that it is possible that some feathers may escape the vigilance of the Customs. I think the case quoted about the grebe proves just the opposite. The noble Earl said these grebe skins passed the Customs and were afterwards discovered. That shows the vigilance of the Customs. Not only are feathers discovered when passing the Customs, but after they have passed the authorities gain some knowledge of them and pursue them and penalise those in whose possession they are found.

May I point out that in this particular case 130,000 escaped? No doubt they could be traced, but if 50 or 60 or 100 small packages passed the Customs they could not possibly be traced.

I think this shows the vigilance of the Customs. If they escaped notice at first they did not escape notice afterwards. I think that point is irrefragable. Even if some of these feathers do escape the vigilance of the Customs, what evidence is there that there are illegal feathers—by "illegal feathers" I mean feathers imported after 1921—in the shops in this country? My noble friend Lord Danesfort, who introduced this Bill and is, of course, very active in the matter, went to the Board of Trade. He was not asked by the Board of Trade to specify any particular cases, but he selected eleven cases and I am sure he would not have selected the least bad cases. He naturally selected those most favourable to his case, and he said: "You will find openly exposed in these particular shops these prohibited feathers."

May I interrupt my noble friend? Quite inadvertently, no doubt, he misrepresents me. What was done was this: I asked some people to go and buy or see if there were on sale in some of the shops in London some of these feathers. They were not carefully selected. They were taken casually. They happened to be highly reputable firms. The Board of Trade asked for the names of the shops visited and I at once gave the names. If the Board of Trade say these people are innocent it does not follow that less reputable traders are innocent.

Then I am apparently wrong. They were not carefully selected but carelessly selected by my noble friend, and I am bound to say I should have thought if he wanted to make out a case that he would have selected places where these feathers were most likely to be found. He did not state the rest of the case at all correctly, if I may say so. The Board of Trade did not say—I dare say they may have said these are reputable firms—that these firms were innocent. They gave these names to the Customs and the Customs went most carefully into every single case. They went to these firms, they examined their books, and they satisfied themselves that these feathers had been imported into this country before 1921. There was no evidence at all, they informed me, of any illegal importation. My noble friend now says they were not selected, but I stated this at the Committee stage and he certainly did not deny it on that occasion.

There was another case which was brought before the Board of Trade at the instance of the noble Earl. I do not want to mention the name but it was a very well-known firm indeed. That shows how easily people are deceived, because the individual who went to make the inquiry got the impression that these feathers had been brought in from Paris. This information was derived from a young lady fifteen years of age. This young lady, no doubt anxious to sell the goods, probably suggested that the goods came from Paris. The case was carefully investigated and the goods were shown to have been brought in before 1921, so that case was disposed of. I say that all these cases brought before the Board of Trade and the Customs have been carefully investigated and it has been shown that in no case were any of these feathers imported after the year 1921. What I submit is, that though the noble Earl and the noble Lord may make assertions about imports of prohibited feathers after 1921, they can produce no evidence to support their statement.

If noble Lords intend to make a new offence and to punish people and to bring them into Court and ask them to prove their innocence, at least they ought to put before your Lordships some strong evidence that these articles are really imported and sold in this country. After all, who wants to import these feathers? The noble Earl has shown some pictures of certain hats with a few feathers in them that are advertised for sale. That is no proof whatever that these feathers were illegally imported. Surely the more innocent interpretation is that these people naturally want to get rid of their existing stocks and are trying to force the sale of their feathers on the market, although, in spite of their advertisements, it is a very difficult matter, since even Paris, which is the head and centre and starting-point of all these fashions, is moving more and more away from this style and is going back to a more simple style of head dress. If, therefore, the prices have fallen, if the demand is falling off, surely, in the absence of evidence of original sale, the presumption would seem to be that there is very little smuggling, because the object of smuggling would be extremely small.

