HC Deb 25 June 1936 vol 313 cc1941-2

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been brought to a recent case at the Ongar Police Court, when a Mr. Arthur William Wingar, of Fairfield Road, Ongar, a baker's roundsman earning 28s. a week, out of which he had to pay 15s. 6d. for rent and keep a wife and child on the rest, was charged with embezzlement and was fined £12 and one guinea costs; and whether, in view of the fact that the man's wages were so low, he will take steps to remit the fines imposed on him?


My attention had not previously been called to this case. I find on inquiry that the defendant pleaded guilty to six charges including embezzlement and falsification of accounts. I understand that the Justices took a serious view of the matter, but it was represented that the defendant would have an immediate opportunity of obtaining further employment, and having regard to this the Justices decided to deal with the case by fines, and imposed fines of £2 on each charge and allowed three months for payment. If the sum due is not paid within the time allowed, steps will be taken to bring the defendant before the Court with a view to inquiry as to his means in accordance with the Money Payments (Justices Procedure) Act, 1935. There is no occasion for me to intervene in the matter.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the increased poverty that such fines impose upon a family, of the fearful mental worry it causes to the whole of the home, and that this means that the punishment is far in excess of any offence that has been committed?


I think that the hon. Gentleman is not doing justice to the position. He will remember, I am sure, because he took part in it, that last Session the House passed the Act about fines, the very object of which is to secure that people are not punished because of poverty when fines cannot fairly be paid. It is surely right to visit these offences with punishment, and if the fines are not paid inquiry will be made.


Has the Home Secretary inquired whether the magistrates are thoroughly conversant with that Act?


I am quite sure that they are. We circularised all the magistrates, and the terms of my original answer have now called attention to it; but I will make quite certain.


Will the Minister send a pamphlet to the Ministry of Labour pointing out the urgent need of a Minimum Wage Bill?