HL Deb 20 September 1909 vol 3 cc16-7


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill deals with a matter which is not very important in itself although it is one which enters very largely into the social life of the country. The Bill was first brought into Parliament not as a Government Bill but as a private Member's Bill, but the Home Office approved of it and it is on their behalf that I ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading to-day. I think it will be generally agreed that there is real cause for a reform of the present practice. The present practice has been objected to on the ground that it is insanitary, and, in the opinion of many people even rather disgusting. Again, it is far from being dignified, as any of your Lordships who sit often in a Police Court and have seen the oath administered can readily testify. It is the opinion of the Home Office that the oath administered in the fashion prescribed in this Bill would be more welcome and would probably impress a witness more than the present rather hurried way in which it is administered generally in the Courts. The form and manner of administering the oath are detailed in the Schedule, and I may say that this is not introducing a new principle. It was always possible that oaths could be taken in this way, but it was not very much taken advantage of. There was some question whether it was possible to invite the witness to take the oath in this form. Some authorities thought that a witness must suggest it first of all. Your Lordships will see from the Schedule that the officer administering the oath is required to address the person taking the oath in the following form, "You swear by Almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." The witness would reply, "I do." Your Lordships will see that that adds something to the ceremony of taking the oath. At the present moment the witness says nothing himself or herself, and it is not unlikely that the new form will impress the witness more than the present method. In accordance with a promise given, I shall have some Amendments to propose when we reach the Committee stage.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Wednesday next.