HC Deb 19 December 1946 vol 431 cc2285-7
The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 25 line 35 to leave out from "purposes," to the end of the Subsection, and to insert: (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (c) of the last preceding Subsection, a person shall not by virtue of any direction given by the Treasury under this Act, not being a direction printed and sold under the Rules Publication Act, 1893, or the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946, be convicted of an offence against this Act unless the direction was served on him or he knew, or avoided getting to know, of the giving thereof: Provided that where reasonable steps were taken for the purpose of bringing the purport of the direction to his notice it shall be for him to show that he neither knew nor avoided getting to know of the giving thereof. During the Committee stage, hon. Members opposite pointed out that the words "had notice," in line 38 of Subsection (2, c) of this Clause, were not clear, and might involve persons who were not intended to be brought in, in criminal proceedings. I replied then, on behalf of the Government, that the intention of using these words was to bring in only persons who had deliberately avoided acquiring knowledge. The Amendment is designed to make it clear that persons are liable to criminal proceedings in respect of a direction only if they had knowledge, or deliberately went out of their way to avoid acquiring knowledge. The proviso places the onus on the person charged of saying that he had not gone out of his way to avoid getting knowledge, once it is shown that reasonable steps were taken to bring the matter to his knowledge. I ask the House to say that that is a fair way of dealing with the matter, and that the vice that was in the words, "had notice", has been cured.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Maude (Exeter)

There is a small drafting point to which I would draw attention. The word "thereof" at the end of the proviso could be construed as referring to the word "purpose." Obviously, it is intended to refer to the "direction." I would ask that perhaps in another place it should be altered, as it does not appear to make sense at the moment. I am making no complaint; it is merely a small drafting point.

Mr. J. Foster

I think that we, on this side of the House, will be grateful that at least in one particular the Government have seen fit to remove the vagueness of the Bill. As the learned Solicitor-General has said, in the Committee Stage it was complained that as the Clause then stood, before Amendment, no one would know what notice was sufficient to make a person liable to criminal proceedings. One can only regret that this desire to remove a possible source of injustice to the subject is not shown in other parts of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.