HC Deb 10 May 1948 vol 450 cc1853-75
Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I beg to move in page 4, line 29, to leave out from beginning, to end of line 4, on page 5, and to insert: the court may order that for a period not exceeding twelve months no coupons for obtaining petrol for use in any private motor vehicle shall be issued to him and that during the period of disqualification no other person shall be entitled to the issue of such coupons for use in any private motor vehicle of which the person convicted was at the time of the commission of the offence the owner, unless such other person satisfies the Minister of Fuel and Power that he became the owner of the private motor vehicle by purchase and that the purchase thereof was a genuine and not a colourable transaction made with the object of evading the order of the court. As the Committee will be aware, this is the Clause which provides certain additional automatic penalties upon the motorist who uses commercial petrol. The effect of our Amendment is to substitute a new and, in our opinion, a more just and more efficient method of effecting these penalties. We propose to leave out all the words laying down the automatic penalties and to insert in substitution the words of the Amendment. Their effect is to provide a new alternative method of dealing with this matter. It is, first, to be differentiated from that laid down in the Clause itself by the fact that, whereas the penalty in the Clause is automatic, that which we put forward is in the discretion of the court.

I would repeat, in that connection, what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) on a previous question, that it is really impossible to discuss any penal statute unless we proceed in the beginning on the basis that the courts of law in this country can be trusted. Further to that argument—and I do not wish to weary the Committee on this side of the matter although it is one on which I and my hon. Friends feel very strongly—of the permissive as opposed to the automatic, we are dealing here with a very different type of person to that concerned previously. In general, we are dealing with the individual motorist, not with the person engaged in the sale of petrol as a business.

It is, therefore, much more important to have a power to differentiate, not only between different degrees of gravity in the offence but between different kinds of offenders. It is surely almost a platitude in modern criminology that the penalty should not only fit the crime, but should fit the criminal, and, after all, we are concerned with a wide range of possible offences from that of the insolent and arrogant black marketeer, who has been using a very large quantity of illicitly obtained petrol on the one hand, to another person who is, shall we say, a man in a small way of business, using his car for his business, struggling to create a business, using a very small quantity of petrol in that connection, on the other hand. To the latter person disqualification means absolute ruin for himself, his wife and his family.

In our view, it is absolutely wrong to say that automatically both the big black marketeer and the small man who undoubtedly commits the offence, but in many mitigating circumstances—both relative to the offence and to his personality—should fall under the guillotine of this automatic disqualification. I do not want to stress that side of the matter—that argument has been so very well expressed by other hon. Members—because in our new proposals for an alternative we are dealing with the superior desirability of the permissive to the automatic penalty, and it also prescribes, in our view, a juster and more efficient penalty.

If hon. Members will look at the Clause as it stands, they will see that it provides for the personal disqualification of the driving licence of the driver and also, curiously enough, puts the car with which the offence was committed out of commission for 12 months unless it is sold before the conviction is actually recorded by the court. I am at a loss to see what is the purpose of putting the car out of action. It is almost like the medieval idea of punishing the chapel for the wrong that has been done. At a time, when as all Members know, many of our constituents are unable to obtain a motor car for essential purposes, putting one car completely out of use for 12 months is a very wasteful method of penalising the owner or driver if another and more efficient method of punishing him can be evolved.

It has this further disadvantage. It punishes the poor man, or the comparatively poor man, with one car, far more severely than it punishes the rich man with a number of cars, because as the Clause stands, although the rich man with a number of cars cannot himself drive any of the cars, he can be driven in another car by a chauffeur or anyone he hires for the purpose, whereas the poor man with one car has his only vehicle put off the road.

The Attorney-General, when dealing with the matter on the Second Reading, said this: It is true, of course, that the immobilisation of the motor vehicle and the disqualification from holding a driving licence may operate more severely in some cases than in others. I think that it is perfectly true that it will operate more severely in the case of a man who drives his car for a living than in the case of a man who can employ a chauffeur or hire another car. Unfortunately, it has not been possible as yet to devise any penalty, except perhaps the death penalty, which does not fall more heavily on the poor man and his family than it does on the rich man."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1948; Vol. 450, c. 988.] The Attorney-General is saying that the Clause as drafted falls more severely on the poor man than on the rich. One of the effects of accepting our Amendment would be to reduce, if not wholly to eliminate, that disparity. If hon. Members will look at the terms of the Amendment they will see that it is provided that no car owned by a person who commits this offence can be operated for 12 months. Under the Government's Clause the man with six cars who commits an offence with one of them can be driven by his chauffeur in any of the other five. If the Amendment is accepted, all those six cars cannot be used by that man. We do not follow the Government in their wasteful proposals to put the cars themselves out of action. As hon. Members will see we permit the cars to be used by other persons if there is a bona fide and genuine sale of them. Of course one has to insert that qualification to prevent evasion, otherwise it would be easy for someone to transfer the car to his wife or chauffeur and arrange to be driven by him. We prevent that possibility of evasion, but we say that where there is a genuine sale to some distinct person outside there is no reason at all why the car should be put off the road. There is, on the contrary, very good reason why every car that could be operated should be made available for use in these days.

