§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ LORD STRABOLGI had given Notice that he would move to insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of 1 & 2 Geo. 5. c. 28, s. 2 (1)
§ (1) as if after the word 'if' there were inserted the words 'for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State'31
§ (2) as if the words 'or which has been entrusted in confidence to him by any person holding office under His Majesty or which he has obtained or to which he has had access owing to his position as a person who holds or has held office under His Majesty or as a person who holds or has held a contract made on behalf of His Majesty or as a person who is or has been employed under a person who holds or has held such an office or contract ' were deleted; and
§ (3) as if after the word 'misdemeanour' there were inserted the words 'and for the purposes of this subsection such person shall be deemed to have so acted for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State unless the contrary is proved'
§ (4) as if after the word 'misdemeanour' there were inserted the words 'and in the case of any prosecution under this subsection involving the proof of a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State, subsection (2) of Section one of this Act shall apply in like manner as it applies to prosecutions under that section'."
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is intended to narrow the Official Secrets Act, 1911, as amended by the Official Secrets Act, 1920. It is intended to narrow Section 2 of the Act of 1911. As I ventured to suggest on the Second Reading, while the Bill which is now before your Lordships goes some way to limit the intended use—intended by Parliament—of the Act of 1920, it leaves many loopholes for oppression which could be used as long as this section of the Act of 1911 remains unamended. I take it that the intention of Parliament at the invitation of the Government is to make it quite clear that these Official Secrets Acts are only to be used against people accused of espionage or who are directly hostile to or acting against the interest of the State. That was the intention of Parliament, without a doubt, and we were assured of that safeguard for the subject. If we leave Section 2 of the Act of 1911 as it is, there remains a great menace. This is a section which is capable of indefinite expansion to cover not only espionage—which we are all agreed the hands of the Executive should be strengthened to deal with—but to cover all manner of communications and information which may have been received from any one who holds or has held office under His Majesty.
§ If I may refer for a moment to the Act of 1911, your Lordships will remember that it is an offence for a person to have in his possession or control a wide range of articles—sketches, plans, models, notes, documents—or information which relate to or are used in a prohibitive place, 32 etc. It deals with post offices and all kinds of buildings which really have nothing to do with espionage at all, and if the executive wish to annoy some people, or wish to persecute certain persons, then the unamended Act of 1911 gives them a very wide power to do so. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would of course say—I am sure with complete sincerity—that it was not the intention to use the Acts of 1911 and 1920 oppressively, and if the matter rested with him I would be perfectly satisfied. But it does not rest with him. It rests with the police, and the police can, under the Act of 1911 if it remains unamended, use it very oppressively indeed. In times of stress and public excitement, when there is some crisis on, the police have a habit of proceeding rather harshly in certain cases. I am not making a general accusation against the police or against the Executive, but it is dangerous for them to have in their hands the very wide powers given by the 1911 Act. My Amendment—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD MAUGHAM)
Will the noble Lord pardon me for interrupting him? I have been desirous that he should explain the nature and the extent of his Amendment before I made certain suggestions to your Lordships. The scope of the Bill which has received a Second Reading in your Lordships' House is strictly limited. It deals only with Section 6 of the Official Secrets Act, 1920, which it is proposed to amend pursuant to an undertaking given in another place. The Title of the Bill, which of course can be enlarged, is merely:An Act to amend Section six of the Official Secrets Act, 1920.The Government are wholly unwilling that this measure should be treated—by Amendments which would be entirely out of order in another place—as a Bill in regard to which the whole of the principles and the scope of the two previous Acts of 1911 and 1920 were to be considered and gone into.
It is far from being my intention to suggest to your Lordships anything more than that you should consider how far an Amendment of this sort ought to be gone into at this time. If you allow it, I do not know myself how you could object to an Amendment, for instance, to introduce something quite foreign to this Bill, such as an Amendment of the Army Act or any Act you please. You will 33 notice that if you do allow these Amendments, which are wholly beyond the scope of the measure which has received a Second Reading, you do two things. In the first place, you allow something which has not been discussed on Second Reading at all to be introduced on a Committee stage, and therefore you allow things that are foreign to the nature of the legislation to escape the necessity of being dealt with on Second Reading; and you also have the result a at you have no limits to the number of matters which may be discussed on such an Amendment.
