HC Deb 27 January 1971 vol 810 cc560-1

4.0 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

I beg to move Amendment No. 385, in page 3, line 14, leave out from 'effect' to end of line 16.

The Amendment seeks to remove from the Secretary of State any responsibility for pricing and selling the Code of Practice. I think the Committee knows that Her Majesty's Stationery Office is financially responsible, through its Parliamentary Vote, for the sale of Government publications, and prices are determined in accordance with overall pricing objectives. It is undesirable for a Government Department to assume this specialised responsibility for which the Stationery Office has facilities and the expertise, and it would be unusual, since the Stationery Office customarily handles all official publications whether or not they are statutorily authorised. Consequently, I am able to say that the Stationery Office has given us full support for the Amendment.

The legal standing of the code of practice is based on a comparison with the Highway Code and, as I told the Committee when we discussed another Amendment earlier in our proceedings, the phrase which it is proposed to delete from the Bill was used in the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which authorised the Highway Code. It was taken over in the drafting of this Bill, but it is not regarded as a desirable precedent by the Stationery Office and, therefore, we would like to remove this phrase from the Bill.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

This is, of course, a self-evident piece of commonsense. All I say to the hon. Gentleman at this stage is that if we have to spend the time allotted by the guillotine Motion going through the Bill remedying stupid little mistakes like this we on this side shall, before long, be demanding more time to discuss the really urgent matters involved.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Would the right hon. Lady agree that I took about one and a half minutes to make my statement?

Mrs. Castle

Would the hon. Gentleman agree—[Interruption.]—that if the Government's drafting of the Bill had been reasonable in the first place we should not have had to waste even five minutes on an Amendment to correct it? I am giving the Government a warning that if we have to go through the Bill spending even two or three minutes dealing with drafting mistakes, which ought not to have been made in the first place, we shall demand more time for the Committee stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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