Hon. Members will appreciate that the effect of the Amendment is not at any rate in the case of the rich man to reduce the penalty as compared with the Government's Clause; on the contrary in the case of the rich man the penalty which we would impose would be more severe than that imposed by the Government, but in the case of the small man the penalty would be less severe. On top of that, we submit to the Committee that it will also benefit the purpose which the Government have in mind in avoiding the wasteful expedient of leaving a perfectly good car standing immobile and deteriorating for 12 months, at a time when there are thousands and tens of thousands of decent people in this country who cannot get a car for essential purposes in connection with their professions cm business.

I think that hon. Members will appreciate that we have not in this case confined ourselves simply to attacking the Government's proposals, unjust, inefficient and ill-drafted as we think them to be, but, on the contrary, we have, as well as seeking to eliminate them, put forward our own counter proposals which seem to us to have many advantages from every point of view. I hope that the Government will in the circumstances consider these proposals seriously. They are intended to be helpful; they are intended to eliminate the injustice of the Government's Clause; they are intended, nevertheless, to provide a very serious sanction for the type of person against whom everyone wants sanctions to be severe—the really determined, large-scale black marketeer. In those circumstances, I put the Amendment before the Committee.

The Attorney-General

This Amendment raises two issues. The first one, the question of principle, is whether the courts should have a discretion in relation to the imposition of these automatic penalties; and the second, the question of method, by which the penalties should be imposed. I do not propose to go over the ground that I covered while we were discussing the last Clause, but I must confess that the arguments which had been used from the opposite side of the Committee would have carried more conviction to me if they had not come from persons who had, only a few weeks ago, advocated the automatic, irrevocable and final penalty in regard to a crime which admits of so many varying degrees of culpability as that we discussed a few weeks ago.

When there are people and newspapers which are prepared to belittle and to minimise the gravity of these black market offences by such irresponsible and wicked arguments as in that newspaper article which I quoted when we were discussing this matter on Clause 4, we do think it right that Parliament should mark its own detestation of these offences by itself providing an exact penalty which is to be imposed in respect of them. We do that, not because we have any distrust of the way in which, generally speaking, the courts will administer the law, but because in the cases of grave offences against the community it is right that the community itself should decide the penalty. We do not intend in this Bill to do anything to encourage those who commit black market offences to think that they may get away with them, and may be fortunate in a tribunal who will deal leniently with what they have done. I do not propose to say more on that aspect because we have already had a full discussion on it.

On the question of method, the Russell Vick Committee recommended depriving the vehicle, whether it had changed hands or not, of all petrol. That was the recommendation of the Committee, again after a great deal of discussion, after hearing evidence, and consulting the motor associations as to the best method of imposing this automatic penalty. It appeared to us from their recommendation that if the vehicle were licensed difficult administrative questions might arise in giving effect to the recommendation which the Committee had made. If the vehicle were licensed it would be entitled to be on the road and its owner might get hold of petrol from illicit sources. He might be the owner of several motor cars and be able to transfer some of the petrol he legitimately acquired for some of them to this car which he was not entitled to use, and we thought that it was better to achieve the same result as the Russell Vick Committee had in mind by suspending the Road Fund licence. Then, of course, any police constable who saw the car being driven, or any garage proprietor, would be able to see at a glance that no Road Fund licence was exhibited on the windscreen as it is required to be, and he would refrain from providing petrol for it. That was the method we thought the proper one.

