§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
I beg to move, in page 17, line 12, leave out paragraph (e).
1691 It is to the word "alone" that I wish to draw the attention of the Minister. I think it is generally agreed to be undesirable for any official or police officer, or any other person in authority, to question any person on any matter unless that person is accompanied by a friend or some independent witness. No doubt the Committee will remember what is known as the Savage case, a great many years ago, when a girl who was reckoned to be an important witness was questioned alone by the police. She appears to have been a young woman with her head screwed on the right way. The Press took the matter up and there was a great deal of public indignation; since when, I believe, that practice has been completely discontinued. It is unfortunate that that practice should be continued in any legislation which this House is called upon to pass. I know I may be told that this practice is allowed under the Trade Board Acts, to which the House gave its consent about 25 years ago, and that it is also contained in the Catering Wages Act, but that the House has in the past given this power to some officials is no reason why we should continue to endorse that practice.
I feel most strongly that any person who is to be questioned by the police or by any public official has the right to insist upon being accompanied by a friend. One can well imagine that an over zealous official, possibly with the best intentions in the world, may so cross-question a young girl in employment in a factory or workshop that she will be induced to make all sorts of statements that are not strictly in accordance with the facts, and be obliged to sign that statement, and thus cause a great deal of avoidable trouble. I would ask my right hon. Friend either to remove the words in the Clause or to give some definite assurance that a person who is to be questioned will always have the right to be accompanied by a friend.
§ Mr. Bevin
This is in all the industrial legislation that has been carried in this House for a good many years. The purpose of it is that the work person, when interviewed, needs particularly to be free of the employer, because of the fear of victimisation. The real point is that an inspector has the right to ask the work person to give him a statement. Other- 1692 wise he is bound to depend on written records, which puts the inspector in a very difficult position. Subject to correction, I think it would practically nullify the effect of the next Amendment on the Paper, which I propose to accept and which is in the name of myself, the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), and others. Under that Amendment a person is not called upon to do anything that incriminates himself. This is the only way in which we can really get the facts. We are not dealing with a criminal case in the sense of the Savage case; it is not on the same grounds at all; the questioning is certainly not for the same purpose.
§ Captain Thorneycroft (Stafford)
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for a very fair answer on this point, I think this is a matter on which the Solicitor-General ought to give us the benefit of his opinion. Clauses of this kind are, on the face of it, most undesirable. It is all very well to put in a Clause like this, but witnesses do not make a lucid statement of the facts and then sign it. What happens—and no doubt the Solicitor-General will bear me out from his experience—is that an officer cross-examines, by means of leading questions, the person from whom he is trying to get evidence, and then he writes down the answers to the questions as though they came freely from the witness.
The Bill requires that the person should sign the statement. The Solicitor-General knows the difficulties that one gets into in the courts in these circumstances. There is a written statement which is supposed to be the freely-offered evidence of the witness. The person says: "I did not mean that at all." The court then points to the signature, and extraordinary difficulties arise. Again and again a police officer who has insisted on the signature has received a very sharp reprimand. To allow that system to be embodied in the Bill is extremely undesirable. The point is so important in legal practice that we ought to have the opinion of the Solicitor-General on it.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If it had not been a fact that there has been no complaint against an officer during the last 25 or 30 years of operation of this type of Section in Acts of Parliament, I should be influenced by what has just been said on collecting evidence from complainants. I am very much concerned about some aspects of this problem. If the Amendment were carried I think it would mean that a complainant who wanted to be alone during an examination could not be alone.
§ Mr. Davies
It is very often the case that the person to be examined would prefer to be alone, but the arguments put up by hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite imply that if their Amendment were carried nobody could be alone during this examination, even if he so wished.
§ Mr. Davies
I am arguing my own case, and I do not want the hon. and gallant Member to say "No" at every point of my statement. This examination is not to be done by the police, which makes all the difference. When any factory or coalmines inspector comes on the scene at present, he is not there as a policeman. Consequently, I hope that the Government will resist the Amendment, because there has been no case under the Trade Board Acts of complaint relevant to this Amendment. Above all, I could not imagine, for instance, a small shopkeeper, if he were examined for an offence under the Bill, wanting any one of his assistants to be present when he was examined by the inspector.
