HC Deb 15 July 1952 vol 503 cc2052-4

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

7.20 p.m.

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

Before this Bill receives a Second Reading I wonder if the Attorney-General would be kind enough to deal with one point? I have been wondering why the Legal Aid and Advice Bill was not included in this Consolidating Measure. It seems to me that, when this question is being considered, the most recent legislation which deals with costs in criminal cases should be consolidated within this Bill.

The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)

I am afraid I cannot give any helpful answer except to this extent: That this Bill deals with costs in criminal cases, and to have the Legal Aid Bill consolidated with it would not, on the face of it, seem appropriate. Of course, there are provisions as regards costs in criminal cases in the Legal Aid Bill, but the title alone suggests that it would not be appropriate to include that in this consolidation.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I do not know whether this is an appropriate occasion on which to raise a matter relating to costs in criminal cases. If not, no doubt I shall be told as I proceed, Mr. Speaker. A certain amount of disquiet has been caused in legal and other circles by the manner in which those parts of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, which referred to the power of courts to award costs—

Mr. Speaker

I regret that I am obliged to interrupt the hon. Member. This is a consolidating Measure within the meaning of the Consolidation Procedure Act of 1949. The only subject which can be discussed at this stage is whether it is preferable to consolidate the existing law on this subject or whether that law should be left scattered about in the various statutes which now embody it. There is no other matter which is in order at this stage. Perhaps the hon. Member can find an opportunity at another time of bringing his important point to the notice of the House.

Mr. S. Silverman

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker, but I noticed in perhaps a rather too casual study of the Bill recently that in that part of the Bill now before the House which refers to parts of statutes repealed by the present Bill there is a reference to a relevant Section in the 1948 Act. I thought that what I have to say might be relevant to that because I would like to know how, under the present consolidating Measure, the provisions substituted for those provisions will apply. It may very well be that under this Bill the position is rectified, and it may possibly be that the parts of the 1948 Act which are repealed by this Bill were repealed in order to deal with this very point. I do not know. I raise it purely in that spirit and not because I wish to press the point if it should turn out not to be the proper occasion to do so.

What the 1948 Act did was to give for the first time, I think—certainly for the first time in that form—power to criminal courts where the defendant was acquitted an absolute discretion to award costs, or such costs as they thought fit, to the successful defendants in those cases. Those powers apply to the criminal courts at any stage and to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

When the Act leaves the discretion in the courts as an absolute unfettered discretion, it seems to me that at some stage there was a circular or a document of advice circulated by the Home Office or by the Lord Chief Justice in which the opinion was expressed that these powers ought not to be exercised except in exceptional cases—

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman because that is not in order on this stage of the Bill. The position is that the contents of this Bill must be presumed to be the existing law on this subject, that there is no new matter in it, and that therefore it is a pure question of consolidation or not. The hon. Member must get another opportunity for raising his point.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House—[Mr. Redmayne]—for Tomorrow.

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