HL Deb 15 May 1958 vol 209 cc392-4

4.16 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Templewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Restriction on imprisonment of first offenders]:

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "or commit such a person to prison for failure to pay a fine". The noble Viscount said: Those of your Lordships who were here for the Second Reading of this Bill will remember that I said that upon the Committee stage I should move an Amendment to exclude from the scope of the Bill defaulters on fines. An undertaking to this effect was given in another place; indeed, it was only after that undertaking was given that the Bill went through unopposed. The Committee will remember that the object of the Bill is to make magistrates pause before they impose a sentence of imprisonment and consider whether there are other alternative punishments that could be equally good or better. In the case of defaulters on fines something like this procedure already takes place.

A defaulter upon a fine, I am informed, cannot be sent to prison unless he appears before the court and unless the Bench have made an inquiry into his financial means. So that in the case of fines very much the kind of procedure that we are asking for other offenders already takes place. The result has been that the Justices' Clerks Association, and other experts upon the question, have suggested that the defaulters on fines should be excluded altogether from the scope of the Bill, because the procedure that we want already takes place in their case and to duplicate the arrangement would merely mean creating delays and unnecessary work. From that point of view, therefore, the Bill would not only be simpler, but better, if the Amendments in my name were carried.

I have put down four Amendments on the Marshalled List, but they are all part of the same point. They all have the same object, and they are all part and parcel of this one intention—namely, that defaulters on fines should be kept out of the Bill altogether. The undertaking was given in another place that they would be excluded, but quite apart from that, on the merits of the case, I put it to the Committee that these defaulters should be taken out of the Bill. I therefore beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name, and at the same time to point out to the Committee that the other Amendments are all consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, leave out from ("twenty-one") to ("unless") in line 7.—(Viscount Templewood.)


As the noble Viscount has told us, these Amendments are agreed in all quarters, and no doubt will be as acceptable to your Lordships as they are to Her Majesty's Government.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 23, leave out ("or committed to prison as aforesaid").—(Viscount Temple-wood.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 26, leave out from (" offence ") (" shall ") in line 27.—(Viscount Temple-wood.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (4).—(Viscount Templewood.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed.