HC Deb 06 April 1944 vol 398 cc2153-4
12. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any further statement to make about steps which can be taken to prevent abuse of the provisions of the Sunday Observance Act by common informers.

Mr. H. Morrison

As I indicated in reply to Questions on 20th January, I should be very glad to get rid of all the antiquated provisions of the law which enable a common informer to sue for penalties: but any such general overhauling of ancient statutes cannot be undertaken at the present time. I have, however, been in consultation with the Lord Chancellor about cases in which the common informer arranges with the offender to compound the penalty. Under an Act of Elizabeth such an arrangement requires the consent of the Court, and, in the view of the Lord Chancellor and myself, applications for such consent ought to be made in open court so that there may be public knowledge of any such proceedings. I am glad to be able to announce that rules of the Supreme Court have now been made to this effect.

Mr. Sorensen

While expressing my appreciation of that fact, may I ask the Home Secretary how many such cases are within his knowledge.

Mr. Morrison

The cases within my knowledge are very few but I am bound to say that it is thoroughly undesirable that they should have been dealt with privately, and I think it will have a healthy effect if we cause this to be dealt with publicly.

Mr. Sorensen

Can the Home Secretary say whether this will affect the Sunday opening of theatres beneficially.

Mr. Morrison

I should not think so for a moment.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Leader of the House, consider again the desirability of giving the House an opportunity of registering its opinion on this particular subject, and also its opinion on the parallel subject of the legalising of Sunday entertainments.

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid that I cannot add to the statement I made in the Adjournment Debate initiated by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Will my right hon. Friend consider, along with that statement, that he might well make it clear that, if artists want to entertain troops on a Sunday in a proper manner, no common informer can do any harm or interfere with such shows.

Mr. Morrison

I cannot make that statement because it would not be true.

Mr. Walkden

It is the truth.