HC Deb 04 November 1946 vol 428 cc1167-8

Order read for Consideration of Lords Amendments.

Ordered: "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."—[Mr. Wilmot.]

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.

CLAUSE II.—(Restriction on disclosure of information relating to plant.)

Lords Amendment: In page 8, line I, after "person", insert "except an authorised person."

9.15 p.m.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. John Wilmot)

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment, and the following Amendment—in line I6, at the end, insert: In this Subsection 'authorised person' means, in relation to information on any subject to which this Subsection applies, a person to whom, by virtue of a general authority granted by the Minister, information on that subject may be communicated. —are Government Amendments which are inserted as the result of suggestions made in another place. It was suggested that Clause II of the Bill related the consent of the Minister under that Clause to communications of specific items of information, but that it did not enable the Minister to give a general authority to communicate either information on the subject or specific aspects of information to particular named persons. It was thought, for instance, that the absence of this power might prevent colleagues at a university discussing a matter with one another. I think that it is probable that the Minister has this power under the Clause as it was originally drafted, but in order that there should be no possible misunderstanding and that the matter might be quite plain to the ordinary reader, these Amendments have been put forward.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

I apologise to the House—apart from having had to run very fast—because I am not sure that I may not be raising a quite trivial point and being rather unusually stupid. I am not quite certain that this puts right what it is intended to put right. I dare say this is the right way of doing it, but I am not quite certain whether the effect of this Amendment may not be now to exclude the particular person. The objection before was that the Minister could not give a general authorisation and that it would be an awful bore if he had to give authorisations for each individual case. I am not quite sure now how he is going to give an authorisation when the individual case arises. I am not enough of a lawyer to know for certain, but it seems to me possible that the method would be that he would give authorisation to a list of classes; Class A, perhaps, university professors; Class B, persons working in certain laboratories; Class C, persons working in certain factories; and, for all I know, it may be competent under this Amendment for him to add a Clause D, "such other individuals as I may from time to time name in lists to be issued by me." I am not sure whether I am making myself quite plain. It may be that that is what is intended now, but I wish to be reassured that we are not, in making the general authorisation possible, cutting out the particular authorisation and thereby, perhaps, landing ourselves in a greater inconvenience that we are remedying.

Mr. Wilmot

I think the hon. Gentleman may rest assured that that has been met. The effect of the Amendment, as he will see, is to remove from the Clause any authorised persons. Who those authorised persons are, whether few or many, entirely rests with the Minister. Thus the total effect of the Clause and the Amendment now proposed is that the Minister's consent may be given, either in relation to specific information which may be communicated, or in relation to specified persons. I think the points raised in another place and that raised by the hon. Gentleman have now been met.

Remaining Lords Amendment agreed to.