I think, further, that this Bill has some element of unfairness. I will say only one or two words on that point, because I understand that this issue will be raised by my noble friend Lord Merrivale in the Amendments of which he has given Notice. You may say: "After all, six or seven years have gone by, so why not change the original Act and make it impossible for people to expose these goods for sale?" If the Bill is passed in this form this would certainly be the effect. You cannot imagine that reputable traders are going to try and get rid of their stocks of remnants by exposing them in their shops for sale when at any moment they might be brought by some informer before a magistrate, in such conditions that the informer will not have to prove his case, but the assumption will be that the seller has committed an offence and must prove his innocence. That might be a very difficult task in many cases. Many of the traders that sold substantial stocks may have gone into liquidation or out of business and it will not be easy to show before a magistrate that goods that could be traced to a firm that had gone into liquidation were bought before the year 1922. That would have the effect of putting an end to the option allowed in the Act of 1921 to these dealers to dispose of their existing stocks and it would be a reversal of the liberty given under that Act. Under the guise of making it more difficult to deal in imported feathers, you would bring in the people who were dealing in legitimate stocks that they were allowed to sell by the Act of 1921.

There is one more point that I should like to mention. I mention it with some hesitation because it touches a question of trade in another country. It was represented to me that a Bill like this would have an unfortunate effect not only on sellers in this country but also on the ostrich trade in South Africa. My noble friend said, I think, that on the contrary it would have a good effect, because, if you prohibit certain classes of feathers, people will buy more ostrich feathers. I do not know why a man should buy ostrich feathers just because he cannot buy other feathers, but, as a matter of fact, that statement is based upon a considerable misapprehension of the psychology, if I may so call it, of the feather trade. I am told that you cannot thus separate the kinds of feathers one from another, that they are linked together and that the trade in feathers rises and falls as a whole. You cannot get women to use only ostrich feathers. They insist on having combinations of feathers along with the ostrich feathers and, if other feathers are prohibited, then the ostrich feathers will not come in. I do not want to lay too much stress on that point, but I hope that your Lordships will give it a sympathetic consideration. As a matter of fact, if you look at the figures showing the value of a pound's weight of ostrich feathers imported into this country during the last few years and compare it with the value before the War you will see a tremendous falling off—I think of one-tenth or one-eleventh of the amount before the War.

I cannot say that the Government have had very much independent support. On the Second Reading I think everybody who addressed the House spoke against the Government, but I am afraid that in this House one is accustomed to this: the Government are often in the position of not being supported by their friends though attacked by their critics. I am quite aware that on the part of many of your Lordships there has been a good deal of feeling in support of this Bill, but I do submit that, before you pass a new penal Bill of this sort, you ought to have substantial evidence that these prohibited feathers are really being sold on some scale in this country. I submit to your Lordships that those who have supported this Bill have not discharged that onus and have not shown that there is such a traffic in the shops of this country. I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer on that point. I do not know what attitude your Lordships will wish to take towards the Third Reading, but I observe an Amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, which would certainly make the position much fairer. I understand that his Amendment provides that, instead of the onus being thrown on the man who has sold these feathers and has been brought into Court, it has to be discharged by a proof of guilt by the man who brings the seller of the feathers into Court. I hope that your Lordships will look upon that as an improvement.

My Lords, my noble friend did not say whether the Government intended to allow the Third Reading, so far as they were concerned, to proceed and to deal with the question of principle upon the other matter in discussing the Amendments of which I have given Notice. There is a great difference between supporting measures for preventing the sale of feathers that is contrary, as some people think, to humane conduct, and exposing a trader to conviction except under ordinary principles of law. I have a definite view about each, but I have not knowledge enough about the trade to have a strong view on the former point. Many friends of mine support my view, and it would help a little if we could know if the Government are content to bow to the feeling of the House in favour of the Bill and to raise the question of fairness on the Amendment.

My Lords, I too wanted to know what the Government propose to do, because, in point of fact, the noble Viscount devoted a portion of his speech to supporting the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, which had not been moved. If it is the will of the House that the whole question should be debated now and that there should be one Division, be it so, but it is no use dealing with this thing in uncertainty. What do the Government mean to do?

I sat down because I rather waited to know what was the wish of the House. On the Second Reading a good deal of feeling was undoubtedly shown in favour of the Bill and, so far as the Third Reading is concerned, unless the Government receive some support and a desire is shown to press the matter to a Division, I should not desire to urge this House to divide.

On Question, Bill read 3a .

Clause 1:

Amendment of 11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 16.

