HC Deb 23 April 1964 vol 693 cc1678-80
Mr. A. J. Irvine

I beg to move, in page 10, line 8, after "injunction", insert "or other relief".

The point which arises out of these transitional provisions, which are rather elaborate in character, concerns those that have to deal with the case of a contract which has been made before the commencement of Clause 1 of the Bill. I would ask the Committee to consider the case of a contract entered into between the parties before this Bill takes effect, and that contract containing an r.p.m. clause.

By the effect of these transitional provisions that r.p.m. clause in the pre-Act contract is voided, as I understand it. This means that a plaintiff—a member of the public, a retailer or the Attorney-General—may commence proceedings for injuction against a supplier, a party to such a pre-Act contract, for withholding supplies. One can see the sense of that up to that point.

All I want to draw to the attention of the Committee is that rather odd results flow from this. Envisage the case of a dealer who is defending an action for damages for breach of contract brought by a supplier, involved in an action for damages for breach of contract in the case of a pre-Act contract. The effect of these transitional provisions is that that contract becomes valid for certain purposes and not for others. It is that feature of the situation which may give rise to certain difficulties.

Because of the case I have suggested of a dealer defending for breach of contract for actions brought by a supplier, he might be found liable for damages for breach of contract and yet, at virtually the same time, the successful plaintiff in that action for damages under the pre-Act contract might be successfully proceeded against for an injunction by a plaintiff in proceedings under this Bill.

That is a result which may flow from the form of these transitional provisions and it is an odd result. I do not say that it is an entirely irrational result. It is possible that this was intended. I acknowledge that there may even be an argument that it has a good intention, but it is a rather curious result if I understand the matter aright. We feel that we should hear the arguments for a provision which could have such unexpected consequences as I have put forward.

The Attorney-General

I can assure the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) that this provision, like all the others, is well intended and has good intentions behind it. I think that it can be justified logically. I do not think it right to say that it produces an odd result. It is certainly wrong to say that as from the moment Clause 1 comes into operation the provisions do not become void; they become wholly void from that moment.

The result intended by these transitional provisions is intended to carry this into operation. The moment a contract is broken the right to damages crystallises and there is no earthly reason why action should not be taken for breach of contract. But, as from the moment that the Bill becomes law that provision will become void. It is for this reason that it is necessary to make provision in the Schedule for the transitional provisions and that thereafter one should not be able to enforce such a contract by an injunction.

It would be absurd, the Act having come into operation and the provision having become void, that one should be able to get an injunction thereafter or that an injunction granted previously should continue to operate. For this reason, the provision is drawn as it is. I hope that with that explanation it will appear neither odd nor unnecessary.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the explanation, which I think makes the matter clear. I feel certain reservations. I do not envy the condition and state of mind of a defendant who has to pay damages for breach of contract to a plaintiff and then—perhaps on the following day—sees another plaintiff successfully taking proceedings against the plaintiff in his action on matters arising from the same contract. I think that I was justified in suggesting that the consequences of these transitional provisions might be in certain circumstances rather odd. I do not feel inclined to retract from that observation, but none the less, we have received a substantial explanation of the purpose and I am conscious of the logic of it.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments: as amended, to be considered this day and to be printed. [Bill 132.]