§ It shall be the duty of every local registration authority to take all such steps as are necessary for securing the due registration of all persons within their district required by this Act to cause themselves to be registered under the principal Act, and for securing the performance by all persons of their duties under this Act.936
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, after the word "for" ["necessity for securing"], to insert the words "giving proper notice to and."
We have had some sort of promise given that it will be the duty of the authorities to give notice to these young people and to discharged soldiers who, to a large extent, will be the persons to be registered under this Bill. I welcome this Clause, because it imposes definite duties upon the local registration authorities. The previous Act did not impose the work of registration as a definite duty. Here we have got the recognition of it being a duty imposed upon an authority, and that duty can, I suppose, be enforced in the ordinary way. That is all to the good, but I want included the duty of notifying the persons who are to be registered. We have had various criticisms of the Bill upon the lines that it imposes duties upon young people and discharged soldiers of which they may never be aware, and for not performing which they may easily find themselves heavily fined. This Amendment imposes upon the local registration authority the distinct and definite duty of notifying the people who have to be registered that they must be registered.
We cannot accept this Amendment. I have already explained that it is impossible to put upon the local authorities the liability of giving notice, because it is quite impossible for them to know the whole of the addresses of these lads and discharged soldiers. If my lion. Friend's Amendment were carried, it would put upon the local authority the liability to give "proper notice," whatever that might be, and that liability might be construed into a liability to actually send to every house within its district a notice that the Bill had been passed and that the forms could be obtained at the town hall or some other place. That is exactly the difficulty in which, as I have explained to the Committee, the Government is placed. We should have to send to every house a notification of the Act. It would necessitate the sending out or something like 8,000,000 notices, an immense amount of labour, and an amount of printing which I do not think we should get done. I would ask the Committee to realise the extraordinary difficulty under which the Government and all Departments are suffering at present in regard 937 to printing. This Amendment would throw upon local authorities a duty which we cannot put upon them.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words,
"Any member or official of a local registration authority failing to take proper steps for securing due registration under these Acts shall be liable on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts to a fine not exceeding five pounds."
We have had the doctrine laid down here to-night by the President of the Local Government Board himself that when you impose a duty you must give it the sanction of a fine. When we urged that discharged soldiers should not be liable to a fine if they did not register, the answer came very promptly from the Treasury Bench that when you impose a duty by Statute you must also impose a fine. That argument seemed to be a strong one. I did not want it to be applied in the case of soldiers, because I wanted it to be felt that this registration was, as was said by one of our Prime Ministers,The free gift of a free nation.It is different when you want to put a duty on a local authority. I propose that when a local authority does not carry out its duty properly it shall be open to any person who sees that to summon and fine either a member or the officials.
I would point out to my hon. Friend that Section 13 of the original Act provides
"(1) If any person employed under this Act makes wilful default in the performance of any of his duties under this Act, he shall for each offence be liable, on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
"(2) If any person employed in collecting, correcting, or completing forms, or otherwise acting in the compilation or maintenance of the register, or the tabulation of the contents thereof, or any person using the register, communicates without lawful authority any information required in the course of his employment, or from such use, he shall, on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, be liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour, for a term 938 not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, or to both such imprisonment and fine."
It is not usual in Acts winch impose duties on local authorities to include a penalty. It is quite true that in the Representation of the People Bill we did put a penalty upon registration officers who failed to carry out their duties, but it is more usual to proceed against local authorities by mandamus than by penalty. We should be wise to rest ourselves upon the general powers that we have over local authorities and to feel that as we nave power to compel officials of local authorities to carry out their duties so we have power under the general law to compel them by mandamus to carry out the duties which this Bill imposes upon them. I do not think the words are necessary and I trust the hon. Member will not press them.
§ Mr. KILEY
It will be practically impossible for many local authorities to carry out the proposals laid down in this Bill so as to avoid coming under penalties. Take the case of the district of Stepney, or the Thames, where boats of all kinds are arriving and where many men will come tinder the provisions of the Act. It is impossible for the local authority to get in touch with them and to penalise them if they fail to advise these sea faring people of the provisions of this Bill. It is an impossible provision. I trust the hon. Member will not persist in Amendment.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I find myself in the remarkable position of agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman and disagreeing with my hon. Friend (Mr. King). I have always thought there are too many penalties imposed by this Bill, and I certainly do not want to have another. I resented a good deal the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I do not think there has been any undue argument or obstruction.
I never accused the hon. Member of any obstruction or undue argument. I accused him of saying that the lads of this country have so little public spirit that they would not obey the law unless there was a penalty attached to it.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I should be out of order in going into that, but that is not what I said on the last Amendment. I said a certain number would not obey the law, and I shall carry the common sense of the Committee with me. Obviously you 939 could not have a complete register. We do not want to have further penalties than those already put upon discharged soldiers under the Bill, and I think my hon. Friend would do well to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.