asked the Secretary of State of the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the increasing indignation of the public at the activities of black-market operators in controlled food and goods; and whether he will consider taking powers to intern such persons for the duration of the war, and for one year afterwards, if their operations are proved to have been systematic and if they have been previously convicted on similar charges?
My right hon. Friend fully agrees that offenders of the kind which my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind ought to be locked up for long periods, both as a punishment for their grossly anti-social conduct and as a method of preventing them from doing any further harm during the continuance of the war. He refers, however, to cases where the illicit operations of such people "are proved to have been systematic," and as regards offences of which proof can be provided, I think there are objections of principle to the proposal that action should be taken by administrative procedure rather than by procedure in the criminal courts.
No doubt the hon. Member is aware that under Defence Regulation 92 they can be sentenced to a term of up to two years' imprisonment, and that under Defence Regulation 55 they may be fined in three times the value of the goods concerned.