HC Deb 03 May 1956 vol 552 cc739-42
Mr. Holt

I beg to move, in page 15. line 12, after "of" to insert "or aggrieved by."

The Deputy-Chairman

I think it would be convenient if the Committee also discussed the Amendment in Clause 18, line 27, in the name of the hon. Gentleman, at the end to insert: (b) for enabling any person aggrieved by any restriction contained in or created by any agreement for the time being registered under Part 1 of this Act to appear before the Court.

Mr. Holt

If circumstances change after an agreement of a restrictive nature has been allowed, and a party feels aggrieved, he should have the opportunity of stating his case to the Court. It would seem necessary, therefore, to insert these Amendments in the two Clauses.

Mr. Walker-Smith

This is a Court, and the justiciable issue will be tried between the Registrar and the parties to the agreement. We debated yesterday the possibility of others than the Registrar initiating proceedings, and I pointed out the inconvenience of that procedure.

It is not contemplated that it should be open to persons who are not parties to the agreement to take part in the proceedings as parties to the litigation. In that way the actual parties to the litiga tion might well be doubled. The hon. Member should appreciate that does not mean that people in the position of those with whom he is concerned will not, so to speak, have their part to play before the Court and their interest borne in mind. Because it has to be borne in mind in the scheme of proceedings under this Bill that the Registrar is, as it were, the custodian of the public interest.

I would think that the proper place for people who have a point of view to put regarding the detriment arising from restrictions in these schemes is not in the capacity of parties but in the capacity of witnesses, because it is always possible for them to volunteer that their evidence should be put at the disposal of the Registrar, and it is then for him to deploy that as part of his case. I think that is really the tidy way in which these proceedings should work.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

I should like to make our position on this clear. We support this Amendment. It seems to us that a party aggrieved should have access to the Court, because he is the person who is aggrieved, and he should not be shut out from remedy. But the principle of this Amendment is exactly the same as the principle of the Amendment which was debated and moved from the Liberal benches yesterday. We supported that Amendment, and the Committee divided on it, and at this late hour we certainly want to get as far ahead as we possibly can. As the principle of it was decided on the previous occasion, perhaps I might indicate to the Liberal benches that in all the circumstances we would not press the Amendment, because we are in favour of it and have already supported the principle in the Lobbies.

Mr. Grimond

I should like to reiterate, or to ask in a different form, a question which I have asked before, but to which I have not yet got any answer. Is the public to be considered as being anyone who feels that his interests are affected? Can a local authority go to the Registrar and say, "Owing to restrictive practices we consider that employment in our city is affected, and we would like to be represented"?

Does this Bill enable anyone who feels he may be aggrieved by the continuation of a restrictive practice—even if he is not a consumer, or buyer or association —to go to the Registrar and ask to be represented? And can he be separately represented, or is he simply represented by the Registrar?

Mr. Walker-Smith

He cannot, as I was seeking to point out in my previous observations, be separately represented in the technical sense of the word, because that would make him a party to the proceedings. But it is open to him to get in touch with the Registrar, in that he is presenting the case for the public, and if the person thinks that there is a detriment of which he has evidence it is for him to bring that evidence to the attention of the Registrar. In that way it is within his discretion and judgment in the deployment of his case in the ordinary way, and can be brought to the attention of the Court.

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the word "public" is used in a wide sense in Clause 16, because the public there is wider than the parties which are set out in the proceedings.

Mr. Holt

Does this mean that if the third party feels that he has a very strong case and puts it to the Registrar, and the Registrar says, "That is of no interest to me, but I will call you as a witness and you can give this kind of evidence ", the Registrar can put a limit to the case that the third party can put? That seems rather important. Either the third party must, through the technique described by the Parliamentary Secretary, be enabled to put the whole of their case, or, otherwise, the public interest is not properly safeguarded.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I realise that, unlike his hon. Friend, the hon. Gentleman is not a lawyer, but he will appreciate that the third parties will not be parties in the technical sense to the case at all. They will not be putting a case, and it is not strictly correct to use that phrase. There will only be the parties to the agreement, on the one side, and the Registrar on the other. Their appearance before the Court will be in the capacity of witnesses and, as such, the ordinary relationship will exist between them and the Registrar as exists between a witness and a party in an ordinary proceeding.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.