§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
I beg to move Amendment No. 202, in page 6, line 38, after "order", to insertor the court refused to discharge an order previously made".At this point the Committee is concerned with the provisions for reconsideration of cases decided by the Court, 1641 and what may be thought a fairly complex series of time limits is imposed by subsection (3) dealing with the treatment of such applications for reconsideration. An Amendment which has been on the Notice Paper would have left the matter entirely to be determined in the discretion of the Court for leave, but that has gone, and, in the Bill we have this fairly elaborate timetable provision.
I stand to be corrected, but in my understanding of the Bill, by what may be possibly, though perhaps this will be thought unlikely, a drafting oversight, the proposed time restriction is not made applicable in a case in which the Court has refused to discharge an order previously made. The two-year period is made applicable commencing from the refusal of the Court to make an order or from the date of the making of an order. Those two cases are provided for, but the additional case of the Court refusing to discharge an order previously made does not appear to be covered.
Let us suppose that the Court has made an order in the first place and that there has been an application for the Court to discharge the order and the Court has refused to discharge it. It seems that application for the case to be reconsidered in that context can in theory be made immediately afterwards. The applicant in such a case, I concede, would most likely be the Registrar, and I agree that he would not act oppressively. None the less, it is desirable that the process of time limitation in this matter should, first, be spelled out comprehensively in the Bill and also should apply equally between the parties, the applicant, on the one hand, and the Registrar, on the other.
What it comes to is this. As the Bill stands, no restriction in point of time is applied to the case where the Court refuses to discharge an order previously made. It would seem that the Bill would be a better Bill if this were corrected.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. du Cann
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) for giving us the benefit of his advice on this matter. His basic point is that he feels that the Clause is not satisfactory as it stands.
§ Mr. du Cann
Indeed—in this somewhat limited respect. I note that. Again, we have been considering this matter. Although I do not accept at the moment everything that the hon. and learned Gentleman said, I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would like to consider the whole question afresh. I therefore hope that with this assurance the hon. and learned Gentleman will be good enough to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
I beg to move Amendment No. 195, in page 6, line 39, to leave out from "Court" to end of line 42.
The Committee is concerned with the case of leave being sought to reopen a case. As the Bill stands, this can be given only in the context of there being available prima facie evidence of a material change in relevant circumstances which the applicant seeking to reopen the ease can offer to the Court. Some of us on this side think—we should be interested to hear the Government's reaction on this—that this provision might be open to some objection.
The character of the objection can be illustrated in this way. There might be a case where an applicant for exemption, wanting, as I express it, to reopen his case, did not have any different or additional evidence from that which he had previously brought before the Court on an earlier application by him—the same proofs from the same witnesses, let us say—but he might reasonably think that external factors not immediately affecting his own business or concern but factors of a kind arising in wide economic terms—what is sometimes in the modern jargon described as the social and economic climate—had changed and that, because these had changed, an argument which had been unsuccessful a short time previously would now stand a reasonable chance of being successful before the judges.
We are in doubt as to whether changes in circumstances which are 1643 changes not in the narrow point of evidence which the applicant can bring forward in his proofs of witnesses but changes in the general character of the economic climate prevailing at the time come within the ambit of the expression "relevant circumstances" in the Clause.
If the Minister will assure us that he has been advised that the expression "relevant circumstances" would cover that sort of matter so that the applicant in such a context would not be confronted with the sort of difficulties I have suggested might arise, I do not think my hon. Friends would wish to pursue the matter further. We want an assurance that the matter will come within the ambit of the expression "relevant circumstances" or that it will be looked at again by the Government.
§ Mr. du Cann
I can deal with this Amendment quickly. The answer is "Yes"—providing that the circumstances which the Court has to consider are relevant to the issue before it. I hope that, with this assurance, the hon. and learned Member will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am grateful for that assurance, so clearly and unqualifiedly given. Nevertheless, I feel some anxiety on the point. It will be for the Court to determine the sense of relevant circumstances, and it might be arguable either way. However, the Minister has given the assurance which I sought, although the point can remain in our minds for a little longer.
§ Mr. du Cann
I might be able to assist the hon. and learned Member further if I say that we will consider what he has said when we have a chance of reading his remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is fair for me to point out that in our view there are other substantial objections to the Amendment. I was more concerned in the few remarks I made to answer the point which he had directly in mind, and while I am sure that the answer I gave is correct, we are perfectly prepared to re-read the hon. and learned Member's remarks.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1644
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.