§ Mr. Pritt
Apart from the special grounds which have been advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) in defence of the Clause, I would like to say something with reference to the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Thorneycroft). I have some sympathy with what is in his mind, which is that in the ordinary criminal case, a policeman, inspired by zeal or some other motive, may question people pretty vigorously. If the hon. and gallant Member is suggesting that there is any general practice in this country of protecting persons who are being questioned by the 1694 police by giving them the right to insist upon somebody else always being present, he is describing something of which I have never heard. I may be entirely wrong, but I have the impression that at least 99 per cent. of the ordinary citizens questioned by ordinary police in ordinary crimes—if one may use that expression—are examined alone.
§ Captain Thorneycroft
If, in the ordinary course of events, a private citizen is being asked questions by the police, and he says that he wishes to have his solicitor or friend present, the policeman will be most unwise to refuse that request. Moreover, no policeman has the right to insist upon examination.
§ Mr. Pritt
No police officer has a right to insist upon examination, in the sense that a person can always refuse to answer. I have never been examined by the police that I can recollect, but I am told that it is very difficult to refuse to answer. No doubt I shall learn in due course. It is perfectly true that the person has that technical right to ask for his solicitor, but in the enormous percentage of what I call the ordinary examinations the person concerned has not a solicitor, even if he wanted to call one.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
There is one small point upon which I have sympathy with the promoters of the Amendment, although on the main point I think they are mistaken and that the Amendment ought to be defeated. The Clause makes it compulsory on the part of the interviewed person to sign the statement. Perhaps that is not necessary. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it rather weakens the evidence that is obtained by the officer than strengthens it. The great force of having a signature to a document is that the signature is voluntarily given, when it is taken as an attestation of the truth of the statement made by the person who signed it—or his belief in its truth. If you compel the person to sign it, and then the person says: "I did not mean that. The officer got it down wrong. I meant rather more, or rather less, than that," and then you produce the signature, the person can say: "It is true that my signature is on the document but only because I had to put it there. I had not the right to put it 1695 or not put it as I chose." My right hon. Friend might pay some attention to that point, I suggest.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
I understand from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment that the principal objection was that the person to be examined should have someone else there, if he so desired. Apart from that, I think there is good reason to ask that this Clause be reconsidered. Let me point out that there are no less than three Amendments in the name of the Minister. In view of what is happening, could we have an assurance that the whole matter will be reconsidered before the Report stage?
§ The Solicitor-General
Perhaps I might deal first with the points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. I should have thought that we were dealing with a perfectly clear point here, which stand by itself and on which there is difference of opinion. The main point with which we are dealing is the right of the inspector to examine the person alone. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) has introduced a second point, with which I am willing to deal, as to the advisability of requiring a signature to the statement. On the first point, surely the difference between the proceedings here and the proceedings referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stafford (Captain Thorneycroft) is that here the officer is taking a statement from the complainant. If my hon. and gallant Friend will look at the words of the Clause, and will, with his mind's eye, take in the Amendment which the Government propose, it reads:… person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to be or to have been a worker to whom a wages regulation order applies or has applied …We are in quite a different atmosphere, when dealing with getting a statement from the proposed complainant or someone who is a fellow worker with the complainant, from that of taking a statement from a defendant, which is what my hon. Friend had mainly in mind.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Captain Cobb
May I interrupt my hon. and learned Friend? Surely these people are not necessarily complainants? They may be people who are supposed 1696 to be affected by some breach of the regulations but are not necessarily complainants.
§ The Solicitor-General
My hon. and gallant Friend may have in mind people who have been paid inadequate or illegal wages for a period and who do not complain. There may be some who may be charitable to that extent. I would be the last to say there are none, but I will deal with that aspect in a moment. I do not think it is unfair to say that people who have been paid, or regarding whom there is a question of their having been paid, inadequate or illegal wages, can be justly described as complainants in that matter. I repeat that they are substantially in the position of complainants, and the inspector is not in the position of a policeman, but is the person who can assist those people to establish their rights.
§ Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)
If these people are ordinarily treated as complainants why, under Sub-section (6), should they be required to answer?
§ The Solicitor-General
That hangs on the point which has already been dealt with, that although they are people with regard to whom it is believed that they have been inadequately or illegally paid, and are, therefore, in the position of complainants, they are also people who have a job to hold. The difficulty that might well arise—I do not say it would arise in every case—and we consider it right to protect these people against it, is that they might be unwilling, especially in the presence of their employer, and even if he was not there, to give the evidence or to speak as freely, because of their fears. That is why we considered it right that if the inspector suspects that to be the position, he should have the right to take the statement alone.
