HC Deb 24 May 1957 vol 570 cc1571-4


As amended, considered.

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Motion gives me an opportunity to express my thanks to a number of people who have assisted in the passage of the Bill through the House to this stage. In particular, I am most grateful to no fewer than three Chancellors of the Exchequer and two Financial Secretaries to the Treasury who have, over the past three years, assisted in the progress of the Bill. There are also the Treasury officials, who have given me the greatest assistance.

I wish, also, to convey my gratitude to the Mocatta Committee, which considered the whole problem and produced a very valuable Report, and to the witnesses before the Committee who submitted memoranda and gave oral evidence. I also thank the many firms and individuals who gave me advice about the contents of the Bill.

I am sure that the House will permit me to put on record my thanks in particular to a constituent of mine, Mr. G. O. Papworth, who was the inspiration of the Bill and has greatly assisted in its detail. If I might adapt a well-known phrase, never have so many contributed so much to so few; that is, so much experience and learning on this subject to a Bill of so few Clauses.

I am sure that all these people will have their reward if the Bill is given a Third Reading by the House and it finds favour in another place. From both sides of the House, we frequently plead for increased productivity, which must mean the cutting down of wasteful effort. In talking about increased productivity, perhaps we think mainly of the manual worker, but we are all manual workers even if we only push a pen, and, as the law stands at present, somebody has to push a pen on the back of 800 million cheques a year. If it becomes law, the Bill will at least relieve somebody of pushing a pen on the back of 630 million cheques a year. What is more, the people who at present, under the law as it stands, have to endorse cheques are usually responsible executives, whose time is of great value to their firms and, indeed, to the nation. The Bill will be a contribution to increased productivity by cutting out wasteful effort of that sort.

We frequently complain, certainly from the back benches in this House, of too much legislation. In making that complaint, we are usually thinking of too much ordering of people to do this or that. It is some recommendation for the Bill that it does not order people to do this or that, but relieves them of doing something. It is to that extent delegislation rather than legislation. It relieves many people of tedious and unproductive effort.

11.10 a.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

There is no need, I think, for much more to be said on this Bill. It has, very properly, had a fairly easy passage through the House, and I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) on having got his first Bill through with such ease. Remembering his efforts on another Private Member's Bill with which we have been dealing in Committee, I am not sure whether he actually deserves this, but what is certain is that his object here certainly deserves the assent of the House.

The Bill, if it reaches the Statute Book —as I expect it will—will save enormous labour in banks and in places of every description. For that reason alone, if for no other, it will prove a very valuable contribution to efficiency and even to good temper.

The hon. Gentleman said that he thought that others have complained about this House indulging in too much legislation and, with a reasoning which I did not altogether follow, he appeared to think that this Bill was outside the usual run of Bills that we get and which, I understand from him, are Bills which he thinks this House should not pass. We have supported this Measure firmly and have criticised it little, and I hope that the hon. Member will remember that when we come to deal with another Bill, equally good, in Committee. We on this side welcome this Measure and wish it a speedy passage through another place.

Mr. Page

Before the right hon. Gentleman resumes his seat, since he has referred to another Bill may I assure him that I have spoken for only 20 minutes on that Measure although, theoretically, I have been on my feet for three weeks?

11.12 a.m.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

I, too, wish to welcome this Bill, which will save much tedious work. I have only one point to make, and that is to express the hope that we will have an assurance from the Financial Secretary that after this Measure is on the Statute Book there will follow a Treasury review of the forms employed by that Department, the warrants used by it in making payments. At the moment, the position is far from satisfactory and involves a great deal of unnecessary work.

I have been supplied with specimens of the warrants used at present by the Treasury. There are 346 of them. I see no reason at all why that number could not be reduced to about half a dozen, or even less. If the Financial Secretary is to speak, I hope that we shall have an assurance from him that this aspect of the matter will be looked into.

11.14 a.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I should like to associate myself with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has said about this Bill, and with the congratulations that he has offered to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), who has introduced it successfully so far and will, we hope, see that it gets on to the Statute Book. I agree that some people seem to find much more difficulty than I do in endorsing cheques. Personally, I regard the endorsement of a cheque in my own favour as quite an entertaining occupation. My only trouble is that I do not sufficiently often have occasion to do that, but I recognise that there are other more fortunate people who begin to find it a burden.

Seriously, this Measure will, no doubt, relieve many firms and individuals of what may well be unnecessary labour. I hope that we have not gone too far in the interests of the bankers—for that, I think, is what the Bill does—by such minor matters as the provision in Clause 3. I do not think that we have. In any case, even laws about bills of exchange and cheques are capable of amendment from time to time, and where one man has succeeded in making an amendment so may another later, if it proves to be necessary. This is probably an adaptation of old practice to rather changed circumstances.

It is a good thing that a Bill of this kind should go on to the Statute Book. It is probably necessary and advisable that in cases of this kind the business of putting it on to the Statute Book should be done by a private Member, but I feel that the present arrangements for bringing Private Members' Bills to a successful conclusion are rather too chancy, and that a minority of Members may, in rather an undemocratic fashion, obstruct the will of the majority in this respect, while, under the practice of the House, they are unable to do so in other respects. I think that that is a matter that ought, at some time or other, to be looked into.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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