The method proposed by this Amendment is open to a number of administrative difficulties. For instance, this dilemma confronts those who support the alternative method here proposed. No petrol is to be issued in respect of any car belonging to the convicted person. That might apply in the case of the wealthy owners of other cars. What is to be done in the case of the business owner, the corporation, the partnership, the firm or company which perhaps owns many hundreds of vehicles? Are they all to be put out of commission because an offence has been committed? On the other hand, if only one vehicle is to be affected, the owner will have other coupons issued to him in respect of his other motor cars which he may be able to transfer to the offending vehicle unless the licence in respect of it is taken away. Under the method proposed by this Amendment, the convicted person would have no difficulty whatever in selling his motor car, in respect of which an offence had been committed, at a good price, buying another motor car in his wife's name, and then allowing himself to be driven in it respectfully saluting hon. Members opposite for the part they had played in converting this Bill into a "spivs Charter" and laughing at the law. There are many difficulties of that kind. Another one—and this is a very substantial one—is that, in the case where the car was transferred by the convicted person to some other person, it would be left to the discretion of the Minister whether to issue petrol coupons or not.

Mr. Stanley Prescott (Darwen)

Is it not a fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is speaking for himself and his Rolls-Bentley? Why should he charge hon. Members on this side when he is speaking for his Rolls-Bentley.

The Attorney-General

The hon. Member, as he is entitled to be called in the House, has made reference to my possession of a Rolls-Bentley. What has that to do with the merits of the matter which is now under discussion? If I did possess a Rolls-Bentley, what assistance is it to this Committee to use personal arguments of that kind in order to try and influence the debate? I am bound to say that I fail to appreciate the relevance of the point which the hon. Member permits himself to make. But if the hon. Member thinks it right to use personal arguments of that kind, which he has used on this occasion, and which seem to commend themselves occasionally to hon. Members opposite, I venture to suggest that, in the first instance at least, he should take the elementary trouble of trying to acquaint himself with the facts. I venture to suggest that before hon. Members opposite try to make a personal attack upon Members on this side, attempting to challenge or question their sincerity, and attempting to suggest they are influenced by financial considerations, they should take elementary precautions, such as any gentleman would take, of making sure about their facts. It so happens that I do not and could not possibly own a Rolls-Bentley. I own an 8-horse power Ford, and also a Wolseley car. I wish I had a Rolls-Bentley, but even if I had—

Hon. Members


Mr. Prescott

Is it not a fact that at one time the right hon. and learned Gentleman—

The Deputy-Chairman

I really must deprecate these personalities.

The Attorney-General

I would have thought that if the hon. Member had in fact been entitled to the title he receives by courtesy in this House, he would have apologised. At no time have I owned a Rolls-Bentley or anything approaching a Rolls-Bentley. I only wish I had. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I do not expect the hon. Member to withdraw. Who would expect a person like the hon. Member to withdraw?

10.15 p.m.

I come back to what is, I think, a relevant matter. I am sorry to have been led astray. I was dealing with the point that where the convicted person transferred his motor car to some third party, it is left to the discretion of the Minister to decide whether or not petrol coupons should be issued in respect of that car. That seems to me to be most undesirable.

Total deprivation of petrol is a serious matter and ought not to be dealt with purely as an administrative question by a Minister. It ought to be dealt with expressly, either, as hon. Members suggest, by a court, or by an Act of Parliament. I do not think it is at all desirable—and hon. Members opposite will, on reflection share my view, I am sure—that this very substantial power should be vested in the hands of an administrative department. For those reasons of method and of principle I regret that we are not able to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

I do not feel that the Attorney-General has dealt with the most important point. It is not the province of legislation, but almost the province of comparative religion, and one of the fundamental marks of barbarism, when men begin to punish the instrument rather than the agent of a crime. The Attorney-General has not given any answer to the question why the punishment should be put upon the motor car rather than upon the person, and why, at a time when motor cars are extremely scarce, they should be kept off the roads. The Attorney-General said that there was nothing in the Amendment to prevent an offender from buying another vehicle in his wife's name; equally there is nothing in the Clause to prevent his doing so. The Attorney-General has failed to ex-

plain why a principle which is found in extreme degradation of barbarism, namely, punishment of the instrument rather than of the agent, is to be introduced for the first time into English law by the Clause, at a time of practical inconvenience when shortage of motor cars is enormously oppressive upon the community. Until he gives an answer to that question he has not supplied any serious reasons why the Amendment should be rejected.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'any' in line 30, stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 88.