1.—(1) Section one of the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, shall be amended—

( a) By adding at the end of subsection (1) the words "or sell or offer for sale the plumage of any bird the importation of which is prohibited by this Act"; and

( b) By adding after subsection (2) the words:—

"(3) Any person who sells or offers for sale the plumage of any bird the importation of which is prohibited by this Act shall, upon summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds and, in addition, the Court shall order the plumage, in respect of which an offence has been committed, to be forfeited. Provided that it shall be a good defence to proceedings for an offence under this section to prove either—
  • "(i) That the plumage had not been imported since the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, came into operation, or
  • "(ii) That all reasonable precautions had been taken by the person proceeded against to satisfy himself that the plumage had not been imported since the said Act of 1921 came into operation."
  • moved, in paragraph (a), to omit the words "the importation of which is prohibited by this" and insert "which shall have been imported in contravention of the provisions of this." The noble and learned Lord said:, My Lords, This general subject has been discussed with a fullness and vigour that must have convinced the most indifferent observer that there is great feeling with regard to it. So far as that is concerned I do not know enough about the trade in ospreys and egrets, and things of that kind, or its effect upon the habits and humane instincts of the people of this country, to offer an opinion. Friends of mine, as I have said, support the Bill, and I should have hesitated to oppose an extension of the law which made it criminal knowingly to sell that which had been illegally imported. It seems to be a reasonable and logical proposal, and if this had been a Bill, as I thought it was when I first read it, to make it criminal to sell that which was imported in breach of the law, I should not have thought for a moment of opposing it; but when there was a warm discussion on the Second Reading, and then a speech dealing very fully with the matter by Lord Peel on the Motion to go into Committee, I made some inquiries, and read the Bill with a little care, and I saw that, contrary even to what was said by Lord Buxton, this was not merely a Bill, as he put it, which you would defend by saying that if a thing was illegally imported there was no hardship in prohibiting its sale.

    This is not a Bill which prohibits or penalises the sale of that which is illegally imported. It is a Bill which enables people who have enthusiasm about this subject, as so many people have, if they find a trader dealing in goods which, as has been pointed out over and over again, may have been legally imported, and may have been on his hands, so as to expose him possibly to serious loss, to put up some man of straw to lodge a criminal information against him, to proceed against him for a penalty, with the alternative of imprisonment if he cannot pay the penalty. They may do it upon the footing that he has not shown himself to be innocent. That is not an English procedure at all. I am told there are Continental countries where, if the police think fit, they take charge of you and say: "We suspect you of some transaction which is a highly improper transaction, and we shall take you before the Tribunal. If you convince the Tribunal that you are not guilty then the Tribunal will acquit you, but if not, then you will be punished." That is the mode in some Continental countries, but it has never been our English custom.

    If you are going to discriminate between humanity in respect of foreign birds and dealing according to English traditions of justice with English traders, my feeling is all in favour of the English traders. They should not lose their birthright of fair treatment in our Courts. I am not going into the general matter. As I have said, I thought that originally the Bill as drafted was in accordance with British principles of justice, but when I found it was not I framed an Amendment which I have placed on the Paper, and which provides that it shall be a criminal offence to sell, or expose or offer for sale, plumage which has been brought into the country in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Nobody can dispute that that is a sound course, and a course which is only consistent with our usual methods of administering justice. Having listened to this debate on the three stages of the Bill, I think it has been made clear that there is not some outrageous general breach of the law which ought to be punished by some exceptional means. I beg to move my Amendment.

    Amendment moved—

    Clause 1, page 1, line 10, leave out from ("bird") to ("Act") in line 11, and insert ("which shall have been imported in contravention of the provisions of this").—(Lord Merrivale.)

    My Lords, it will require very few words from me to satisfy you that the acceptance of this Amendment means the complete destruction of the Bill. If you think that there is sufficient strength in the argument of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, to justify that course, take it by all means, but it seems to me rather strange, after this Bill has been ineffectually opposed by the Government at three successive stages, and on each occasion they have recognised that the feeling of the House was so strong against them that they were unable to go to a Division—because that is the reason they have not divided—that now you should by accepting this Amendment undo the whole of the work which has been done. That I am right in what I say will, I think, be clear to your Lordships from considering only a very few matters. There is no man who can say, by looking at a feather, whether it was imported lawfully or unlawfully. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, says that feathers keep perfectly for years, and the better they keep the more impossible it is to know when they were imported. There is no one who can suggest any means or device by which you can, in any circumstances, prove in advance that feathers exposed for sale have been unlawfully smuggled into the country. If it be possible to prove that a man selling goods has been engaged in unlawful importation you would not want this Bill. You could proceed without it, and recover against him far more heavy penalties than this Bill provides.

    Therefore if you think right, and think this Bill not worth the effort, reject it, but do not think that in voting for this Amendment you are voting for some great abstract principle of British justice, which can be incorporated into this Bill without damage. What is this great abstract principle of British justice? The idea is that a man shall not be convicted of an offence unless proved. I agree with that, but the offence which this Bill provides for is the sale of feathers, and it is exactly similar to a Bill already on the Statute Book, which has remained on the Statute Book for forty years, to which Lord Merrivale has taken no exception, and which provides that in cases where the sale of birds killed in this country shall not be permitted in shops, it shall be none the less possible for the trader to sell birds from other countries, but the burden of proving where the bird comes from is thrown upon him. The only difference is that that Act relates to the whole of the bird, and this Bill relates only to its feathers. There is nothing else in it. The importation of these plumes is now forbidden. Seven years have elapsed since the Act was passed. There is time for these people, I will not say to have cleared their stocks, but to have got down to a condition in which they can make a record and show beyond all doubt where their feathers came from, and escape any trouble, even if they sell them after this Bill is passed.

    But when we are told that we are seeking to pass a Bill to protect ourselves against a non-existent evil, is that so? One hundred and forty-five thousand birds' plumes imported in one consignment! It is true they were caught—not stopped at the Custom House, but caught subsequently. How do you know that 145,000 plumes have not got through without your knowledge? How can you tell? You can do nothing more except say: "Those things were found," but you cannot tell the things which went through without your knowledge. And to tell me that there was no trade in these feathers after the Bill of 1921 was passed because fashion changed is to leave wholly unexplained who it was who got the advantage of importing 145,000 plumes in one consignment. That is not all. The noble Earl has told you that quite recently they discovered a valuable collection of feathers illegally imported as eggs or isinglass. After these things to say that now, all of a sudden, people are going to be converted and to send in no more feathers is to my mind ridiculous. And when you add to that that you find these feathers are advertised for sale at a price of seven guineas for a humming bird, there is every inducement to smuggle them, and, having regard to the peculiar character of the ware that is being dealt in, there is every opportunity.

    I know that whenever I speak on this matter I shall be accused, as I was before by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, of introducing sentiment into the question. I do not deny that hatred of cruelty is a sentiment. It is a sentiment that you cannot possibly justify by Adam Smith's "Political Economy" nor by the laws of mathematics. It is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of feeling. But it is a sentiment that separates men from beasts, and it is a sentiment to which I have always found that this House gives a very straight and a very swift reply. I do not deny that I have been moved in my advocacy of this matter by the feeling that I have for the living beauty of the world which will be, and has been, trodden under foot to gratify this particular trade. If we could only make women realise the true sense of their duty and abstain from wearing these plumes of course the whole thing would be done. Though their education may have proceeded a little way it has not proceeded far enough, and something more has to be done. I ask you to pass this Bill. I ask you not to grasp at the shadow of the Amendment put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, and let the substance of the matter slip, to seize the husk and let the kernel fall, and for a fetish of a phrase defeat this Bill, to which you have given already three days' attention and consideration.

    My Lords, if I thought that this Bill so outraged the well-known principles of English justice, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, has said, I would vote for his Amendment, but I do not think it does. There are cases in the law as it stands where, certain things having been proved which raise a presumption of guilt, as here, the onus is shifted on to the accused person to prove, not his innocence but something which will convince the jury that he is not guilty. Now I think this is a proper safeguard, and that the Amendment proposed by my noble and learned friend is not necessary, because it is provided

    "that it shall be a good defence to proceedings for an offence under this section to prove either"—
    these things are perfectly distinct; you do not have to prove both—
    "that the plumage had not been imported since the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, came into operation"—
    Now, that might possibly be a difficult thing to prove, but you need not prove that, provided you prove
    "that all reasonable precautions had been taken by the person proceeded against to satisfy himself"—
    not to satisfy your Lordships, but to satisfy only himself—he may be a person easily satisfied—
    "that the plumage had not been imported since the said Act of 1921 came into operation."
    It does seem to me that if such a case were to be tried, either by a magistrate or before a jury, a man, unless he were very, very guilty, might easily satisfy the tribunal that he had taken reasonable precautions to convince himself that this plumage had not been imported contrary to law. For that reason, if my noble friend goes to a Division, I shall feel no compunction whatever in voting against the Amendment.

    My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, said that he had been charged by my noble friend the Leader of the House with giving way to feelings and sentiment on occasions of this kind. I have not the slightest intention of making any such charge against the noble and learned Lord.

    I do not wish to make such a charge, because I think we all of us are entitled at the proper time to give way to our feelings and sentiments. All I would ask is that if your Lordships have, as no doubt many of you have, strong feelings on this subject, you will not allow those strong feelings to interfere with the sentiment of justice which also reigns very strongly, I know, in your hearts. But I do think that the noble and learned Lord was unjust in more than one particular. He made a rather vigorous attack on women. I think it was on the Second Reading that he said that, though they were naturally kind-hearted, they seemed very often indifferent and cruel when it came to matters of taste and of what they would wear. I think that was an unfair charge, because it was not merely a change of fashion that was responsible for the dropping of the practice of wearing these feathers, but it was a very strong feeling among the women themselves who wore them that it was a wrong and cruel thing to kill these birds. Their action and their kindness of heart were largely responsible for the fact that fashion did alter in that way.

    The noble and learned Lord pleads on behalf of his feeling for the beauty of the bird. I do not think that the noble and learned Lord has any monopoly of feeling on that subject. I think we are all interested in preserving the beauty of our birds and of foreign birds as well. But that has not a very close bearing on the particular Amendment which is before the House. When you have decided, so far as your Lordships are concerned, that it shall be an offence to sell these feathers or to expose them for sale, the question is, what form the action should take. I was very much struck by the observation made by my noble friend Lord Merrivale that there was certainly no evidence, and he had listened to the whole debate, of any outrageous general breach of the law which would justify so severe an action as sending these men into Court to try to prove their innocence. Had the selling of these feathers been forbidden by the Act of 1921 I think one could not have complained. In that case obviously if they were exposed for sale the onus would be on the person exposing them for sale; he would be primâfacie guilty. But they were allowed by the Act of 1921 to sell their existing stocks. Therefore, in that case there seems to be no fair legal presumption that they should not have the usual benefit of the law.

    The noble and learned Lord differed, I think, from my noble friend who introduced the Amendment by saying that there were precedents for action of this kind. There may be precedents, but it is better, surely, to follow the older, fairer and more general precedent that a man is innocent until he is proved to be guilty than to take a precedent under which he is brought into Court and has to prove his innocence. The noble and learned Lord said that if you pass this Amendment you will stultify the Bill. Why should that stultify the Bill? If there is evidence to show that these men are selling feathers which were illegally imported, then there is no lack of evidence, and therefore you can proceed. But surely it is a very hard thing to say that this Bill is of no use unless you put the man himself into the box to prove that these feathers were imported before 1921.

    I beg the noble Viscount's pardon; that is not what he has to prove. He has to prove that he himself was reasonably satisfied—I think those are the words.

    That all reasonable precautions had been taken not to violate the Act of 1921. That is all he has to prove and nothing more.

    May I point out to your Lordships that some of these points are very difficult for the man to prove. Take the case of a man who has bought, as many of these men have done, from dealers. Owing to the fact that this trade has fallen to pieces many of the dealers have shut up their businesses. They have either liquidated or gone bankrupt or what not. It is extraordinarily difficult for the man in question to show before the magistrate that these goods were acquired from a merchant who himself had acquired them before 1921. I submit that your Lordships ought to be satisfied with a compromise of this kind. You get the Bill. You make it illegal to sell these prohibited goods. At the same time you leave the matter where it stands. If you accept the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, you will do no injustice. If you take the Bill as it stands and lay the onus upon the unfortunate person himself you will do something which, I think, in the circumstances, savours a good deal of persecution and injustice.