This very matter of travelling beyond the scope of a Bill has been before this House in a previous case, which is to be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT, Volume 13, in reference to February 4, 1913. It is recorded there that the Bishop of Wakefield at toe time introduced an Amendment which was objected to by the Earl of Derby on the ground that it was outside the scope of the Bill. The then Lord Chairman, Lord Donoughmore, stated that the Amendment was wholly beyond the scope of the Bill, and the Earl of Derby moved that the Amendment be not considered as it was outside the scope of the Bill. The Lord Bishop at first required his Amendment to be considered, but the Marquess of Salisbury suggested to him that he should not move his Amendment and he took that course. I am, of course, under a bounden duty to be perfectly candid in my statement of this as of any other case, and I would observe that the Marquess of Salisbury, having said that he hoped in the circumstances that the Lord Bishop would refrain from moving his Amendment and putting the House to the necessity of definitely ruling it out of order, then he went on thus:I feel very strongly that it would be a dangerous thing for us to agree to a Motion of the sort moved by Lord Derby without very careful investigation, for any such Motion would be regarded as a precedent. As the sense of the House is clearly in the direction that the Amendment is outside the scope of the Bill, I hope the right reverend Prelate will not move it.I think it is clear that this House is not bound by any definite rule in any matter of this kind, but I do venture to ask your Lordships to consider whether it is your will that Amendments which are completely outside the scope of the Bill—because all the Amendments of the noble Lord are within the same category 34 —should be debated in this House on merits. If your Lordships come to the conclusion that this is right I am content, but I do not think that the matter should be dealt with without some protest, and I hope that your Lordships will receive the advice and assistance of the persons who are much more able to deal with the practice of the House than I—the Leader of the House and the Lord Chairman who is now in charge.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The noble and learned Lord gave me notice that he was going to raise this point, and so I have looked up the precedent, as he also has done and has quoted it to your Lordships. You will see that the matter has not been raised for some 26 years, and that is the only precedent that I can find which bears on the subject. I need not repeat what the noble and learned Lord has said. He has given you an account of what occurred on that occasion. Of course I cannot give any decision on the matter, I can only give an opinion for what it is worth. It seems to me that unless your Lordships considered that the subject matter of the Bill was anything relating to official secrets, it would appear that these Amendments would be beyond the scope of the Bill. As I think the noble and learned Lord has pointed out, your Lordships not infrequently add to a Bill a matter which is not included in the Title and therefore the Title has to be altered. I remember very well that I was in charge of the Local Government Act, 1929, and a good deal of matter was introduced into that measure in your Lordships' House and the necessity arose for changing the Title. My noble friend behind me (Lord Strabolgi) has recognised this fact here, and he has proposed to alter the Title so as to conform with his Amendments. I need hardly say that your Lordships are well aware that your Lordships are all powerful and can take any course that you please, but if I were asked to give an opinion I should be tempted to say that in view of the fact that the Bill is entitled "an Act to Amend Section Six of the Official Secrets Act, 1920," in my personal humble opinion, which may be quite wrong, the Amendments of the noble Lord behind me would appear to be outside the scope of the Bill.
I would like first of all to observe that I have not moved any Amendment. The noble and learned 35 Lord Chancellor did not allow me to do so.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I followed the precedent that was taken in a previous case of raising the point before the Amendment was moved.
I understand. I thought the noble and learned Lord Chancellor was going to correct me on some statement.
I thought the noble and learned Lord Chancellor was going to expose the whole case against me. Nor did he, I am sure inadvertently, advise me of the precedent that he was going to cite.