§ Sir J. Mellor
While that may be a good explanation of the reason for the questioning taking place in camera, surely it is no justification for those people being compelled to answer?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am very sorry, but my hon. Friend and I have very different ideas about the administration of justice, and what is necessary in that regard. If we decide it is proper to have this basis of minimum remuneration, 1697 then I should have thought it was most desirable that people in that position should be compelled to answer and that the law should be fortified. My hon. Friend takes a different view. I can only say that I disagree with him strongly.
I would now like to deal with the point—because it is an interesting one—which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). If he will allow me to say so, I have personal reasons for knowing his great experience of this subject matter. He raised the question of the signature to the statement. There again, I think the most compelling reason is that it often happens that somebody makes a statement giving an account of an event having taken place, or giving a certain account of any occurrence, and after that time pressure is put on them to alter that statement. My hon. Friend will appreciate the obvious pressure which might be brought there is the fear of losing the job, exercised one way or the other. My hon. Friend knows, as well as anyone, the difficulty in which one is placed if a person resiles from his statement, but it is some help when one has got a signed statement in writing to the contrary, which can be used in the way my hon. Friend knows.
§ Mr. Silverman
Certainly, but the point I was trying to make is that the effectiveness of that signature is reduced, not increased, if the witness should afterwards say, "Yes, my signature is there, but it is not because I thought the statement was right, it is because I had no right to refuse my signature."
§ The Solicitor-General
There is no compulsion on him to sign an untrue statement. I agree that we have all had that position, and we know the difficulties that arise, and one has to reach a balance between them. What we are dealing with, and what we want to declare by this Sub-section is that the forces of law and order will do their utmost to discourage any attempt to put pressure on the worker in those circumstances. Therefore, we put in a strong Clause. I think if we have a strong Clause it will deal with a great many of the dangers we anticipate. I am sure that a strong Clause is the right way, in these circumstances, to do what we all, in every quarter of the Committee, want, that is, to get at the truth.
§ Mr. Gallacher
After having listened to the legal men, I want to put another point in connection with this matter. The Solicitor-General is quite right in his presentation of the situation that applies when this Bill will be effective. Always, the underpaid worker will be the complainant. There will not be complaints that some workers are overpaid, and that the regulations are, therefore, not being carried out. When the inspector makes an examination it will always be in the case of an employer trying to undercut the wages he is supposed to pay. It is terrible that we should have to pass so many laws, and take up so much time here, trying to keep these capitalistic sharks within something like reasonable dimensions in the national pool. In the workshops we have had experience time and time again of men being paid below the rates that were supposed to prevail in that particular trade, and it was nearly impossible to get them to admit that they were being underpaid because they were so afraid—they had a wife and family at home—lest they were thrown out on to the streets. Of course, hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee have never seen the conditions under which men, women and children have to live and work. The Minister is trying here to devise some means to overcome that difficulty in cases where an employer tries to cut down to the very bone the remuneration of the worker. There would be no need for this Bill at all if there were not conditions in this country under which men and women are living below the poverty line. I know it is a matter for cynical smiles on the part of those—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think it is a matter for a Second or Third Reading speech, not on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I know those on the other side live in a different realm altogether. They scoop up the pool. They take away the wealth others produce and leave the minimum for the workers.
This particular Clause is very important. There can never be any question of a man signing an answer if it is untrue. If he is not prepared to give a correct answer he had better not give an answer at all. He can always refuse to give an answer. The officer should be empowered, after he has taken the statement, to take the necessary measures to ensure that no victimisation of any kind 1699 shall be directed against that man. That is the important factor. We had the same thing in connection with the Rents Bill, because when people went and made complaints about being soaked too much for rents, they were ordered out of the houses. The officer must be given power to keep these men in their jobs after they have signed the statement, so that he can carry out the regulations. Let us make no mistake about it, a Clause of this kind is very necessary to guard the workers against rapacious employers.
