HC Deb 18 November 1970 vol 806 cc1376-7
Mr. S. C. Silkin

I beg to move Amendment No. 58, in page 5, line 37, leave out 'last' and insert 'first'.

The Deputy Chairman

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if with this Amendment we were to take Amendment No, 59, in page 5, line 38, leave out subsection (3).

Amendment No. 60, in page 6, line 8, leave out 'last' and insert 'first'.

And Amendment No. 61, in page 6, line 14, leave out paragraph (b).

Mr. Silkin

I know that we have some even more important matters to deal with than these Amendments. Therefore, I shall be extremely brief.

Subsection (2) provides that proceedings may be brought against anybody … at any time within the period of three months from the date on which evidence, sufficient in the opinion of the Secretary of State to justify a prosecution for the offence, comes to his knowledge, or within the period of twelve months from the commission of the offence, whichever period last expires. We cannot understand why three months from the date when the Secretary of State has sufficient evidence should not be sufficient. Therefore, the purpose of the Amendment is to substitute "first expires" for "last expires".

The other Amendments are concerned with subsection (3), which provides that, for the purpose of proving when the Secretary of State acquired his knowledge, … a certificate purporting to be signed by or on behalf of the Secretary of State … shall be conclusive evidence thereof. We feel that in criminal proceedings a matter of this kind should be properly proved; it should not be sufficient that a document signed by a civil servant should be accepted as "conclusive evidence thereof". We, therefore, move to leave out that subsection.

Mr. Dean

I can deal equally briefly with the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

The Clause follows what can now be called the time-hallowed practice in social security matters. It is modelled exactly on the arrangements for timing and so on which have existed in the sphere of National Insurance for a long time. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that unless there are substantial arguments for departing from the normal practice in these matters it would be better to follow the precedents which have already been set. This the Clause does.

Mr. Silkin

Even on this side of the Committee we have felt that sometimes the Government might be able to improve what has been done in the past. Apparently that is not so. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 14 and 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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