I am sure it was an inadvertence, but the Lord Chairman has the advantage that the Lord Chancellor has therefore over me. I did get a very courteous message from the staff of the Lord Chancellor to the effect that he was going to argue that my Amendments would be outside the scope of the Bill, but I did not know any precedent was going to be quoted and I have had no opportunity of studying it.
No apology is needed. All of us who know the noble and learned Lord are quite aware that anything of that sort would be due only to inadvertence. The noble and learned Lord Chancellor says that this was not discussed on the Second Reading. Not only did I bring this matter up of the Official Secrets Act, 1911, but your Lordships were good enough to allow me briefly to argue it. Now I am very courteously and no doubt properly rebuked by the Lord Chancellor for bringing up a matter which he describes as being outside the scope of the Bill. This obviously touches on a matter of very great importance to your Lordships' House, much more important than any Amendment I could bring before your Lordships or any argument which I could use. We are here invited to amend the 1920 Act dealing with official secrets. 36 That Act in its turn amended the 1911 Act. The object of the Bill now before your Lordships is to safeguard the subject against the too wide use of the words of the 1920 Act which, in a certain case which was quoted on the Second Reading of a journalist, had been felt to be used oppressively and against the wish of Parliament. My humble submission to your Lordships is that if it is your desire to safeguard the interests of the subject and to prevent the misuse of these Acts, you must not only amend the 1920 Act but you must also amend the 1911 Act on which the 1920 Act was largely based.
If I am told that that is improper, that that cannot be done under the rules of your Lordships' House, I, of course, immediately abide by that decision. If I follow the Lord Chairman, he considers that to attempt to amend the 1911 Act would be outside the scope of this Bill. Of course I will abide by that ruling, unless any of your Lordships care to question the matter further. Perhaps I may be allowed to observe this, that what the Lord Chancellor said, that an attempt might be made to amend the Army Act in the case of an Official Secrets Act, is to exaggerate the matter beyond reason. The 1920 Act is an amendment of the 1911 Act. I am, however, young in my experience of this House, and I do not pretend to be a student of Parliamentary procedure, but I venture to suggest to your Lordships that this may be a dangerous precedent. My contention is that the purpose of this measure is not carried out unless the original Act is also amended, and I should hate to be the unwilling instrument of creating a precedent which might in future limit your Lordships' action.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (EARL STANHOPE)
This is, of course, merely a matter of opinion, because neither I nor any other of your Lordships have any right to lay down the law as to procedure in your Lordships' House. Your Lordships settle your own procedure and action. On the whole, everyone would agree with the noble Lord opposite if this had been an ordinary Bill. If this Bill purported to amend the Official Secrets Acts then I think the noble Lord would have been quite in order in seeking to amend the Act of 1911, but that is not the Bill which we have before us to-day. The Bill is drawn very closely, 37 to amend Section 6 of a particular Act. I think that to go outside that section, and still more outside that Act, would be to stretch the rules of procedure very wide. It would be going much further than the House is accustomed to go. I should be the very last to wish to limit the powers of this House as they are limited in another place. There, as noble Lords know better than I do, because I never sat in the other House, you cannot make an Amendment of a Bill which is outside the Title of the Bill. Here we postpone the Title until we have finished, and can then amend the Title if we wish. So we get over that difficulty and extend our procedure, but I think it would be stretching the rules of our procedure beyond reason and beyond our custom if we agreed to the Amendment of the noble Lord, and I hope he will not press it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
May I say a few words out of courtesy to the argument which the noble Lord has put forward? As I understand it, he would limit the usual practice of the House—because it is no more than a question of practice—in reference to Amendments, by saying that you might amend any Act if there were a series of Acts amending each other, so that in one sense the Bill before the House was altering some of the previous measures which together created a composite piece of legislation. I perceive the ingenuity of that, and in many cases no doubt it is correct, but I would call his attention, and the attention of your Lordships, to the following facts. This Bill, which the Government have sponsored in order to carry out the pledge to which I have already referred, is of the most limited character possible. It does not alter the nature of an official secret, or the nature of the offences which, under the Acts of 1911 and 1920, become either felonies or misdemeanours. This Bill is confined simply to the question what questions can be asked by a chief officer of police, or by somebody appointed by him, in order to procure a conviction, and nothing more, and the pledge which was given in the other place was a pledge that the power of a policeman in this country to ask questions, in order to arrest somebody who had committed or was thought to have committed a breach of Section I of the Act of 1911, should be confined to cases of espionage, so that in all other cases no such powers 38 could exist. In this sense, that although of course a policeman may ask anything he likes of anybody, he should not be entitled to ask him with the result mentioned in Section 6 of the Act which is sought to be amended: there should not be a penalty for a refusal to answer a question. That is all that is being done, and nothing else.
