HC Deb 09 November 1916 vol 87 cc467-8

Without prejudice to any other mode of proof, if any person is a party to or connives at any offence under the Public Bodies Corruption Practices Act, 1889, -or the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1906, as amended and extended by this Act, he shall be deemed to have knowingly and wilfully abetted the commission of the offence, and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

I would ask the Attorney-General whether he has considered this, and whether, in view of the memorandum which was sent him in order to acquaint him with the point of view from which these Amendments have been drafted and put forward, he is willing to accept it?


I really did not know until I had read the long series of Amendments standing in the hon. Member's name, which show very great industry and very considerable research into the whole law of corruption, that he had bestowed so much attention on the subject. If the times were opportune for a meticulous reconsideration of the whole law relating to corruption, I think the long series of Amendments which stand in his name would deserve the attention of the House. But this is by general agreement a war measure which is rendered necessary by the very large number of Government contracts which have come into existence and by the scandals which were exposed in a recent criminal trial. I do not think for a moment the House would allow it if the Government itself proposed to recast the whole law of corruption. I have considered the Amendments of the hon. Member and the two in the name of the hon. Member (Sir W. Beale), and the same observations apply to both. If I might hazard a conjecture as to how they had been arrived at, I should surmise that, unless the hon. Member possesses a skill in draftman-ship more subtle than I attributed to him or a more general knowledge of the law I of corruption than is required for an ordinary commercial career, he had received the assistance of some member of my own profession who takes a great interest in the subject. Such industry is laudable, but the point we have to decide is whether or not the House is prepared, when addressing itself to a Bill of this scope and with this object, to revise and redraft the whole law of corruption. If I asked the House to do it, the House, I am sure, would refuse, and I hope and believe that it will not permit this to be done as the result of private enterprise. If a different view is taken, I must address myself to the task, but it might take many hours and perhaps some days. Unless in a particular case direct relevance is established between these Amendments and the proposals of this Bill, my advice is that the present moment is not opportune for their consideration.


I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks, with some of which I entirely agree. I will not trouble him except with one or two drafting Amendments on the last page of the Order Paper. I shall, however, reserve the right to say a few words upon the Second Reading, and I shall feel greatly honoured if the right hon. Gentleman will listen for a few minutes.


I will make a point of being here.


I had intended to rule most of these Amendments out of order.

Motion and Clause, by leave. withdrawn.