Division No. 145.] AYES. [10.19 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Evans, John (Ogmore) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Mikardo, Ian
Alpass, J. H. Ewart, R Mitchison, G. R.
Attewell, H. C. Fairhurst, F. Monslow, W.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Farthing, W. J. Morley, R.
Awbery, S. S. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Ayles, W. H. Follick, M. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham E.)
Ayrton Could, Mrs. B Foot, M. M. Moyle, A.
Bacon, Miss A. Freeman, J, (Watford) Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Baird, J. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J. Ganley, Mrs. C. S Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Barstow, P. G. Gibbins, J. Noel-Baksr, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)
Barton, C. Gibson, C. W. Oldfield, W. H.
Battley, J. R. Gilzean, A. Oliver, G. H.
Bechervaise, A. E Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)
Berry, H. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Pargiler, G. A.
Beswick, F. Grenfell, D. R Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Binns, J. Grey, C. F. Paton, J. (Norwich)
Blyton, W. R. Guy, W. H. Pearson, A.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Pearl, T. F.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Perrins, W.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hardy, E. A Porter, E. (Warrington)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Harrison, J. Porter, G (Leeds)
Brawn, George (Belper) Hastings, Dr, Somerville Pritt, D. N.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Proctor, W. T.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Pryde, D. J.
Burden T. W. Holman, P. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Rankin, J.
Callaghan, James House, G. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hoy, J. Reeves, J.
Champion, A. J. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Chetwynd, G. R. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Rhodes, H.
Cluse, W. S. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Ridealgh, Mrs. M
Cobb, F. A. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Robens, A.
Coldrick, W. Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Collindridge, F. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Comyns, Dr. L Isaacs, Rt. Hon, G. A. Royle, C.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Janner, B. Sargood, R.
Corlett, Dr. J. Jay, D. P. T. Sharp, Granville
Crossman, R. H. S. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Daggar, G. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Daines, P. Jenkins, R. H. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Simmons, C. J.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.) Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Skeffington, A. M.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Skinnard, F. W.
Deer, G. King, E. M. Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Snow, J. W.
Diamond, J. Kinley, J. Solley, L. J.
Dodds, N. N. Lee, F. (Hulme) Sorensen, R. W.
Donovan, T. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Soskice, Sir Frank
Dumpleton, C. W Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Sparks, J. A.
Durbin, E. F. M. Lyne, A. W. Stamford, W.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McAdam, W. Stross, Dr. B.
Edelman, M. McEntee, V. La T. Stubbs, A. E.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) McGhee, H. G. Swingler, S.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) McLeavy, F. Sylvester, G O
Symonds, A. L. Ungoed-Thomas, L Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Vernon, Maj. W. F Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Viant, S. P. Williams, J, L. (Kelvingrove)
Taylor, Dr S. (Barnet) Walkden, E. Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Thomas, Ivor (Keighley) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Wise, Major F. J
Thomas, George (Cardiff) Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Woodburn, A
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Wheatley, Rt Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.) Wyatt, W.
Thurtle, Ernest White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Tiffany, S. White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Titterington, M. F Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Tolley, L. Wigg, George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Turner-Samuels, M Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) Mr. Popplewell and
Mr. Hannan.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin, A. E Head, Brig. A H. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bossom, A. C Hollis, M. C. Prescott, Stanley
Bowen, R Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Price-White, Lt-.Col. D
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A Howard, Hon. A. Raikes, H. V.
Bracken, Rt Hon. Brendan Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S (Southport) Rayner, Brig. R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Reid, Rt. Hon. J S. C. (Hillhead)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Jeffreys, General Sir G Ropner, Col. L.
Butcher, H. W. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Sanderson, Sir F
Byers, Frank Lambert, Hon, G. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Carson, E. Lancaster, Col. C. G, Smithers, Sir W.
Challen, C. Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lipson, D. L. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Studholme, H. G.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Low, A. R. W. Sutcliffe, H.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Thomas, J. P. L, (Herelord)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon, O. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Davidson, Viscountess MacAndrew, Col. Sir C Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F
De la Bère, R. Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Turton, R. H.
Dodds-Parker, A. D Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Vane, W. M. F.
Drewe, C. Manningham-Buller, R E Wakefield, Sir W. W
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Marsden, Capt. A, Walker-Smith, D.
Duthie, W. S. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Erroll, F J. Mellor, Sir J. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gage, C. Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Odey, G. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Glyn Sir R. O'Neill, Rt. Hon Sir H Major Ramsay and
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Orr-Ewing, I. L. Brigadier Mackeson.
Grimston, R. V. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in line 30, after "conviction," to insert: the Court by which he is convicted may order that.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we considered at the same time the next four Amendments: In line 31, at end, insert "that"; in line 32, leave out "of," and insert "not exceeding"; in line 38, after "conviction," insert: the Court by which he is convicted may order that"; in line 40, after "forfeit," insert "a sum not exceeding."

