HC Deb 12 March 1957 vol 566 cc1065-7

7.43 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for die Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)

I beg to move, in page 4, line 11, to leave out from the beginning to "shall" in line 14 and to insert: A copy of the First Schedule to this Act as from time to time amended by Order in Council under this section or by or under any other enactment. Clause 5 (2) has already been amended in Committee to permit reprints of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, to incorporate amendments to the First Schedule made by Statute as well as those made by Order in Council under Clause 5; but the subsection is still open to objection because the Clerk of the Parliaments can only prepare and certify a corrected copy of the First Schedule upon the coming into operation of an Order in Council. That means that however, many amendments may be made by other legislation and Order in Council, the Act could not be reprinted to incorporate them unless or until an Order in Council had been made. The purpose of the Amendment is to enable the certification procedure to be operated by the Clerk of the Parliaments at any suitable time.

I may at this juncture comment upon two points raised in Committee. First, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) drew attention to the timing of the procedure for certification of the amended copies of the First Schedule. He suggested that this might operate from the date of making an Order in Council under Clause 5 as distinct from the date of coming into force of the Order. Secondly, a point arose on what is now Clause 11 but is bound up with this Clause.

It was made by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The right hon. Gentleman inquired about the machinery for making lists of disqualifying offices available in constituencies to actual and prospective candidates. That arises on a different provision in the Bill. But these two matters are closely related, and I hope that what I have to say on the second matter will provide an answer to the first also. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General told the Committee on 26th February that it would be difficult to go further in the statute itself than the provision requiring candidates to acknowledge on nomination their awareness of the effects of the Bill.

My right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland have it in mind that as soon as the Bill receives the Royal Assent they will supply copies of the First Schedule to the acting returning officer for each constituency, which he can make available for inspection at any time by prospective candidates. They go further and propose to notify the acting returning officers by circular from time to time of any amendments that may be made to the Schedule, so that they can keep their copies up to date.

7.45 p.m.

I hope that the right hon. Member for South Shields feels that that procedure will meet the lacunae which he pointed out as existing in the letter of the Bill. I hope also that it meets the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. We feel that it would be in any case wrong to reprint the Act so as to incorporate a prospective amendment not actually in force, but by means of that administrative machinery we do not feel that there should be any difficulty in prospective candidates and candidates seeing how they stand as to disqualification.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I have to thank the Government for meeting my views.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I want to thank the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the care which he has taken over this matter. I am quite certain that the steps which he proposes to take, if they are continuously undertaken from year to year or from time to time by the Home Office and the Scottish Office, will enable people to know whether they are disqualified from membership of the House or not. One can only hope that they will not reject with contumely the list offered to them, without first making quite certain that some minor office which they hold is not included in the list.

I hope that this will ensure persons who have been acting quite sincerely in the past being prevented from incurring the kind of discomfort and inconvenience that has been caused to them and that it will relieve the House of the difficulty which it has had from time to time. I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for the steps that they have undertaken on the administrative side in this matter.

Amendment agreed to.