Oral Answers to Questions — Trading and Currency Offences (Penalties).

– in the House of Commons on 29th January 1942.

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Photo of Wing Commander Archibald James Wing Commander Archibald James , Wellingborough

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the inadequacy of the deterrent effects of the present scales of penalties, as exemplified by the great increase in war-time trading and currency offences, it is proposed to increase the powers of the courts, particularly by authorising imprisonment for such offences?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

It would appear from the inquiries I have made that any increase in the number of trading offences is to be attributed to the widening of the area of possible offences as new classes of food are brought under control. The courts already have powers under emergency legislation to impose substantial penalties, including imprisonment, for these offences, and I have no reason to think that these powers are insufficient for their purpose.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Does my right hon. Friend think that the powers vested in the courts are sufficient?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I think the powers are adequate. The maximum penalties under the Defence Regulation are on summary conviction three months and/or £100 or three times the value of the goods, which- ever is the greater. They can be proceeded against on indictment, in which case the maximum penalties are two years and/or £500 or three times the value of the goods, whichever is the greater. These are pretty stiff penalties.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Has my right hon. Friend observed that in the majority of cases only modified penalties have been imposed and the offenders are free to pursue their activities?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I have no doubt that the views expressed to-day will be noted. I have no authority to give directions to the courts as to the penalties they should impose.

Photo of Mr George Garro-Jones Mr George Garro-Jones , Aberdeen North

Is it not the case that the real offenders put up nominees who are men of straw to pay the fines?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

That would be a matter for the prosecuting authority and consideration by the court.