HC Deb 01 August 1944 vol 402 cc1248-51
Mr. Manningham-Buller

On a point of Order. In view of what the Attorney-General has said on Second Reading, I do not propose to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Petty-Officer Herbert

I handed in an Amendment this morning——

The Chairman

I have not selected the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Amendment, but he is entitled to speak on the Clause standing part.

Petty-Officer Herbert

It is only a drafting Amendment, but I think it is an important one. I am not apologising to the Committee for trying to get the language of our Statutes as clear as can be. I invite the attention of the Committee to line 25. Whatever the meaning of "as soon as may be" is—and I am obliged to the Attorney-General for telling us that it means" as soon as possible in the circumstances"—it is quite clear in line 25, but, in the circumstances, ought it not to be "as soon as might have been"? In line 7, it sets out the terms of the original Act— shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and in line 25 we read that, after the phrase about failure to lay the Regulations before Parliament— as soon as may be after they were made Of two things we should do one—either make it "are" or alter the "may" to "might have been."

Mr. Molson

May I ask if it would not do as well to put "as soon as may be" in inverted commas?

Petty-Officer Herbert

I am told that that is not the practice.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

In saying just a couple of words upon this Clause, I would direct the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that, in the wording of the Bill, the Secretary of State is— hereby freed, discharged and indemnified from and against all consequences whatsoever, if any, incurred or to be incurred by him by reason of the said failure. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to get that printed and carry it with him at all times, so that he may have as much consideration for other unfortunate failures as this Committee is having for him at this particular time.

The Attorney-General

I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert) has joined in the "might have been" argument, but I think the suggestion that those words should be inserted here is unacceptable. Though they may have some grammatical support, I rather doubt it, because what we are reciting here is the exact wording of the Act of Parliament against the consequences of the disregard of which the Secretary of State is indemnified. Inverted commas are not put in Statutes, but I think it can easily be put right, and I think it is better to leave it as it is for the time being.

Petty-Officer Herbert

As I have pointed out, that is what we are not doing. If we were quoting the Statute, we would alter "are." Why alter "are" to "were" if we are not altering "may" to "might have been"?

The Attorney-General

I think, in fact, that there is no Amendment before the Committee.

Petty-Officer Herbert

One of the Departments of the University I represent is concerned with the language, and I am concerned with the language of the Statute. I do not know what the remedy is, but I do not like it.

Major Thorneycroft (Stafford)

I would ask the Attorney-General to give a little more consideration to the suggestion which has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend. If it is not an Amendment before the Committee, it was nevertheless a suggestion put forward, and it does seem possible for the Government themselves to move an Amendment on the Report stage to clear up the point my hon. and gallant Friend has raised.

The Attorney-General

We will look into this in another place.

Hon. Members

Why not now?

The Attorney-General

The Question before the Committee is "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Hon. Members

On the Report stage?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

As soon as may be?

Petty-Officer Herbert

I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend, but I do not see why the House of Commons should not do what it can to send this Bill forward in proper language. This is not the first time this has happened to me, and I have had nothing but contemptuous phrases from that Bench.

The Attorney-General

If the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment was not called, it is not my fault. The Question is "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The only thing I can possibly do is to promise to consider it in another place.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Sir A. Southby

On a point of Order. Is it not in Order for my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert) to move an Amendment on Third Reading?

The Chairman

No, it would not be in Order.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security (Miss Wilkinson)

On the Third Reading of the Bill, I wish to take the opportunity of thanking the House for its consideration to the Minister of Home Security in this difficult matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.