§ Captain Cobb
I hope my hon. and learned Friend does not feel embarrassed at the quarter from which he has just had that support. I can assure the Minister of Labour I am fully aware of the fact that the kind of misdemeanour with which these officials will be dealing will be quite different from the kind of thing dealt with in what is known as the "Savage case." I am not altogether satisfied with the answer, because I feel strongly about this business of people being examined without having the right to be accompanied by a friend. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Davies) appears to think that I want to have the employer brought in. That is not my idea; it would be putting the employer in an impossible position. But there should be words in this Clause to make it quite clear that the employee, if he so desires, has the right to be accompanied by a friend of his own choosing. I am not able, therefore, to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Bevin
I beg to move, in page 17, line 14, leave out from "person," to "whom," in line 16.
This Amendment is brought forward because my attention was called, after the Second Reading of the Bill, to the fact that it might be applied to distributive and other trades, and that the inspector might—I do not think he would—have the power to interview customers. This Amendment and the next one in my name limits his questioning to the employee, agent or the employer, and makes the Clause clear as to the investigation that can take place.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevin
I beg to move, in line 21, at end, insert:Provided that no person shall be required under paragraph (e) of this sub-section to give any information tending to criminate himself.These words are in the Catering Act and they give effect to an undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary during the Second Reading. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) put down a similar Amendment, and we have merged the two into one. This, I think, gives effect to a similar principle of existing legislation.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
May I ask a question? I can imagine a case where wages are enforceable under this Act, and where an employer employs only a small number of people in the distributive trades. In some cases, I think, the employee will not have sufficient courage, lest he loses his job, to make a complaint. Is it possible for the officer who will implement this Clause to take steps to bring the matter to the notice of the authorities and see that it is implemented? I am sure that the Minister of Labour knows of such cases, both in distribution and other occupations, and I shall be very glad to receive some reply from him.
§ Mr. Davies
That is my point. Would the officer, in that case, require to interview any of the staff?
§ Mr. Davies
I can see a difficulty arising there, and it is a very real one. I am sure that cases will arise in very small firms where it would be very difficult for the officer to secure the evidence from one of the employees, lest he should suffer in consequence, and I am wondering if there is any process whereby the employer can be compelled to carry out the law, even if the employee concerned refuses to give the evidence.
§ Mr. Bevin
It will be the duty of the inspector to get the evidence. If the employee will not give him the truth, he 1701 must get it some other way, I suppose, but he must get evidence to show whether or not the standards of wages are being observed. I do not think there will be any more difficulty in the trades covered by this Bill than there was a few years ago under the Agricultural Wages Act. There, you had one or two men involved, and that Act, when they got used to it, has been carried out ever since. They had to pay a little bit at the beginning, which had a very good effect upon them, but, afterwards, the Act worked extremely well. We may come across cases of the character mentioned by the hon. Member, but, of course, under Clause (5) the absolute duty is placed on the Minister to see that the Act is carried out.
Is the officer who is conducting this cross-examination bound to warn the person examined that he is not bound to answer his questions? Otherwise, it seems to me, putting this in the Bill does not mean very much.
§ Mr. Bevin
Inspectors act with a good deal of tact and common sense. The officers have to investigate and get the facts whether or not the wages are being paid. Why is the inspector put into this Bill? The inspector is put in this Bill to get these wages paid because it is assumed that the individual whom you are looking after is not strong enough to get them himself. That is the reason of it. The inspector is the protector of the recipient of the wages. He is not going around looking for criminality or something of that kind. Who are the people likely to stand in his way in getting this information? The bad employer, who has not been fair. He does not have to go to the good employer at all. I am not quite conversant with the exact way in which these inspectors do it, but I will find out by the Report stage and inform my hon. Friend. Up to now, they have carried out their duties, as I have just said, without a word of complaint from the employers. A good many of the complaints that do reach us concern competitors where the wages are not being paid, and where, therefore, the inspector gets on the job and gets the evidence.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The inspector is the protector of the man who is too weak to protect himself regarding remuneration, but will he protect him after he has got the remuneration?
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)
Is the inspector able to provide that, if certain information is given by the man which would incriminate him, that evidence could not be brought against him?
§ Mr. Bevin
No. But may I make this further observation? Every employer, under this Bill, is presumed to keep records. We know there are a great many cases where no records have been kept at all. Therefore, you have to go to find out from the person whether the wages have or have not been paid. The employer, in that case, may possibly commit two offences, one in not keeping a record and second, in not paying the wages. The inspector, in cases where records are not kept, has to go round and get the evidence of what in fact has been happening, because the written evidence is not there.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford)
I beg to move, in page 17, line 24, to leave out from "Act" to end of Sub-section.