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I was about to suggest that we might perhaps adopt that course.

This Amendment raises in its most acute form the question whether the penalty should be automatic, as envisaged by this Clause, or whether the court should have any discretion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think that this is a laughing matter.

The Attorney-General

I am so sorry. I was not laughing at what the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Perhaps I might have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attention. If he would give me his attention I would try to make my remarks as brief as possible and perhaps he would also try to avoid the unnecessary provocation in which he engaged just now. The point of this Amendment is to give the court a discretion rather than make these penalties automatic, and also to give the court a discretion as to the amount of the penalty. One has heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman's observations on this point. It is a novel proposition to me that merely because an offence is grave the penalties should be automatic and the court should have no discretion.

10.30 p.m.

The Attorney-General

We have already discussed the question of automatic penalties in the Second Reading Debate not once, not twice, but three times in the course of our discussions in Committee. Having listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I find myself confirmed in my view that arguments do not gain in force, cogency, or even relevance by mere repetition. I shall not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in canvassing the whole of this matter again, but I must remind the Committee that this Bill adopts the proposal of the Russell Vick Committee in this matter, a proposal which was supported by the motoring associations themselves. They take the view that automatic penalties of this kind are essential to the effective operation of this scheme for the suppression of the black market. This is what they said: In recommending these penalties, we have the support of the Motor Agents' Association, representing garage proprietors, and the A.A. and the R.A.C. The latter bodies emphasise that if it can be demonstrated to motorists and garages that if there is a real chance of detection of an offence with commercial petrol and the penalty will be deprivation of petrol, they will very soon decide the risk is not worth taking. We heard a great deal a few weeks ago about the salutary deterrent effect of another kind of automatic penalty. I am a little surprised that hon. Members opposite, who support that automatic penalty as being an essential deterrent, do not seem to think that this automatic penalty will have any deterrent effect. We think it will. We think the fact that it is an automatic penalty will make the motorist and garage proprietor, who may otherwise be minded to commit black market offences, think twice before they commit them. We think the penalty would operate before a case comes to the magistrates' court and its existence will result in a great many cases which might otherwise get there not getting there, because potential offenders will not commit the offences. So we propose to adhere to these automatic penalties.

But I had considered making one concession in regard to the matter, and that was the possibility that we might make provision in this Bill for application to be made to the court, after the lapse of a period of time, for the removal of the automatic disqualification. I do not want to commit the Government finally to this course at this stage. As hon. Members will appreciate, in the absence of the Minister, it would not be proper for me to do so. We shall, however, give sympathetic consideration to the possibility in another place of including a Clause in the Bill that after the lapse of six months application may be made to the court, in special circumstances, so that the court may review the position. Subject to that, we think it essential for the effective operation of this Bill to make it clear to garage proprietors, and to motorists that if they are convicted of these grave offences these penalties will automatically follow.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)

I agree with the learned Attorney-General that there is no point in undue repetition of arguments with which the Committee is familiar, but the reason this argument is prolonged is that the Attorney-General has not answered some of the points put to him repeatedly. It is generally agreed that this Bill seeks to deal with serious offences. But they are not the only serious offences of which one can think. After all, we have had the criminal law in this country for a very long time, and it has not been thought a good thing to have automatic penalties about which the court has no discretion. That is the general rule. The right hon. and learned gentleman has constantly referred to a committee which sat on this matter, and to the approval of the A.A. and the R.A.C. The A.A. and the R.A.C. may be useful bodies, but it is open to doubt whether they are expert in the science of criminal law, and are the best people to advise the House of Commons, which took an interest in these things long before those bodies came into existence.

On a previous Amendment, the Home Secretary will be interested to know, the learned Attorney-General said that hon. Members of the Opposition must be wrong because, a little time ago, they took seriously the advice of the Home Secretary. While, in the learned Attorney-General's view, that may be prima facie evidence that the Opposition were wrong, does the principal Law Officer of the Crown think it is conclusive evidence of our stupidity? The learned Attorney-General makes much of the fact that the death penalty was automatic. But if I remember aright, the alternative to the death penalty was likewise automatic. I am not going to develop that matter any further than the learned Attorney-General developed it: but I felt justified in dealing with arguments which were relevant when the learned Attorney-General was speaking and must, therefore, be equally relevant when hon. Members of the Opposition are speaking.

