HC Deb 18 August 1911 vol 29 cc2254-60

(1) If any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State—

  1. (a) approaches or is in the neighbourhood of, or enters any prohibited place within the meaning of this Act; or
  2. (b) makes any sketch, plan, model, or note which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy; or
  3. (c) obtains or communicates to any other person any sketch, plan, model, article, or note, or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy;
he shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable to penal servitude for any term not less than three years and not exceeding seven years.

(2) On a prosecution under this Section, it shall not be necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of any particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State, and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, or his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State; and if any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information relating to or used in any prohibited place within the meaning of this Act, or anything in such a place, is made, obtained, or communicated by any person other than a person acting under lawful authority, it shall be deemed to have been made, obtained, or communicated for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State unless the contrary is proved.

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


Would it not be possible for the words "if from the circumstances of the case it appears" [Subsection (2)], to insert the words, "if shown to the satisfaction of the Court."


On a point of Order. Did you put the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?

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

Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Noes the Chairman declared the Ayes had it.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."


What has become of Clause1?


Clause 1 is passed. I asked for Tellers for the "Noes," and I did not get any.


I said I would be a Teller, and the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Jowett) also said he would be a Teller.


I am sorry it did not reach me.


I cannot help feeling that there was a deliberate attempt to prevent our dividing.


If the hon. Member applies that observation to me it is not a proper observation to make. I was very careful.

Motion made, and question proposed, "That the Chairman do report the Bill without Amendment."

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 107; Noes,10.

Division No. 339.] AYES. [12.45 P.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Baird, John Lawrence Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.) Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Barnes, George N, Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Peto, Basil Edward
Beck, Arthur Cecil Haworth, Sir Arthur A. Pointer, Joseph
Benn, W. (T. H'mts., St. George) Hayward, Evan Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Booth, Frederick Handel Hinds, John Pringle, William W. R.
Boyton, James Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Quilter, William Eley C.
Bridgeman, William Clive Hodge, John Rattan, Peter Wilson
Burke, E. Haviland Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Rainy, Adam Holland
Champion, W. R. Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hunt, Rowland Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan) Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)
Cassel, Felix Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Castlereagh, Viscount Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Roche, Augustine (Louth)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) Samuel, Rt. Hon, H. L. (Cleveland)
Chancellor, Henry George Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Scanlan, Thomas
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Joynson-Hicks, William Scott, A. MacCalum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Clough, William Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Shortt, Edward
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Leach, Charles Simon, Sir John Allsebrook
Craik, Sir Henry Lewis, John Herbert Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)
Crooks, William Mackinder, Halford J. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Macpherson, James Ian Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine) Valentia, Viscount
Essex, Richard Walter Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Marks, Sir George Croydon Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Marshall, Arthur Harold Waring, Walter
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Molteno, Percy Alport Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Gibbs, George Abraham Montagu, Hon. E. S. White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Morrell, Philip Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Grant, J. A. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)
Greenwood, Glanville G. (Peterborough) Munro, Robert
Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Gretton, John Norman, Sir Henry
Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Norton, Captain Cecil William
Adamson, William King, Joseph (Somerset, North) Snowden, Philip
Bowerman, Charles W. Lansbury, George
Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir W. Byles and Mr. Jowett.
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Henderson, Arthur (Durham)

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I do not wish to discuss this Bill, but I think that we who sit on the Back Benches are entitled to hear an appeal that in the interest of the public service this Bill should be allowed to pass so quickly. I am not prepared to give way unless that appeal is made to the House. I do not want to be at all objectionable, but the way that this Bill is going through—a Bill which would have been all the better for a detailed examination, is somewhat distressing for me to see. At the same time if any appeal can be made on behalf of the Government that it will serve the public interest to pass the Bill at this speed, I am willing to give way.

Colonel SEELY

I can certainly make that appeal with a perfectly clear conscience. It is undoubtedly in the public interest that this Bill should be passed, and passed at once. It is highly undesirable, no doubt, that any Bill should go through its stages so rapidly as this has done, and it certainly cannot be taken as a precedent. If my hon. Friends will read the Bill they will see that though the actual change in the law is slight, and it is perfectly true to say that none of His Majesty's loyal subjects run the least risk whatever of having their liberties infringed in any degree or particular whatever, nevertheless there are circumstances which may arise and have arisen which, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, make it very necessary that this Bill should be passed into law. I therefore make the appeal frankly to the House that they should on this occasion, without regarding it in any way as a precedent, except for matters of great urgency, give this Bill the Third Reading.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House in respect of Clause 1."