This Amendment deals with a matter of procedure governing the manner in which these cases are presented when they come into court. Under the Bill as it stands, it is provided that the inspector may institute proceedings; no objection can, of course, be taken to that. But it goes on to provide that he may not only institute proceedings, but may conduct the proceedings himself. Upon the face of it, no doubt, hon. Members will think that there is no very great objection to that procedure. It has, in fact, been the procedure under the Trade Boards Act for a number of years. It is also the procedure which is followed under the Factory Acts in the cases of prosecutions instituted by the inspectors of factories.
It is precisely because I believe that experience both under the existing Trade Boards legislation and the Factory Acts has shown that this procedure is not satisfactory, either from the point of view of the inspectors themselves, or that of the Department, that I have put down this Amendment, which would have the effect of making it obligatory upon the Department that some person other than the inspector should be responsible for conducting the case if and when it comes into court. Let hon. Members consider for a moment how the procedure works out in fact. The inspector goes into the court and takes his seat in the advocate's 1703 place in court. He proceeds to open his case as an advocate. Sometimes, advocates are tempted when opening their cases to put a little more gloss upon their cases than is put upon them by their witnesses when they give evidence. Having done that, the inspector then proceeds to go into the witness box, take the oath, give evidence as his principal witness, and submit himself to cross-examination by his opponent. Having been cross-examined, he comes down from the witness box and takes his place again at the advocate's table.
I know that my hon. and learned Friend, in days gone by, had a very wide experience of these cases, and I venture to hope that his experience in those days has satisfied him that that form of procedure was not a satisfactory form of procedure from any point of view. It is a very undesirable thing that the same individual should play the double role of advocate and witness in his own case. I think that the Committee will appreciate that it is not easy for a man who has decided to institute a prosecution, upon evidence which he has himself collected, to go before a tribunal and take that detached view of the subject matter of the prosecution, and of the manner in which it should be presented, which it is very desirable, in the interests of justice, that he should take.
Let me say this also in support of my Amendment. I believe, and, certainly, my belief is confirmed by my own experience of the past when I was sometimes concerned in cases of this sort—and I hope that my hon. and learned Friend's experience confirms it also—that that method of presenting cases was not in the interests either of justice or, indeed, of the Department itself. The tribunals were apt to take an unfavourable view of a case presented to them in that way. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to accept the Amendment, because I believe it is really in the interests of justice and of the efficient manner in which this Bill should be carried out that some person who has the training and experience of an advocate should be interposed between the inspector and the tribunal.
§ Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)
I am very pleased to observe that my hon. and learned Friend is all alone 1704 in his proposal, although I note that there are other hon. and worthy Members of his profession present. I hope they will leave him alone and not give him any support for this Amendment. Of all the Amendments that my trade union friends dislike, this is the one they dislike most.
In our experience—I speak as one who has spent many days and weeks with industrial courts and wages boards—we find it much better for all the pleadings and submission of cases, and examination of the business before the chairman, to be conducted not by learned professors of the law. If the Committee accepted this Amendment it would introduce a new principle into all these industrial relationships. It would create a nasty precedent, and it would mean that if such a course could be adopted here it could be adopted elsewhere, and the preparation and submission of cases would take much longer and be far more expensive.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Will the hon. Member allow me to ask whether he appreciates that, if the prosecution is successful, an order for costs will be made against the offending party?
§ Mr. Walkden
That supports my point. These troubles ought to be dealt with in a human sort of way, and I suggest that there is no one better qualified to submit a case than the officer associated with the wages council. He knows both sides. He may be trying to get the right thing done by a worker who has been tricked. On the other hand, he may be trying to do his best for the good employer. He knows the balance of the whole trade, and no one could possibly have greater qualifications in this matter than such an officer or inspector. We who have to deal with these labour problems prefer to have the amateur inspector, or the amateur trade union advocate, as the worker's friend than to bring in barristers to elaborate proceedings and make them most costly and difficult to institute. Therefore, I hope the Committee will not give encouragement to this unfortunate Amendment.