Now let me just ask your Lordships this. Suppose you have a series of Acts with regard, for instance, to local government. There are sometimes a series of twenty Acts and perhaps a hundred or two hundred sections involved. Suppose a Bill is introduced by the Government of the day, or by a private member, to amend a particular section of one of those Acts—it might be in quite a trivial respect. For example, it might be to increase the salary of a particular official. Is it to be said that because there are all these Acts, there may be moved in such a case, in this House, a far-reaching Amendment of the law of local government as subsisting in this country? As I have said before, far be it from me to presume to advise your Lordships with any force at all as to my own personal opinion. I am, as your Lordships know, a newcomer, but I cannot think it would serve to make people in other places think we conduct our business in the best possible way if Amendments of that character can be permitted, when in fact the Bill before the House is of a very limited description and does not raise the question of the propriety or correctness of the kind of Amendment which the noble Lord wishes to support on this occasion.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
It may be of interest if I say a few words on this matter, seeing that I well remember the incident in this House to which the noble and learned Lord has referred. I remember this incident because I was at the time consulting with my right reverend friend the Bishop of Wakefield. If I remember rightly, the occasion was an amending Bill to a Betting Act, called the Betting Inducements Bill. The Bishop of Wakefield was extremely anxious to bring in on this amending Bill what he considered was a question of far-reaching importance, and he strongly pressed that a matter which is now familiar to us as football coupons should be included. It was pointed out that upon that basis any point affecting the 39 betting laws in the country might be introduced, just as the noble Lord opposite thinks that any matter affecting official secrets might be in this Bill. The Bishop of Wakefield on that occasion was induced to withdraw the Amendment, and I think it was a precedent in this House exactly pertinent to the present case. I only proffer these observations as I remember the episode perfectly well.
I do not want to pursue this matter at too great length, though my personal inclination would be to continue the argument with the Lord Chancellor, and I think I have arguments to bring forward. But it is an important matter. I understand from the Leader of the House particularly that he considers that this Bill only amends one section of the Official Secrets Act, 1920, and must therefore be limited to that extent. If your Lordships would look at the Amendment Paper you would see that I also propose to amend the 1920 Act as well as the 1911 Act, and if I understand the advice given to your Lordships those Amendments would be out of order. I would like to be certain of that. If I understand the argument of the Lord Chancellor we cannot even amend the 1920 Act, with which this Bill deals.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord misunderstands me. I do not say the House cannot; the House can undoubtedly. All I am suggesting is that in the case of such a Bill as we have here it would be very bad practice to attempt to travel outside it and to amend anything but section 6 of the Official Secrets Act, 1920.
Therefore the advice the Lord Chancellor gives to your Lordships is that we can only deal with one section of the 1920 Act. I would only observe to your Lordships that our right to amend Titles of Bills has proved very valuable in the past, and that our wider procedure here has been of value to Parliament as a whole. This matter is very complicated and difficult, and in all the circumstances I do not propose to move any of my Amendments.
§ Clause 1:
§ Amendment of 10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 75, s. 6.
