§ Admissibility of statements produced by computers
Lords Amendment No. 11: In page 10, line 15, after Clause 12 insert new Clause "A".
A.—(1) In any civil proceedings a statement contained in a document produced by a computer shall, subject to the provisions of section (Procedure) of this Act, be admissable as evidence of any fact stated therein of which direct oral evidence would be admissable, if it it is shown that the conditions mentioned in subsection 2 of this section are satisfied in relation to the statement and computer in question.
(2) The said conditions are—
(3) Where over a period the function of storing or processing information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period as mentioned in subsection (2)(a) of this section was regularly performed by computers, whether—
(4) In any civil proceedings where it is desired to give a statement in evidence by virtue of this section, a certificate doing any of the following things, that is to say—
(5) For the purposes of this Part of this Act—
(6) Subject to subsection (3) of this section, in this Part of this Act "computer" means any device for storing and processing information, and any reference to information being derived from other information is a reference to is being derived therefrom by calculation, comparison or any other process.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment, I suggest that we discuss Lords Amendment No. 12, in page 10, line 15, after the Amendment last inserted to insert new Clause "B"—Provisions supplementary to section (Admissibility of statements produced by computers).
Amendment No. 13, new Clause "C"—Procedure—Amendment No. 14, new Clause "D"—Amendment of section 7 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1966—Amendment No. 15, Amendment No. 16, Amendment No. 18, Amendment No. 19, Amendment No. 20, and Amendment No. 21.
§ Mr. Buchan
I know that this is a very complicated-looking swatch of print, but the matter at issue is simple, although the content may be complex.
Lords Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 introduce into the Bill four new Clauses dealing with the admissibility in civil cases of evidence in the form of documents produced by modern business methods. The other Amendments are consequential upon the new Clauses.
They introduce in the law of Scotland provision for the use in evidence before the civil courts of information produced by methods now in widespread use in business and elsewhere, such as computers and microfilm devices. This is not the introduction of any new principle, since there are already provisions 1406 in Scots law faciliating the introduction of business records in evidence.
These new Clauses should be regarded as an extension of the principle to cater for modern developments. Similar provisions are contained in the English Civil Evidence Act and were approved by the House earlier this year. I do not want to go into detail on the provisions but one of the important points at issue was that, after the Civil Evidence Act was passed, we received many approaches from the business world to the effect that businesses, especially large businesses operating throughout Great Britain, would not be able to take advantage of the provisions of that Act if they were in doubt about the position in Scotland.
In the circumstances, the Government thought that, if it were done, it were better to do it quickly. We regard this provision as necessary since obviously we could not continue the process of record-keeping for businesses in England and Wales only, but must ensure that they are usable in civil proceedings in Scotland as well.
§ Mr. Wylie
These Amendments are clearly desirable. It would be totally unacceptable in commerce to have two different provisions of the law of evidence within the United Kingdom concerning the application of computers and other modern devices.
But it seems incredible that something which, in principle, is so relatively simple should require such an enormous Amendment. I echo what was said in another place by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid. He commented:There must surely be something wrong with our methods of drafting if it takes five pages of close print to introduce what is apparently a simple Amendment of this kind … it seems to me to add point to the growing demand that the traditional style of drafting ought to be radically altered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 13th June, 1968; Vol. 293, c. 288.]I do not suppose that anyone here who has taken the trouble to read these Amendments could possibly disagree with that sentiment.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.