§ Sir E. Shepperson
I would like to say that my hon. and learned Friend has some support for his Amendment. I support his Amendment.
§ The Solicitor-General
My hon. Friends opposite, who are strong trade unionists, will have a certain sympathy for my posi- 1705 tion on this occasion because what I am defending is the exclusion of members of my profession in certain cases, but I would like to say to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson), that I recognise the true high mindedness of his approach. He is concerned that advocates should present any criminal case in a detached spirit, and should not identify themselves with the hounding down of the alleged criminal. That is an admirable feature of our system of justice of which no one could be a stronger supporter than myself. But in fairness to those concerned with this matter, I go back in memory to the days when I used to defend in Factory Acts prosecutions against factory inspectors who conducted them, and I must say, as my hon. and learned Friend has appealed to my memory, that I have never noticed the desire to persecute instead of prosecute those against whom I appeared.
I should like to say—and I think this will meet my hon. and learned Friend very largely—that the Parliamentary Secretary said on Second Reading that the practice is for the solicitor of the Ministry of Labour to conduct these prosecutions, and either to appear by a legally qualified member of his own staff, or to instruct counsel, or to instruct other solicitors. That is the general practice, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave the undertaking that that should continue. Why, then, do we not accept my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment? It is for the reason that there are numerous possible cases, such as the failure to post a notice, and matters of that kind, in which it would really be unnecessary to have a professional advocate, and which could be dealt with by the inspector. It is rather absurd, when the matter is one of comparatively small content and not of primary importance, that hard-and-fact rules should be made. Therefore, I can give my hon. and learned Friend the undertaking that the practice will be in the more serious cases—although practically universally excepted in the minor cases—for the prosecution to be conducted by the legal department of the Ministry, and I ask him to withdraw his Amendment and to allow this reasonable compromise on this issue to continue as before.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I have no desire to press this matter, and as my hon. and learned Friend has given me an assur- 1706 ance which certainly meets the point of my Amendment to a large extent—although I am not sure how far it meets the point of my hon. Friend on the other side—I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I desire to detain the Committee only for a few moments. I regret I was not able to be present during the whole of the Debate upon the Amendment moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb). This Clause is one which I think the Committee will necessarily and quite rightly regard at first sight with some suspicion. In my judgment it would be a very bad thing if the procedure embodied in this Clause was to be extended beyond the sphere to which it is restricted in this Bill. It is a form of procedure which is quite foreign to our ordinary procedure in criminal matters; it is a procedure which, I think, the House should approach with a due sense of hesitation. But, on the other hand, it is quite true, as my right hon. Friend has said, that this Bill deals with matters of a rather exceptional and peculiar nature. In order to institute, with success, a prosecution under this Bill, the Minister has got to prove that a certain person has not been paid some comparatively small sum of money; and unless his inspectors are given the special powers which this Clause confers upon them, it would be very difficult and, in many cases, I am satisfied, quite impossible, to prosecute in a case of this nature at all. Therefore, I did not support the Amendment that was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston.
It seems to me that the most objectionable feature of this Clause is the provision that a witness, who has been examined by an inspector, should be required to sign a declaration of the statements he has made to the inspector in the course of such examination. I would like to invite my right hon. Friend to look again at that part of the Clause. The objection which I see to such a procedure is that it substitutes the sanction of this declaration made to the inspector for the sanction of the witness's oath. That is a very dangerous thing. When a 1707 witness gives evidence in the court, what Jeremy Bentham called "the sanction of truth" is the witness's oath which he takes. But a witness who has made a declaration to an inspector on an earlier occasion and has been required to sign a declaration that the statement which he has made is true, and who knows that there may be a penalty if he afterwards admits that what he has said was not true, when he eventually goes into the witness box is likely to be influenced most, not by the oath he has taken in court, but the declaration which he has made to the official on an earlier occasion.
It is, as I say, no doubt right that my right hon. Friend's inspectors should have these special powers, notwithstanding the fact that they depart so drastically from what we have come to regard as the proper form of criminal investigation; but I would invite him to look again at this Clause from the standpoint which I have been endeavouring to put to the Committee, and see whether it is, possible, with the assistance of the Law Officers of the Crown, to devise some form of procedure which will not be open to this objection that it substitutes some other sanction for what ought to be the highest sanction of all—the sanction of truth which attaches to the witness's oath.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.