§ Considered in Committee.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ LORD BALCARRES () Lancashire, Chorley
said that he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would tell the Committee something concerning the intentions of the Government regarding this measure.
§ * MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that he should be glad to explain briefly what it was proposed to do. He hoped hon. Members would allow him to send the Bill up to the House of Lords and let them consider the question of the incorporation of the Patents and Designs Bill, as finally amended by them, in it. Of course it would be no use getting the Consolidation Bill through at all unless the Patents Bill which the House had 1195 just read a third time was incorporated in it. If hon. Members agreed to that step the Bill would come down there afterwards, as amended by the House of Lords, for consideration.
§ LORD BALCARRES
thought that the course taken with regard to this Bill was really somewhat inconvenient. He understood that this Bill, like all Consolidation Bills, ought to be referred to a Select Committee. The Bill was now before a Committee of the Whole House, but it was manifestly out of the question for the House of Commons to attempt to consider the whole of the eighty clauses which were now before them. They might accept the assurance which would, no doubt, be given that there was not a line nor a word in the Bill which was different from or inconsistent with any existing statute. It was well known that during the last ten or a dozen years there had been cases in which Consolidation Bills in respect of various statutes had made considerable alterations of the law, but that had invariably been put right in Select Committees of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman asked them now pro forma to discuss the eighty clauses in this Bill, and it was obvious that at one o'clock in the morning they could not do it. As that was impossible they were to pass the eighty clauses and give the right hon. Gentleman the Third Reading of the Bill with the same despatch as was shown in the case of the measure just disposed of. They were to send the Bill to the House of Lords together with the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman had just piloted through the House and ask for a Select Committee to be set up in another place. The Lords were to be asked to incorporate in this Consolidation Bill the thirty or forty clauses of the Bill just passed, and, though the right hon. Gentleman might regard it as a simple form of procedure, he submitted that really it was a rather cumbrous method. The Patents and Designs Bill was going to be amended by agreement in various respects in the Lords. This Bill, therefore, would have to come down again after consideration; the eighty clauses would have to be reprinted and the whole matter would have to go to a Select 1196 Committee of the House of Commons. They could not, he submitted, pass the Bill without letting a Committee consider it in some form, because a measure of this kind undoubtedly required very careful and detailed expert examination. It was not right that a Bill should be passed through Parliament in the last few hours of a session which really required weeks of work, and it might be found on examination that there were certain points in the Bill which the House had just passed that conflicted with existing statutes. All these matters needed the most careful explanation and it was in the interests of sound legislation that he ventured to press these points on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The Lords would require a few hours to consider the Bill, and it would be very late in the session—almost at the very end—before it could come back to the House of Commons. Under the circumstances he ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be a very great advantage if he would consider the propriety of deferring the consolidation of the patent laws, eminently desirable as it was, until next session, when he was sure it would be treated as a purely formal and non-controversial matter.
§ * MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that of course he would not be disposed to press a matter of this sort if the Opposition were not prepared to accept it. He had understood, however, that in the case of this Bill there was not only an agreement, but a desire not to oppose the Bill. They had just given a third reading to a Bill amending the patent laws, and he thought it was very important that the ordinary layman who was interested in patents should be able to read those laws for himself. One thing was absolutely certain, and that was that he could not do it now. The Consolidation Bill could not be taken, however, unless the members of the Opposition really assented, and he would be glad to know what their desire in regard to the measure really was.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said it was not a question whether the Opposition objected or not. They did not object to 1197 the consolidation of the patent laws, but, on the other hand, they thought it was a thing that ought to he carried out. As a matter of fact they considered it not only advisable, but imperative. The only question which exercised their minds was whether that consolidation should be effected during the last hours of the session, or whether it would not be better to postpone it till there was ample time for experts to consider the whole matter, the importance of which he thought no one denied.
§ * MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that if the Opposition did not object to the Bill he would suggest that they should let it go to the House of Lords and there would be ample time before it came back to the House of Commons to consider whether they should proceed with it or not. If they sent both Bills up to the House of Lords then they would know the final form which would be assumed by the Bill to which they had given a Third Reading that night and they would be in a better position to consider the question of consolidation.