I should like to support very strongly what was said in a short speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis). This extraordinary idea of punishing the instrument takes us back almost to the beginnings of barbaric law. It was suggested, I think rightly, by one of the commentators on the Government's present Measure, that the car might be driven through the streets with someone beating the tail lamp. No doubt in another place the Government will consider introducing an Amendment to make the Bill logically complete. But it is not very wise. The idea that you can show that an offence is serious only by having an automatic penalty carries no conviction to anyone acquainted with the administration of the criminal law, which has long shown that the courts, on the whole, should be left with some discretion.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has repeatedly, in the last two or three speeches he has made, quoted with great disapproval an article in a newspaper. I have not read that article, and all my knowledge of it is based on what the right hon. and learned Gentleman read out, but his answer on one point that was made by the newspaper seemed to be completely inaccurate. The newspaper pointed out that one was automatically made subject, for offences under this Bill, to a graver penalty than was necessarily inflicted for larceny or cruelty to children. He said that was untrue. I submit it is completely true. There is no automatic minimum penalty for larceny.

The Attorney-General

I know the hon. and learned Gentleman does not want to make a thoroughly bad point, and I assure him that this is a thoroughly bad point. There was no reference to automatic penalties here at all. This mischievous, and as I said wicked, article said that it would be safer to steal than to use commercial petrol in a private car, safer to display gross physical cruelty towards a helpless child. That was the argument. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman associates himself with it, but the right hon. Gentleman whose speech was referred to in this article immediately dissociated himself from the argument here used.

Mr. Strauss

I am obliged to the Attorney-General. I did not wish to make a bad point. In so far as that article said "It will be safer," I can see the point of his criticism, but if one made a slight alteration and said "It may be safer," then what the newspaper said would be true. I am not defending the article as a whole. We all have a great interest in our criminal law being respected, and from that point of view there is a real point in having some proportion between the penalties for various offences. Serious as the offences are under this Bill, for such offences as driving to the danger of the public, and many others, we have not thought it right to have automatic sentences. It is not in the general interest of the community that we should have automatic sentences to the extent that we have under this Measure. On what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said he might suggest in another place, I welcome the assurance he has given, but I think he should go further, and I very much deplore that we should have so many penalties here which are purely automatic, and which are defended not on the ground that they have been approved by this House, but because the new theory of criminal law has the approval of the R.A.C.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Turton

The only case made in favour of the automatic penalty is the claim that the Russell Vick Committee and the Motor Agents' Association are in support of it. If you read the Russell Vick Report carefully, you will find that there is not one mention of the word "automatic" penalty. They say the penalty should be severe; they never said "automatic." They have gone on the assumption that we in Parliament are going to carry out our usual procedure of trusting to the courts of justice, whether courts of summary jurisdiction or the High Court. I hope, for that reason, he will withdraw that one praise he has made for the automatic penalty. In fact, he has made it twice. He has made it here and he says he is in favour of it because, I understand, the Home Secretary was in favour of capital punishment. There is no division in the House on the question that in the case of a black market offence there should be this disqualification laid down under this Clause. What is plain is that the courts of justice and the High Court should have discretion in certain cases to award a less severe penalty. It is highly improper that this modification

of the powers of the judiciary should be taken away by Parliament. One frequently gets borderline cases and it is a great pity when Parliament says that justice cannot be tempered with mercy in these cases. For these reasons, I hope the Attorney-General will think over the matter either here or in another place, and redraft the provision.

Question put: "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 81; Noes, 204.

