§ Mr. Higgs
I beg to move, in page 18, line 4, at the end, to insert:Provided that a failure of a council to give such notice to the Minister or the inadequacy of a notice or a summary of the facts shall not preclude a conviction.I have two other Amendments down, in page 18, line 4, at the end, to insert:Provided that at the hearing no evidence shall be admitted as to the form or contents of the summary.and in line 4, at the end, to insert:A certificate of the Minister that the requirements of this subsection have been complied with in relation to any proceedings shall be conclusive evidence that they have been complied with in relation thereto; and any document purporting to be such a certificate as aforesaid and to be signed by or on behalf of the Minister shall be deemed to be such a certificate, unless the contrary is shown.They are first, second and third thoughts, all to the same purpose, and they involve two points.
The Bill requires the prosecution to produce service of a notice. Inevitably that notice, and any documents that go with it, must be produced before the court. The defending advocate, without any regard to the merits of the case, might seek to escape the consequences of his client's defence by arguing that the notice or summary was irregular or incomplete in some way.
1508 The second difficulty is an even more real one. The summary is a document sent by the local authority to the Minister to inform him of the reasons why the local authority is commencing proceedings. It might be proper for a local authority to tell the Minister in that summary a number of things that it would be quite improper to tell the court.
It might be proper to tell the Minister that the local authority was influenced by the fact that the proposed defendant had been convicted many times before for the same offence, or that a number of anonymous letters had been received. Those might be relevant considerations before commencing proceedings, but it would be very improper if the first witness for the prosecution were to tell those things to the court.
The purpose of the Amendment is, therefore, to secure that the notice, if possible, and certainly the summary is not put in evidence. If this Amendment is not agreeable to my hon. Friend, perhaps he will find my others agreeable.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having made a small but very important point. We want the notice to be given to the Minister, we recognise that proof of having given the notice may be required, but we do not want a situation created in which the summary could possibly be brought into the proceedings at this stage, by defending counsel or otherwise. We think that my hon. Friend's third thoughts are best, and, indeed, we are grateful to him for the thought which he has given to the matter.
§ Mr. Willey
I share the Parliamentary Secretary's view that we are much obliged to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Higgs). This is a material point. I have certain views about his first, second and third thoughts, but if the Parliamentary Secretary feels that the third thoughts are acceptable to him, then we on this side of the House are willing to accept that Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1509
Amendment made: In page 18, line 4, at end, insert:
A certificate of the Minister that the requirements of this subsection have been complied with in relation to any proceedings shall be conclusive evidence that they have been complied with in relation thereto; and any document purporting to be such a certificate as aforesaid and to be signed by or on behalf of the Minister shall be deemed to be such a certificate, unless the contrary is shown.—[Mr. Higgs.]