§ MR. FORSTER () Kent, Sevenoaks
said that the Opposition did not object to the Consolidation Bill, but what they wanted to know was whether there was an understanding that the Patents and Designs Bill was to be included in the Consolidation Bill, and that if the latter was passed through the House of Commons it should be carefully reviewed before it actually became the law of the land. Under the Bill which the House had just passed amending the patent laws various machinery provisions were set up, and he was not certain that all his legal friends were satisfied that these would work smoothly. One of the objects in passing a Consolidation Bill was to save expense, and they would not do this unless the provisions of the Bill were carefully considered. This they all hoped and 1198 believed would be satisfactorily done in another place, but the House of Commons at any rate would not be willing to accept the Bill without further examination. All he wished was to have it recognised that when the Bill came back it must of necessity be subjected to examination by the House of Commons.
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY
said that the President of the Board of Trade made a very proper statement when he said that the object of this Bill was to ensure that the poor inventor who was concerned in patents should have a cheap vade mecum of the law. The first function of the House of Commons was to have the first hand in framing legislation of this kind, but if they adopted the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman and took this Bill in Committee in the early hours of the morning because it was to be sent to another place, then it would be dealt with by the other House, with the result that the House of Commons would have lost control of the Bill. He was quite sure that the Committee would recognise the truth of that statement, because the House of Commons would only, under those circumstances, be able to deal with such Amendments as the House of Lords might pass. Therefore it was a very serious thing to agree to the idea that the Committee stage of the Bill should pass practically sub silentio, throwing the whole duty of considering the measure on another place. If anything went wrong in another place in respect of this Bill the burden would not rest on the House of Commons but on the other Chamber. Being a Member of the House of Commons he preferred that the responsibility should rest on the House of Commons, and he thought they should do all they could to ensure that the Bill had an easy passage through that House. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to adjourn the consideration of the Consolidation Bill until the other Chamber had had a full opportunity of considering 1199 and amending, with the full consent of the House of Commons, the Patents and Designs Bill which had only a few moments ago passed its Third Reading. If the right hon. Gentleman agreed to put back this measure for a time every facility would be placed in his way of passing a fully matured Consolidation Bill through the House of Commons. Otherwise it would be like producing a cheap book, badly edited, and instead of making the law more intelligible to the inventor they would run the risk of making it more difficult to understand The Opposition were taking a perfectly reasonable course in asking the right hon. Gentleman to adopt this plan, and he was convinced that the best results would be secured if their suggestion was adopted.
§ * MR. CAVE
said the Consolidation Bill had over eighty clauses, and the new Bill had about fifty. Everybody who understood the matter knew that the effect of the new Bill would be to necesssitate alterations in a great many clauses of the Consolidation Bill. Of course, any Amendments actually made by the Lords in the Consolidation Bill would come before the Commons for consideration, but supposing the Lords omitted to alter the clauses of the Consolidation Bill which ought to be altered in order to give effect to the new Bill, how could the Commons deal with that matter? The House of Commons could only deal with Amendments made by the other House, and could not insert new Amendments after the Bill had been returned from the other House. He did not know what machinery the Lords had for dealing with such complicated matters, or whether they were dependent on the private efforts of Members, but in any case words might be omitted which ought to be inserted and this House would then be unable to insert them. Was it not possible to postpone the Committee stage 1200 of the Consolidated Bill in this House until they got the amended Patents Bill back? Then when they got that back and knew what the Lords' Amendments were, they might in a few days put the proper clauses into the Consolidation Bill and go on with that Bill. He was very much in favour of consolidation, but he was against consolidation in a hurry.
§ MR. GORDON
said that in a measure like that there might be mistakes which hon. Members might be able to point out. He was most anxious to see a Consolidation Bill. He would like to have the law consolidated. It would be in the interests of everyone concerned that it should be; but he certainly thought it would be better to go slowly and let the Bill which had been passed go up to the House of Lords and come back first. If that could not be done they need only wait till next session, when a Consolidation Bill could go through without any waste of time or trouble. All he wanted was that if they were to have a Consolidation Bill, the Bill should be of such a character that it would carry out the object intended, and that was to have the law accurately stated in a compendious form.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.