Division No. 146. AYES 10.47 p.m.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Head, Brig. A. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin, A. E. Hollis, M. C Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bossom, A. C. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Price-White, Lt-.Col. D
Bowen, R. Howard, Hon. A Raikes, H V
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Ramsay, Maj. S.
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Rayner, Brig. R.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S C (Hillhead)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Robinson, Roland
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Lambert, Hon. G. Ropner, Col. L.
Butcher, H. W. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Sanderson, Sir F.
Carson, E. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Challen, C. Low, A. R. W. Smithers, Sir W.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C MacAndrew, Col. Sir C Studholme, H. G
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Sutcliffe, H
De la Bère, R. Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Dodds-Parker, A. D MacLeod, J. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Drewe, C. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Manningham-Buller, R. E Turton, R. H.
Duthie, W. S. Marsden, Capt. A. Vane, W. M. F.
Erroll, F, J. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Wakefield, Sir W. W
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Mellor, Sir J. Walker-Smith, D.
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Gage, C. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Odey, G. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Grimston, R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Major Conant and
Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Brigadier Mackeson
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Chetwynd, G. R. Farthing, W. J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Coldrick, W. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Collindridge, F. Foot, M. M.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Comyns, Dr. L. Freeman, J. (Watford)
Alpass, J. H Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N
Attewell, H. C. Corlett, Dr. J. Ganley, Mrs. C. S.
Awbery, S. S. Crawley, A. Gibbins, J.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B Grossman, R. H S. Gibson, C. W.
Bacon, Miss A. Daggar, G. Gilzean, A.
Baird, J. Daines, P. Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Barstow, P. G. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)
Barton, C. Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.) Grenfell, D. R
Bechervaise, A. E. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Grey, C. F.
Berry, H. Deer, G. Gunter, R. J.
Beswick, F. de Freitas, Geoffrey Guy, W. H.
Blackburn, A. R. Diamond, J. Haire, John E. (Wycombe)
Blyton, W. R. Dodds, N. N Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Donovan, T. Hannan, W. (Maryhill)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Hardy, E. A.
Bramall, E. A. Dumpleton, C. W. Harrison, J.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Durbin, E. F. M. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Brown, George (Belper) Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Holman, P.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) House, G.
Burden, T. W. Evans,, John (Ogmore) Hoy, J.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Callaghan, James Ewart, R. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Champion, A. J. Fairhurst, F. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Pargiter, G. A. Stubbs, A. E.
Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Swingler, S.
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Paton, J. (Norwich) Sylvester, G. O.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pearson, A. Symonds, A. L.
Janner, B. Peart, T. F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jay, D. P. T. Perrins, W. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Porter, E. (Warrington) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Jeger, Dr, S. W (St. Pancras, S. E.) Porter, G. (Leeds) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Jenkins, R. H. Price, M. Philips Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Pritt, D. N. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Proctor, W. T Thurtle, Ernest
Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Pryde, D. J. Tiffany, S.
King, E. M. Pursey, Cmdr. H Titterington, M. F
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Rankin, J. Tolley, L.
Kinley, J. Rees-Williams, D. R. Turner-Samuels, M.
Lee, F. (Hulme) Reeves, J. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Reid, T. (Swindon) Usborne, Henry
Lipson, D. L. Rhodes, H. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Ridealgh, Mrs. M Viant, S. P.
Lyne, A. W. Robens, A. Walkden, E.
McAdam, W Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
McEntee, V. La T. Rogers, G. H. R. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
McGhee, H. G. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
McLeavy, F. Royle, C. Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sargood, R. White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Sharp, Granville White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Mikardo, Ian Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Mitchison, G. R Silkin, Rt. Hon. L. Wigg, George
Monslow, W. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Morley, R. Simmons, C. J. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C) Skeffington, A. M Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, E.) Skinnard, F. W. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Moyle, A. Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Nichol, Mrs. M E. (Bradford, N.) Snow, J. W. Wise, Major F. J.
Nicholls, H. R (Stratford) Solley, L. J. Woodburn, A
Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Sorensen, R. W. Wyatt, W.
Oldfield, W. H. Soskice, Sir Frank Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Oliver, G. H. Sparks, J. A.
Paling Will T (Dewsbury) Stamford, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Palmer, A. M. F. Stross, Dr. B. Mr Popplewell and
Mr. Richard Adams

Question put, and agreed to.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 6, line 43, to leave out "before," and to insert "after."

I think this Amendment can be taken with a similar Amendment in line 44. These Amendments are really put down to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he really means the words "before the conviction" in line 43 rather than the words "before the dismissal of the appeal." I have read this Clause through several times to try and understand it, but I cannot find the words "before the conviction" in this Clause at all; and therefore I cannot but feel that the intention really was, instead of "before the conviction," to have "after the conviction" and instead of "before the dismissal of the appeal," to have "after the dismissal of the appeal." I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that is clearly meant to be the case when he reads the preceding words of the same Subsection (8, c) on page 6: … if the appeal is dismissed, this section shall have effect as if for the references to a period of 12 months after the conviction there were substituted references to a period of 12 months after the dismissal of the appeal. I think that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does read through the Clause, he will find that the word "before" in the Clause should be "after."

