HC Deb 09 November 1939 vol 353 cc408-10
46. Mr. Leach

asked the Prime Minister whether he will explore the possibilities of an agreement being effected relative to the flogging provisions contained in the Criminal Justice Bill, and give facilities for the passage of the Bill?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Samuel Hoare)

Sympathetic consideration has been given to this question. In view of the substantial measure of agreement on the main provisions of the Bill and of the time already given to its consideration, the Government would have been glad if some further time could have been found to carry its main provisions through the further stages. But the Bill covers a wide field and examination of its provisions shows that if it were to proceed a very substantial amount of time would have to be given by Ministers and Departmental officials to consideration of some of its Clauses and of many amendments relating to important details. In present circumstances the Government have reluctantly come to the conclusion that time could not be found for this work without prejudice to the effort on which all our energies must now be concentrated.

Mr. Leach

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the strength of feeling in all parts of the House in favour of passing this Measure into law, and is it not still possible to make some arrangements through the usual channels whereby the difficulties which the Lord Privy Seal has just mentioned may be completely obviated?

Sir S. Hoare

I recognise as strongly as anyone in this House—perhaps even more strongly than some—the strength of the support behind this Measure. There is no Bill that I would myself rather see passed into law. The difficulty is not the difficulty of the time of this House; it is the difficulty of the Government draftsmen and the departmental officials. Very reluctantly and much against my will I have been convinced that, in the circumstances, it is impossible to impose this further task on them.

Mr. Attlee

Will the right hon. Gentleman give further consideration to this, in view of the general desire that the important reforms contained in the Bill should be passed, and that all that work should not be lost? Would it not be possible to get assistance in drafting from eminent counsel and others, who perhaps have less work to do owing to the war, and to get the Bill through, as it would be extremely unfortunate if all that work should be lost?

Sir S. Hoare

I am as sorry as anybody in the House can be about the present position in this matter. I will convey the right hon. Gentleman's observations to the Prime Minister, but, again, I must say that the difficulty is the difficulty of imposing an almost impossible task upon the Government draftsmen and the Departmental officials.

Mr. Thorne

If time cannot be found during this Session, could not provision be made to carry the Bill over to the next Session?

Mr. Graham White

May I ask whether, in addition to the considerations which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned, and which the House recognises, he has also given consideration to the great propaganda effect of passing through the British Parliament a great humane measure such as this at a time when the world is dominated by brutality and violence?

Sir S. Hoare

Certainly, I will take note of that fact. I do not want to get into any controversy with the hon. Gentleman on this subject. Again, I say that the difficulty is the difficulty of the Government draftsmen and the Departments. In reply to the question of the hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne), as he knows, Bills cannot be carried over, except private Bills, but I should very much hope—and here I am expressing a personal opinion—that in some early Session a Bill of this kind will be introduced and will without delay be passed on to the Statute Book.

Mr. Thorne

Could not a Resolution be passed through the House in a very short space of time to get the Bill carried over?

Mr. Rhys Davies

In view of the very great amount of time which we spent on this Bill in the Standing Committee, and in view of the expressions of opinion which the right hon. Gentleman has heard given here to-day, is it not possible for the Cabinet to reconsider this decision?

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Could not a Clause be inserted in the Bill postponing the action of the Bill until after hostilities?

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if this Bill were passed into law now, considerable expense would be incurred in putting its provisions into force, and that in the present state of the finances of this country, that would not be desirable?

Mr. Stephen

Could not the right hon. Gentleman follow the precedent that was adopted in connection with the London Passenger Transport Bill, and carry it over?

Sir S. Hoare

The hon. Member will remember that that was not a Government Bill, but a Private Bill.

Mr. Wedģwood Benn

Is there any objection to setting a precedent, especially in view of what was said by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), in order that all the work done on this Bill should not be sacrificed? Could not a Resolution be drafted, and find acceptance by the whole House perhaps, to carry the Bill over?

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