HC Deb 09 December 1926 vol 200 cc2407-8

I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, after the second "any," to insert the word "wilful."

I am associated with other hon. Members in this and other Amendments. I feel bound to move this Amendment because I have undertaken to do so. But I wish to point out two circumstances which I hope the Committee will consider. First of all, in the Report of the Fond Council, in paragraph 5, they say: Witnesses representing local authorities and Inspectors of Weights and Measures have explained that prosecutions under Section 26 of the Weights and Measures Act, 1878, can only be successful in cases where an inspector actually sees the weighing or measuring operation, and can prove that fraud in the using of the weighing or measuring instrument is wilfully committed. As wilful fraud is very difficult to prove, the public obtains little protection from this Section of the Act even in cases where goods are weighed or measured in the presence of the purchaser. They point out, further, in paragraph 44 of their Report: We have already referred (paragraph 5) to the difficulties which local authorities have experienced in proving that an offence is 'wilfully' committed. It shank not be possible, as has proved to be the case in connection with the administration of Section 60 of the Glasgow Corporation Act, for a person charged with an offence under the proposed Act to escape conviction by pleading negligence. Such a word as 'knowingly' or any equivalent has, we are informed, been generally eliminated from legislation elsewhere, as so many cases, in which it was apparent that fraud had been committed, failed on account of the virtual impossibility of proving the state of mind of the man committing the offence, and it is added that experience has shown the justice of this omission. It is also fair to state that in Clause 13 there is expressed provision made in Sub-section (2): In any proceedings under this Act in respect of an alleged deficiency of weight or measure or number, if the defendant proves to the satisfaction of the Court that such deficiency was due to a bona fide mistake or accident in spite of all reasonable precautions being taken and all due diligence exercised by the said defendant to prevent the occurrence of such deficiency, or was due to the action of some person over whom the defendant had no control, the defendant shall be discharged from the prosecution. What I and other hon. Members had in mind was that because of a mistake a man should not suffer conviction. That seems to be met by Clause 13 (2). I observe that there are other Amendments on the Paper designed to strengthen the position of the defendant, if that be necessary.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)

The hon. Member has explained very fully to the Committee the reasons why he has moved the Amendment, but he has equally frankly told the Committee what has been the experience in the past where these words existed. Therefore, he has given the answer to his own Amendment, and I hope he will not press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Does the hon. Member propose to move the next Amendment standing in his name?



Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.