HC Deb 30 July 1956 vol 557 cc970-4

Lords Amendment: In page 20, line 34, leave out from "may" to "the" in line 35 and insert: make provisions with respect to".

Mr. Walker-Smith

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

It would be convenient if we discussed with this Amendment the next two Lords Amendments: In line 37, leave out "and", and in line 38, at end insert: and the evidence which may be required or admitted in any such proceedings; and such rules may provide—". The first two are drafting Amendments.

Page 20, line 34, onwards, reads in Clause 22 (2) as follows: Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, rules made under this section may provide— (a) for regulating the persons to be made respondents to any application to the Court under this Part of this Act and the place at which the Court is to sit for the purposes of any proceedings thereunder; The term "regulating" is perhaps not a very felicitous one in that context and so make provisions with respect to". had been substituted. The third Amendment, in line 38, is to enable the Lord Chancellor to make rules about the evidence which may be required or admitted in any proceedings before the Court. As I think the House will appreciate, there would be data which ought to be before the Court in this sort of proceeding which would not be easily or conveniently, and certainly not cheaply, brought before the Court if they were sub-ject to the ordinary strict rules of evidence, which perhaps are not quite designed for that kind of thing.

An obvious instance of that would be statistics about international trade which might be very material in some cases. It might be desirable that such statistics should be before the court in the interests both of the parties and of the issue which the court had to decide but, according to the strict rules of evidence, such statistics could not be before the court unless the compilers of them were called to give evidence. In some cases, that might obviously be an inconvenience and unnecessary course, giving rise to costs out of proportion to the desirability or having the witnesses actually there. I suppose there might be cases with this kind of complicated statistics where it might be very difficult physically to produce the appropriate witness before the Court.

This is not a novel provision. It already exists in other sorts of proceedings which have been referred to in the course of the earlier stages of this Bill more than once. The Lands Tribunal Act, 1949, has a similar provision in Section 3 (6) and the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, under which the General Claims Tribunal operates, has such a provision in Section 9 (2.) I might add for the further reassurance of the House that the rules made by the Lord Chancellor under this power will be exercisable by a Statutory Instrument and they will be subject to annulment by either House of Parliament.

Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question? I listened to his explanation, but is not the effect of this Amendment merely to abolish the usual machinery of discovery and to enable the Court in these cases to get any relevant data or documentary evidence that might be required in deciding the matter in issue.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

I agree with the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary as to the purpose of this Amendment. I understand the purpose to be merely to make the method of proof easier and more convenient than it would otherwise be. However, I am a little concerned, because on the wording of the Amendment it might be possible to deal not merely with the method by which evidence is to be given, but also with the person from whom the evidence is to be obtained. However, as I understand that the purpose is entirely directed to the method of giving evidence, and not directed to the person responsible for producing it, so far from seeing any objection to the Amendment, I welcome it.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I did not understand that at all, with respect to my hon. and learned Friend. It appeared to me from the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary, and from the terminology of the Amendment, that it was addressed to the purpose of getting any relevant evidence or data whatsoever from any source, if the Court thought in these matters that that was necessary. I understood that in this way, it would be doing it in a quick and direct way without the formal machinery normally applied in order to get discovery, and that it was doing away with all the ordinary formalities of discovery either in regard to persons or in regard to documentary evidence or data. I understood that the Amendment was introduced because, in a matter of this kind, it is essential that all data and all necessary documentary evidence should be before the Court in coming to its decision.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Referring first to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas), he is right in his supposition as to the limitation which we seek to put upon the application of this provision. Of course, it is not so important as it would be if this were other than a rule-making power, because, of course, when the rules are made, regard will certainly be had to the purpose for which they are required.

In regard to the question of the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), this is an Amendment which is dealing with the question of evidence, and it is an Amendment which is, as I sought to explain, designed to facilitate the admissibility of evidence which would not otherwise be admissible under the strict rules of evidence with which the hon. and learned Member is so familiar. The subject of discovery is really dealt with in the following paragraph, subsection (2, b). That takes care of the subject of discovery in such a way that the full material will be before the Court.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 20, line 37, leave out "and".

In line 38, at end insert: and the evidence which may be required or admitted in any such proceedings; and such rules may provide—". Lords Amendment: In page 20, line 44, at end insert: (c) for enabling a single application to be made to the Court in respect of a number of related agreements, or separate applications made in respect of related agreements to be heard together;".

Mr. Walker-Smith

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

This Amendment will add another paragraph to the rule-making power under subsection (2) of Clause 22. In effect the new paragraph will allow for rules to be made to provide for the grouping or consolidation of applications before the Court. Those hon. Members who are familiar with the practice of the courts will appreciate that consolidation of actions is provided for in the ordinary way in the High Court, and this is really following that procedure, and will save the time of the Court and enable it to look at restrictive practices in any particular industry a little more in the round.

Lords Amendment: In page 21, line 12, at end insert: or any other unreasonable conduct on his part".

Mr. Walker-Smith

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

This will add another provision to paragraph (d) of subsection (2) of Clause 22, and will enable rules to be made to enable the Court to make an order for the payment of costs for other unreasonable conduct in addition to that precisely specified.