    My Lords, I was very anxious to hear what the noble Viscount


    Canterbury, L. Abp.Northbrook, E.Gladstone, V.
    Powis, E.Haldane, V.
    Beauchamp, E.Strafford, E.Leverhulme, V.
    Buxton, E.
    Chesterfield, E.Bertie of Thame, V.Aberconway, L.
    Howe, E.Devonport, V.Aberdare, L.

    had to say about this Amendment on behalf of the Government. I think it would be presumption on my part to intervene in a matter of this kind when high legal luminaries are discussing, I might almost say, abstract points of law. Let me deal with the point as a matter of common sense. When the Act of 1921 was passed its object was to stop the sale in England of the plumage of certain birds. The form it took was to say that the plumage should not get into England but should be barred at the Customs. A merciful provision was inserted in the Act by means of an Amendment, that the man who was selling the plumage after the passing of the Act should be able to excuse himself if he could show that the plumage was brought in before 1921. It is now proposed that that shall be a permanent condition upon which the trader may count as his defence, and that the onus of proving that he is mistaken must rest upon the person prosecuting who, presumably, can have no means whatever of proving anything of the kind.

    What possible means has the purchaser, whether a man or a woman, who believes that feathers were imported after 1921, of proving that they were so imported? The merciful provision in the Act is being extended to what would seem to me, as one quite bereft of abstract legal knowledge, to be a degree which is not reasonable in any way. Is the man who has such feathers twenty or fifty years hence still to be able to say: "Unless you can prove that I did not import them subsequent to 1921, I fall back upon the supposition that I am innocent until I am proved to be guilty." It seems to me to be a misuse of the Amendment that was put into the Act to protect people who then had such feathers in stock, and that it would be almost absurd to extend the merciful provision in such a way.

    On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?

    Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 46.

    Arnold, L.Denman, L.Lambourne, L.
    Banbury of Southam, L.Desart, L. (E. Desart.)Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
    Bethell, L.Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)Northington, L. (L. Henley.)
    Buckmaster, L. [Teller.]St. Levan, L.
    Carson, L.Ernle, L.Stanmore, L.
    Clwyd, L.Greenway, L.Strachie, L.
    Cottesloe, L.Hawke, L.Sudeley, L.
    Danesfort, L. [Teller.]Knaresborough, L.Swaythling, L.
    Darling, L.


    Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)Novar, V.Lamington, L.
    Peel, V.Lawrence, L.
    Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)Manners, L.
    Biddulph, L.Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
    Airlie, E.Castlemaine, L.Merrivale, L.
    Iddesleigh, E.Cochrane of Cults, L.Merthyr, L.
    Lovelace, E.Cranworth, L.Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
    Lucan, E. [Teller.]Cushendun, L.
    Malmesbury, Clifford, L.Redesdale, L.
    Midleton, E.Dynevor, L.Russell of Liverpool, L.
    Munster, E.Elphinstone, L.Somerleyton, L.
    Onslow, E.Fairfax of Cameron, L.Swansea, L.
    Plymouth, E. [Teller.]Gage, L. (V. Gage.)Templemore, L.
    Stradbroke, E.Hindlip, L.Teynham, L.
    Howard of Glossop, L.Wharton, L.
    Elibank, V.Jessel, L.Wraxall, L.
    Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)Kylsant, L.Wyfold, L.

    Resolved in the negative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

    Amendment moved—

    Page 1, line 14, leave out from ("bird") to ("Act") in line 15, and insert ("which shall have been imported in contravention of the provisions of this").—(Lord Merrivale.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    My Lords, the last Amendment is to insert certain words in the proviso and to leave out paragraph (i).

    Amendment moved—

    Page 1, line 21, after ("offence") insert ("of selling or offering for sale"), and leave out from ("prove") to the end of line 24.—(Lord Herrivale.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    My Lords, in view of the fact that in the opinion of many of us who support this Bill the effect of carrying these Amendments will be to destroy the Bill altogether and render it perfectly useless, I would ask leave to consider the matter before I move that the Bill do now pass.