The Attorney-General

I confess I was a little puzzled about this and it took me some time to find my way about it, but I think it is right in the way it is drafted in the Clause. Under Clause 5 (3, c) Road Fund licences are deemed to have been surrendered by the holder who has been convicted immediately before conviction. The point about that is that on conviction a licence becomes invalid, and it was felt that it could not be surrendered and be subject to a refund of the licence duty which had been paid. That provision having been made in Clause 5 (3, c), in order to bring the provisions of the Bill into line, where the disqualification has been suspended pending an appeal, the words "immediately before the dismissal of the appeal" were substituted. The provisions of Subsection (4, b) are re-enacted in the case of appeal by the provisions of Subsection (8, a). There is no need to adopt provisions which apply on conviction by a court of first instance because they do not apply again in the case of a hearing by the Appellate Court, so I think the Clause is right as it stands, but I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it did require a little examination.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

In view of what the Attorney-General has said and the explanation he has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Mr. Manningham-Buller

In view of what the Attorney-General has said about the possible pro vision of an application being made to the court for the removal of the suspension of the Road Fund licence, one can see how that can operate under Subsection (1, a), but it is not easy to see how it will operate under Subsection (1, b), and whether or not, in the case of the application being successful, the whole of the fine will be refunded to the person who has been fined. In regard to Subsection (1, b) which deals with the taking, by automatic deprivation, of half the value of the car, if it has been sold between the commission of the offence and the time of conviction, I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether there should not be inserted some provision, such as is inserted in the case of the Road Traffic Act, to the effect that notice should be served, because six months may elapse between the time of the commission of the offence and the serving of the summons. By the time the summons is served the individual may have forgotten altogether about being stopped by the police and a sample being taken. I suggest it would be helpful if some such provision could be inserted.

Finally, I should like the Attorney-General to look at the alternative suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), because if the court have discretion, his argument on administrative grounds really falls to the ground. The consequences of a car run by a big corporation being found with the wrong petrol would not be to take all the cars of the corporation off the road, because the court would have a discretion to make the punishment fit the crime. I ask him to take that into consideration, bearing in mind that the scheme avoids the harshness and inequity which must result from Subsection (1, b).

The Attorney-General

So far as the last point is concerned, I am afraid we can hold out no hope that we shall change our view about whether the special penalties should be discretionary or automatic. We take the view that was adhered to in the discussion on the death penalty, both by those who advocated the death penalty, and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) pointed out, by those who advocated the alternative, that it was necessary in order to provide an adequate deterrent to have an automatic penalty. The more I have heard of the discussion on this particular provision, the more convinced I am it is absolutely essential, in the first instance, that the special penalty should be an automatic one. I want to make it clear that in taking that view we are adopting the view expressed by the Russell Vick Committee. If Members look at paragraphs 57 and 58, they will find it is implicit that the penalty has to be automatic. In paragraph 57, it is stated: If it is known that the penalty will be deprivation of petrol, they will very soon decide that the risk is not worth taking— and in the next paragraph— and should thereby be deprived of all supplies of both types of petrol for a year. There is no doubt about it—and the contrary view has never been suggested—the Committee took the view that an automatic penalty should follow commission of an offence. We will, as I have promised the Committee, however, go so far beyond the recommendation of the Russell Vick Committee as to consider whether it might be possible to provide for application to the court after a lapse of time.

The third point made by the right hon. Gentleman arises from my undertaking which I have just repeated to the Committee. Where the owner of a car after the discovery of red petrol in his tank, and before he has been prosecuted and convicted for the offence thereby constituted, but in the knowledge that prosecution will presumably follow from the discovery, sells his car, it may perhaps be thought that he has disqualified himself from the special relief which I contemplated we might provide in the case where the owner remains in possession of the car but has his Road Fund licence suspended. However, I will consider that case in relation to what I think is the more important one where the owner still remains the owner of the car, and we will look at it and see whether we can make provision in another place. I take note of the suggestion for a time limit for prosecution.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Not a time limit for prosecution, but a time limit for giving notice of intended prosecution under the Road Traffic Act.

The Attorney-General

I am much obliged. I am even prepared to note with sympathy what the right hon. Gentleman now says, which is more far-reaching than what he said before.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.