When the Bill was being discussed in Committee I understood from the Under-Secretary for War and the Attorney-General that they would be willing to accept an Amendment on the Report stage, which stage does not now exist. The Amendment which I suggested was to Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, which at present is extremely drastic. It provides that although it cannot be shown that a person is guilty of any particular act, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, or his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interest of the State.

I suggested that in place of the words, "if it appears," there should be inserted the words "if it is shown to the satisfaction of the court." I understand that legally the words mean the same thing, but they are very much clearer to the ordinary man. Therefore, I beg to move, that the Bill be recommitted in respect of Clause 1.


May I point out to my hon. Friend that the Amendment which he suggests does not change the-sense of the Bill in the slightest degree. The words "if it appears" are "well-known words, and appear in many statutes affecting the liberty of the subject in far more serious ways than this measure does. They are not in the slightest degree novel. The difficulty in the way of accepting the words suggested by my hon. Friend is that you will have to define what is the court, which you do not require to do as the Clause stands. It could not possibly apply to anything but the tribunal. I would ask my hon. Friend, although I appreciate the point he puts forward, and which I may say is more a sentimental grievance than a practical one, not to press his Amendment. Anyone not used to reading Acts of Parliament might think that we are doing something which we are not doing. I assure the House, and I assure my hon. Friend, and all those who think with him, that the alteration which he desires will not change the Bill in the slightest degree. I would therefore ask him not to persist in asking us to recommit the Bill for the purpose of doing something that is purely verbal. If it were something really more I would accept the Amendment. My view is that it would mean exactly the same.


We understood just now that the Government agreed to the Amendment. It is rather hard lines that when the Bill has been allowed to go to Third Reading on an understanding that the Government should now object to do what within the last ten minutes they promised to do. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War will at any rate stick to what he promised, and not be led away by the lawyers. Above all it will never do for a feeling to get abroad in this House that the Government or a Member of the Government consents to something, and that afterwards when the course of procedure gives him an advantage, that that advantage is taken. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War will not conduct himself in such improper manner.

Colonel SEELY

I know that my right hon. Friend would not think that I would ever wish to take advantage of a technical situation. What happened was this; the Bill went through so rapidly that there was no time to make a formal Amendment so as to get a Report stage. That was partly due to the fact that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford (Sir William Byles) did not get his Division. I assure the hon. Member that I was anxious that he should, in order to give us time to deal with the Bill; but the Bill went through before we could put in a nominal Amendment, in order to get a Report stage. Had we had the Report stage we could, of course, have put in words such as the Attorney-General has described, but as we did not get a Report stage, and as the recommital of the Bill would involve it going through all its stages again, and as my right hon. Friend—who, as well as being a lawyer, I would point out is a Member of this House whom we all respect—gives his word, which is that of the highest legal authority, that any putting in of these words would not affect the real meaning of the Bill one iota, I would appeal to the hon. Member to absolve me from the undertaking I was anxious to carry out.


Does the right hon. Gentleman know that counsel's opinion is not law?


I would like to advise my hon. Friend not to press this matter, because I do not think it makes an essential difference in what I regard as a very bad Bill. One observation I would like to make. The Under-Secretary has told us that the provisions of this Bill would not be regarded as a precedent——

Colonel SEELY

No; what I said, and what I say now is, that the passage of this Bill through all its stages could not possibly be regarded as a precedent.

1.0 P.M.


Everything that this House does becomes a precedent of what it may do in the future. The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that what is in this Bill would not be a precedent. I draw attention once more to these words. I say their being in this Bill will be quoted against us in some other Bill proposed by some other Attorney-General years hence. It may be 100 years hence that some other Attorney-General will say what our Attorney-General has just said, namely, that these words are founded on an Act of Parliament; that they are nothing new; that they are in an Act of Parliament, namely, this Act which we are passing. What about those who fought for our liberties in the past? What about Magna Charta? These words— it shall not be necessary to show that the accused person is guilty … notwithstanding that no such act (as he is charged with) is proved against him, he may be convicted. I say that no Member of this House ought to vote for a Bill which contains those words.


I desire to assure the hon. Member opposite that in my opinion the Attorney-General is absolutely correct. Therefore I would suggest that it is only a waste of time to go forward with this discussion.


I entirely accept the view of the learned Attorney-General that the intention is the same. In view of what has fallen from the Under-Secretary for War, I cannot press my Motion, although I greatly regret the form in which the Bill takes. I do feel it gives the ordinary citizen a false impression of the intention of the Government, and the intention of the Act. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.