§ Mr. Key (Bow and Bromley)
I beg to move, in page 11, line 17, to leave out from "Section", to the end of the Subsection.
My purpose is to get an assurance that the forms and returns contemplated are going to be of the simplest character possible. The number of forms that have to be filled up is becoming really unbearable. When we met the Parliamentary Secretary this point was raised and we were assured that it was not anticipated that many records and forms would be required. The Parliamentary Secretary said he thought that local authorities would be able to use existing records provided they gave the Minister the information required. It seems to be contemplated here that all sorts of new forms are going to be put up to be filled in instead of using the returns which are kept in the normal way as being able to provide the required information.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. McCorquodale)
I think everyone has sympathy with what the hon. Member wishes to do. We have had so much experience with forms and records during the war that no one wants to see them too difficult. I can give the assurance that we are going to try to make the obligation required here as simple as possible but it is necessary to obtain the requisite amount of information to see that the provisions under the Bill are, in actual fact, being kept. The Sub-section is put in to help what the hon. Member has in mind. It is the intention that the Minister should make the regulations as simple as possible, and in accordance with the practice followed up to now if that is sufficient. We could not accept these Amendments. The first two would delete the last words of Sub-sections (1) and (2) which are necessary to ensure that all the requisite information is afforded. It is desirable that we should in Sub-section (3) stipulate, for the convenience of people, how best they can keep those records, and the fourth Amendment which the hon. Member wishes to move means that after 12 months the whole thing would be closed down. The fact that an employer has not for some considerable time been undertaking his obligations under this Bill might not come 967 to light until after 12 months had elapsed, and it would not be the wish of this House that he would get off scot free. Therefore, we cannot agree that records should be allowed to be destroyed at the end of 12 months, for that would destroy any proof of misdemeanour on the part of the employer.
§ Sir H. Williams
On that point, my hon. Friend has suggested that this would be done by regulations. People would be called upon to supply a lot of information. These regulations are operative the moment they are made. It is true they can be subsequently cancelledwithin the period of twenty-eight days beginning with the day on which any such regulations or order are or is laid before it resolves that the regulations or order be annulled.But if the Minister made the regulations towards the end of July, the three months might well go by during which these regulations were operative, and people would have to do all the work. Therefore, so long as Clause 19 remains in its present form, the assurance given by my hon. Friend is not too satisfactory.
§ Mr. Douglas
This Clause does not impose any obligation to make returns, it merely imposes an obligation on the employer to keep records, and if this Measure is to work, employers will have to keep records, otherwise it will be impossible to enforce its provisions. I would also point out that the Clause as drafted is of an extremely reasonable character. It specifies the matters of which a record has to be kept, and no objection is taken to the matters which are to be recorded. It goes on to say that the Minister may make regulations, and if the employer keeps his records in the form mentioned by the regulations, he will certainly be entirely correct in what he has done. But it does not say that the employer is bound to keep his records in that particular form. It gives the employer the option of keeping his records in other forms so long as he keeps the required particulars, and therefore it gives a large amount of elasticity, and I think that the Government are to be congratulated upon this.
§ Sir H. Williams
My hon. Friend has overlooked the fact that while it is true the employer has to make a record it must be in such a way that it can be inspected under paragraph 4 and then, 968 if the Minister, or his minion, does not like that, under paragraph 5 there can be a prosecution—a prosecution under something which may subsequently be annulled by this House. Everything done under the Order prior to the annulment would be in order and there would be no return of the fine for doing something which the House of Commons subsequently approved as right.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in page 12, line 7, after "shall," to insert:unless he satisfies the court that such failure is due to his not having kept the required records.I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will thank us for having given him an opportunity of noting what he had apparently not noted before, that under the wording of the Bill some poor devil might suffer because in the first instance he failed to produce the necessary records. I feel quite sure that no further words of mine are needed for the Attorney-General to put the matter right for the Committee.
§ The Attorney-General
I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for putting this down. There was a possibility—though it was not likely to happen—that under the Clause as originally drafted a man might be prosecuted one month for not keeping records and he might say, "I never have kept them," and then next month they might say, "Produce your records," and he might then be prosecuted for not being able to produce records which he had already been punished for not keeping. It is better that the Clause should not be capable of 969 that construction, and we advise the Committee to accept the Amendment. It is in a slightly altered form. The word "kept" is used on the Order Paper. It is ambiguous and might refer to the original making of the entries or the preserving of them in the intermediate period, so I think the Amendment must read:Unless he proves that the failure is due to his not having made or not having preserved the required records.
I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend and under the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in Clause 14, page 12, line 7, after "shall," to insert:unless he proves that the failure is due to his not having made or not having preserved the required records.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.