1. For Section six of the Official Secrets Act, 1920, there shall be substituted the following section:—
6.—(1) Where a chief officer of police is satisfied that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under Section one of the principal Act has been committed and for believing that any person is able to furnish information as to the offence or suspected offence, he may apply to a Secretary of State for permission to exercise the powers conferred by this subsection and, if such permission is granted, he may authorise a superintendent of police, or any police officer not below the rank of inspector, to require the person believed to be able to furnish information to give any information in his power relating to the offence or suspected offence, and, if so required and on tender of his reasonable expenses, to attend at such reasonable time and place as may be specified by the superintendent or other officer; and if a person required in pursuance of such an authorisation to give information, or to attend as aforesaid, fails to comply with any such requirement or knowingly gives false information, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) Where it appears to a chief officer of police that the case is one of great emergency and that in the interest of the State immediate action is necessary, he may exercise the powers conferred by the last foregoing subsection without applying for or being granted the permission of a Secretary of State, but if he does so shall forthwith report the circumstances to the Secretary of State.
(3) References in this section to a chief officer of police shall be construed as including references to any other officer of police expressly authorised by a chief officer of police to act on his behalf for the purposes of this section when by reason of illness, absence, or other cause he is unable to do so.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL had given Notice of two Amendments to subsection (2) of the substituted Section 6, in order to make the opening words read "Where a chief officer of police has reasonable grounds to believe" instead of "Where it appears to a chief officer of police." The noble Viscount said: This Amendment raises a very small point. The ones we have been discussing were large in their scope; this on the other hand is limited. It is a point I raised on the Second Reading. The Bill, as your Lordships know, authorises a chief officer of police to submit persons to interrogation when he has reason to think that an offence of espionage or something of that nature has been committed. But before taking that action he is required under this Bill to have the authority of the Secretary of State. Under subsection (2), however, he is allowed to dispense with an application for that authority where the case is one of great emergency, and 41 I think we are all agreed that this is a proper provision to be made in the Bill.
However, the Bill as drafted leaves the determination of the question whether there is or is not a great emergency entirely to the discretion of the chief officer of police himself, and apparently it is not subject to review in any quarter. That, I would submit, is wrong. The ipse dixit of a chief officer of police who may wish to short-circuit matters, and who may not have considered the matter very thoroughly, is not sufficient, and the case should be referable in the last resort to a Court of Law on the question whether or not the chief officer of police was justified in thinking that there was a great emergency. Consequently my Amendment would make the subsection read—not:
Where it appears to a chief officer of police that the case is one of great emergency….
Where a chief officer of police has reasonable grounds to believe that the case is one of great emergency….
Those words, "reasonable grounds to believe," are well known to the law, and indeed precisely this point has already been raised on another Bill two years ago, the Public Order Bill.
The relevant paragraph of that Bill as introduced in another place was substantially in the form in which this Bill is now drafted, and it provided that a police officer of the proper status would have power to prevent a procession where he anticipated it would occasion a breach of the peace. The point I am now making was raised by an honourable member in another place, and the Home Secretary of that day, Sir John Simon, accepted the Amendment and the Bill as passed into law reads that where the officer of police "has reasonable ground" to anticipate that the procession would occasion a breach of the peace he may take certain action. That is, I submit, an exact precedent for the Amendment I am now moving, and I trust the Government will see their way to accept it. I beg to move:
Page 2, line 4, leave out ("it appears to").—(Viscount Samuel.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Government are unable to accept this Amendment, and I hope to be able to satisfy 42 your Lordships, and perhaps even the noble Viscount himself, that there are good reasons for not accepting it. In the first place I should like to admit that this Amendment is directly apposite to the Bill which we are discussing, and that there is therefore no question of its being beyond its scope. Next I should like to remind your Lordships of this. There are three factors involved when you are considering this subsection (2). The first is that the matter is one relating to espionage, and nothing else. The second is that a chief officer of police is satisfied that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under Section 1 of the principal Act, the Act of 1911, has been committed—those offences are all espionage offences—and for believing that a person is able to furnish information as to the offence or suspected offence. The third point is that the case is one of great emergency and that in the interests of the State immediate action is necessary.
