HC Deb 22 April 1932 vol 264 cc1776-7

"to remove the incapacity of the President of the Board of Trade for being elected and gating and voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament, and to indemnify certain holders of that Office from any penal consequence which they may have incurred by sitting or voting as Members of the said House at any time while they were not capable of so doing as being holders of that office," presented accordingly, and read the First time; and ordered to be printed.—[Bill 64.]


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."


I am sure that every one will agree with me when I say that I should be the last person in the world to see these penalties inflicted on any of my right hon. Friends, but I would like to point out that we ought to add to the list of those responsible the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The right hon. Gentleman is always ready to see other people's mistakes, and, although I should be the last person in the world to drag the right hon. Gentleman into the limelight against his well-known desire, I think he should explain why he did not see that the law was changed when he took office in such a way that a mistake like that could not occur. In this House we hear a good deal about the Law Officers, who are very efficient and excellent people, but it does seem a little pitiable, and it is difficult to explain to the outside public, how we as Members of the House of Commons can bring in a law of this kind, and pass it very quickly and easily, because certain people a good many years ago broke the law without knowing it.

I do not think that excuse will be readily accepted by people outside the House of Commons. If we are to have Law Officers, I think they should see that the law is made absolutely watertight. At any rate, the Law Officers should see that the law, as far as the whole of our Cabinet Ministers are concerned, is absolutely watertight. I know that some of us are anxious to protect our friends on the Front Bench, and, if there is any danger of Cabinet Ministers having these severe fines inflicted upon them, they ought to make themselves absolutely secure in the future, and incapable of being subject to the charges of what is generally known as the common informer. When you have a Cabinet depending upon certain Law Officers surely the law should be changed, and, if the Law Officers were made liable for any mistakes, I think that would be an excellent change. It would be, appreciated by Cabinet Ministers, and would enable them to go about their business without any fear of penalties. I make that suggestion to the Government, and, if they choose to carry out the necessary legislation to deal with that point and make a change in that direction, I am sure the House of Commons will be only too glad to pass this Bill as quickly as I hope it will go through.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[The Attorney-General.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]