Now see what the noble Viscount proposes to put into the Bill. It is in effect that the action in a case of great emergency by a chief officer of police is not to be taken unless he can establish that he has reasonable ground for believing that in the interests of the State immediate action is necessary, or something of that kind. The result of that is this. The ordinary safeguard, that the Secretary of State has to give leave to ask the question of the person who is believed to be able to furnish information on the matter, will be useless if the time that elapses before you can get the consent of the Secretary of State will make it too late to arrest, or otherwise take steps to prevent the espionage being successful. As the result of the noble Viscount's Amendment, as soon as the chief officer of police or the person he has appointed to require the information goes to the person believed to possess the information, and asks the question, he is to be met by the answer: "What reasonable grounds have you for thinking that the case is one of great emergency and that in the interest of the State immediate action is necessary? Unless you can satisfy me that that is the case, I shall not answer your question."
As your Lordships can see, in the first place the person sent may not be able to answer that, because it is the chief officer of police who has to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for 43 suspecting that an offence under Section 1 of the principal Act has been committed, etc. The man who is sent to ask the question may not know what particular offence under Section 1 of the principal Act is involved, what plan it is that is being stolen, what information it is believed has leaked out from an important Government office, and he may be perfectly unable to state what the reasonable grounds are. The subsection is drafted as it is because it does seem to the Government that where the case is one of great emergency it is necessary that the chief officer of police should be justified in sending some person who is not below the rank of inspector or superintendent to ask questions of the person suspected without going first to the Secretary of State, because the time that would be involved in taking that step might very likely defeat the whole object of subsection (2) where haste is the most important consideration.
It will be asked by my noble friend, no doubt: "Suppose in fact the chief officer of police has taken a step in a case of great emergency under subsection (2), and suppose he has acted wrongly, what happens then?" I tell your Lordships at once that he will be severely reproved by the Secretary of State, because the Bill provides that if he does exercise his powers under subsection (2) he shall forthwith report the circumstances to the Secretary of State. In other words, all that is involved in this is no more than that in every possible case where there is time these questions shall not be asked without the Secretary of State having approved, but where there is not time, because it is a case of great emergency, the chief officer of police must exercise his discretion. It is a discretion which is no greater or more important than the discretion which police officers have to exercise in countless circumstances in the administration of our criminal law; but in this case when he has done it, because he could not go to the Secretary of State he shall at once notify the Secretary of State of the circumstances, and if he has acted wrongly he will suffer a severe reproof. In these circumstances I must oppose the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Of course I cannot press this matter further in view of the attitude taken by the noble and learned Lord. At the same time I con- 44 fess I have heard his observations with surprise. The noble and learned Lord said that the chief officer of police will not be able to make this interrogatory unless he is able to establish that he has reason to believe the case is one of great emergency, and apparently the noble and learned Lord thinks he has to establish that to the satisfaction of the person interrogated.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Yes. The noble and learned Lord thinks that the chief officer of police has to establish it to the satisfaction of the potential informant who is supposed to have facts in his possession relating to a possible case of espionage. Surely not. There is no question of imposing any delay or satisfying anyone before the interrogatory is put. He may be called upon to establish the fact that he had reasonable grounds for belief, but only if subsequently his action is ever challenged in a Court or otherwise. That is the only occasion on which he would have to give his grounds for thinking that it was a case of great emergency, and not when he goes to the person whom he wishes to interrogate. If that person were to answer by saying, "Explain to me why you have not got the Home Secretary's order, and why you consider this a case of great emergency," the police officer would not be called upon to answer anything at all. He would simply put his questions to the person, who would refuse to answer at his own peril and at the risk of penalty. That is the situation as I see it.
Very much the same position arises in the previous case I quoted—namely, the Public Order Act of 1936. There the case is one of great emergency. The Chief Constable has to prohibit a procession there and then if he thinks there is going to be disorder. The Act requires him to have reasonable grounds for the belief before he does it, and if it is not a reasonable case proceedings may, in a proper case, be taken against him. The noble and learned Lord says that this is only one case of the exercise of discretion among countless cases that officers of police have to act upon. But this is the only provision in the whole law of England where an officer of police is able to interrogate any person who is liable to a penalty—the heavy penalty for a misdemeanour—if he refuses to answer. 45 Therefore the matter does need to be carefully safeguarded by Parliament. I say it with due respect and all diffidence, but I cannot feel convinced by the noble and learned Lord's reply, and feel sure the question must be raised in another place. However, in view of the attitude of the Government, it is not possible to carry the matter further here, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I want to ask another question on Clause 1 before the Bill proceeds further. I raised another point on Second Reading and the noble and learned Lord Chancellor was good enough to say that he would look into the matter. It is the question whether an admission made in a case to which this Bill will apply can be used against a person who has answered the interrogatory. Noble Lords will see that here you have a person who is called upon by a police officer to answer certain questions in connection with espionage. He is obliged to answer those questions. When he has answered them, can his statement be used in a Court of Law to his own detriment? It is quite contrary to all the provisions of English law that such a thing should be done. Admissions by accused persons are held to be inadmissible if there is reason to believe that they have been extracted by any threat, promise or process of cross-examination. This compulsory power of interrogation was unknown to English law until 1920, when one of the Acts which is now being amended was passed into law. I raised the question whether a Judge in a case such as that which I postulated would feel constrained to declare that a statement made under the provisions of this Bill would be inadmissible to the detriment of the person who made it. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord Chancellor has looked into the matter, as he was good enough to say on the Second Reading that he would, and would now give me an answer.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I first looked into the question myself and thought that the answer was that which I stated to the noble Viscount. I am, however, not one of those lawyers who consider themselves infallible, and, having come to the conclusion that the answer I gave was probably right, I thought it expedient and proper to consult the highest authorities available to the Gov- 46 ernment. They have strongly taken the same view: that there is no question but that the reply of the person indicated in the section, compelled as it is by refusal to reply being a misdemeanour, could not be used against him in any proceedings at all. In those circumstances I hope the noble Viscount will be satisfied.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
On this occasion I am quite satisfied. I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor. I hope he does not think me unduly insistent, but the point is one of real importance, and I think it will be useful to have secured an answer given on his high authority.
Is the Title being postponed now?—because I should like to make one matter quite clear. I have the less hesitation in doing so as I understand that my noble friend Lord Addison is not moving his very important Motion on unemployment. May I draw the Lord Chancellor's attention, and that of the Lord Chairman, to page 3 of the Amendments? In the discussion on procedure I inquired whether the advice given to your Lordships with regard to the scope of the Bill applied to the Amendment of the 1920 Act. My first Amendment applied to the 1911 Act, and the Lord Chancellor was good enough to indicate that in his opinion that was the advice which should be given to your Lordships: that that would be outside the scope of the Bill. Now, however, if the Lord Chancellor would be good enough to look at the bottom of page 3, he will see that I have other Amendments on the Paper to the Bill before your Lordships, and I take it that he does not propose to advise your Lordships that those are out of order.
Your Lordships will observe that the two Amendments are really alternatives. The first is to insert, as a proviso at the end of the substituted Section 6, the following:Provided that in relation to any question whether there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under Section one of the principal Act has been committed, the said Section one shall he read as if subsection (2) thereof had not been enacted.I do not know if the Lord Chancellor has occupied himself at all by studying those three later Amendments, which are certainly in order and concerning which I took upon myself to bring to his notice by letter that they were alternatives. If he has studied them, perhaps he would be 47 good enough to give your Lordships his opinion upon them. If not, I can postpone them. If the noble and learned Lord thinks that they are all outside the scope of the Bill, perhaps we can bring them up on the next stage. If, however, he is prepared to state a case on them here and now, I should be glad of the opportunity of moving them—or, say, of moving the first one. They have the same object but are really alternatives, as I thought perhaps the Government might be prepared to accept one in preference to the other.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not quite sure of the precise effect of these three Amendments at the end of the printed list, and I am not quite sure what the intention of the section would be if Section I were read as if subsection (2) thereof had not been enacted. I remember them now; for the moment they had rather escaped my memory; but I am unable to say that they are not, within the practice of the House, quite proper Amendments to move. If my noble friend would care to move them now, I am in a position to deal with them.
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. I am advised that these Amendments raise very important matters. I beg to move, at the end of the substituted Section 6, to insert:Provided that in relation to any question whether there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under Section one of the principal Act has been committed, the said Section one shall be read as if subsection (2) thereof had not been enacted.This Amendment and the two other Amendments on the Paper are really alternatives having the same object. The 1920 Act has two main objects. One object, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, is to deal with espionage. But then the Act goes on to give all sorts of powers, as I suggested earlier in to-day's proceedings, to deal with persons who come into possession of documents. We are not satisfied that the interests of the subject are properly safeguarded in the absence of some such words as I sought to have inserted earlier. I do not want to argue the case for words that would have been outside the scope of the Bill. I would only say that the object of this Amend- 48 ment is to make sure that subjects are only prosecuted for espionage, or something to do with espionage, and are not prosecuted for possessing documents, the possession of which may be inconvenient to a Government Department but does not do harm to the State. I may say that I would not have ventured to suggest the Amendment to your Lordships unless I had had respectable legal advice that such an Amendment was needed and would be to the advantage of all concerned.
No, I am sorry to say I have not had advice from Sir Stafford Cripps, although I should have been very glad to have had it, and I think the Lord Chancellor speaking as a lawyer would have congratulated me on such advice. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 18, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Strabolgi.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Government are unable to accept this Amendment. I am still not very clear as to the precise object of it, but I must mention that subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Act of 1911 and Section 2 of the Act of 1920 are not concerned with interrogation at all. The present Bill, as your Lordships know, is purely concerned with interrogation of persons suspected of having certain knowledge. These subsections with which apparently the Amendment is concerned relate to prosecutions, and were designed simply to facilitate the task of the prosecution by providing that certain facts or circumstances were to be taken as evidence for the purposes of the act with which the accused person was charged.
If this Amendment or either of the alternative Amendments is accepted it would seem that the chief officer of police is not to regard himself as satisfied that there is reasonable ground for suspecting an offence under Section I of the Act of 1911 except on grounds which could be proved in Court without the assistance of the provisions of Section 1 (2) of the Act of 1911 and Section 2 of the Act of 1920. It would seem, then, that powers of interrogation of the chief officer of police would be restricted to cases where he is already in possession of positive evidence that a person has committed an act for a purpose prejudicial to the safety 49 or interests of the State, whereas the main object—sometimes, at any rate, the main object—of the section is to enable the police to obtain information as to an offence or suspected offence against Section 1 of the Act of 1911. Accordingly the Amendment would have the result of greatly stultifying or taking away the value of Section 6 of the Act. For these reasons I must contend that the Amendment is wrongly conceived and must oppose it on behalf of the Government. I should perhaps mention that it may be that the noble Lord has overlooked the fact that the chief officer of police must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting an offence of espionage, and that, except in cases of great emergency, he must obtain the permission of the Secretary of State, and that permission will not be given to him unless there is some real ground for asking the questions which are involved in the law as it appears in Section 6 of the Act of 1920 as it is and will be after it has been amended by the present Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
May I respectfully ask why the Chief Constable should not also be required to show that he has reasonable grounds for believing that it is a case of emergency?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am willing to answer that, but I am afraid I could only do so if I kept some of your Lordships here for some time. I will answer it in another place.
I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. He will not be surprised to hear that he has not satisfied me, but in the circumstances I do not propose to press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.50
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ Bill reported without amendment.