HL Deb 11 May 1964 vol 258 cc88-105

Functions of Secretary of State

Removal of chief constables &c.

29.—(1) The Secretary of State may require a police authority to exercise their power under Part I of this Act to call upon the chief constable to retire in the interests of efficiency.

(2) Before requiring the exercise of that power or approving the exercise of that or the similar power exercisable with respect to the deputy or an assistant chief constable, the Secretary of State shall give the chief constable or deputy or assistant chief constable an opportunity to make representations to him and shall consider any representations so made.

(3) Where representations are made under this section the Secretary of State may, and in a case where he proposes to require the exercise of the power mentioned in subsection (1) of this section shall, appoint one or more persons (one at least of whom shall be a person who is not an officer of police or of a Government department) to hold an inquiry and report to him and shall consider any report made under this subsection.

LORD MILVERTON moved to leave out from the beginning of subsection (1) down to and including the second "that" in subsection (2), and to insert: (1) Before approving the exercise of the power of a police authority under Part I of this Act to call upon the chief constable to retire in the interests of efficiency".

The noble Lord said: With the permission of the Committee I should like to speak to both of the Amendments which stand in my name under this clause. The purpose of Clause 29 is to enable the Secretary of State to require a police authority to exercise their power under Part I of this Act to call upon the chief constable to retire in the interests of efficiency. This is contained in subsection (1), and the remainder of the clause contains consequential provisions. In the opinion of the Association of Municipal Corporations it is constitutionally wrong that the Secretary of State should form an official opinion on the efficiency of the chief constable. The Secretary of State is responsible neither for the appointment nor for the dismissal of the chief constable, and it should be for the police authority to decide in what circumstances it is right to require the termination of his services.

So far as the Secretary of State is concerned, the efficiency of the policing of the area should be the test, and should the Secretary of State fail to be satisfied with the policing of the area he has the power to bring pressure upon the police authority to make use of their statutory power under Part I of the Bill; that is, Clause 5(4). It is also dangerous, I suggest, to give the central Government power to dismiss chief constables. The arbitrary dismissal of a large number of chief constables was a first step in the establishment of the totalitarian regime in Germany. To make this legally possible in this country, notwithstanding the safeguards in subsections (2) and (3), would, I suggest, be a mistake, and it would in any case tend to upset the system of checks and balances which is our Constitution.

It is to be noted that the Royal Commission said in paragraph 291 of their Report: A consequence of making the Secretaries of State formally responsible for the efficiency of police forces is … to entitle them to request the retirement of a chief constable on the ground of inefficiency. But the Secretary of State has, in fact, declined to accept the recommendation of the Royal Commission that he should be formally responsible for the efficiency of the police forces. Therefore, the corollary of the Royal Commission's recommendation no longer applies.

In Committee in another place, the Home Secretary disputed this. He expressed the view that, because the Government were not accepting the recommendation of the Royal Commission, it was all the more important that he should have this power. There was the conceivable case of a chief constable who, in the view of the Secretary of State, was far from efficient and ought to be removed, and yet the police authority decided to do nothing about it. The Association of Municipal Corporations does not dispute that this is a conceivable case; but, should it arise, the Secretary of State has ample power of persuasion. He can threaten withdrawal of the grant from the police authority. The effect of these two Amendments is, therefore, to take away the power proposed to be given to the Secretary of State and at the same time to retain the safeguards for the chief constable which apply in cases where the police authority themselves decide to exercise their power under Part I of the Act. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 13, leave out from beginning to ("or") in line 17 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Milverton.)

6.53 p.m.


As my noble friend said, the effect of these Amendments would be to omit the power of the Secretary of State to call on a police authority to retire its chief constable in the interest of the efficiency of the force. May I say, for at least the twelfth time, "in the interests of efficiency". It does not necessarily follow that it is because of the inefficiency of the chief constable in person. Apart from that, power for the Secretary of State to initiate the compulsory retirement of a chief constable was recommended by the Royal Commission, who said: It is, in our view, essential that the reserve power should be available in the hands of the Secretaries of State. It is essential that the ultimate power to compel the retirement of a chief constable on grounds of inefficiency should rest with the Secretary of State, because it is generally agreed—certainly it was in another place; and 1 think it will be here—that the Secretary of State must have more power than he has had in seeing to the efficiency of the police forces. Without this ultimate power he cannot do so. My noble friend seems to forget that my right honourable friend will be advised by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary who go around their areas whole-time. Advice, in the first instance—and there will doubtless be consultation by my right honourable friend with other people—will come from the Inspectors of Constabulary who tell him if a particular police force is not being run as efficiently as it ought to be. It is possible that my right honourable friend might have a difference of opinion with a police authority about whether the chief constable should be allowed to remain in office, and he might well have to exercise this power. Such a situation, however, is likely to be very rare. I would also remind the Committee that when this Bill comes into force, should my right honourable friend use this reserve power—and it is a reserve power—he will be answerable to Parliament for his decision. That is something quite new as regards provincial police. For those reasons I cannot accept these Amendments.


May I say just a few words in support of the Amendment? It seems to me that the clause as it stands is yet another instance of the ever-increasing encroachment of the central Government on local authorities. Without the power which this clause gives, the Secretary of State—which in fact means the Civil Service Department—has adequate powers to act if things go wrong with a police authority. He can make representations to the police authority, and if those representations arc ignored he has the very substanial power of withholding the police grant. The Minister has said that, as the clause stands, the Secretary of State will be responsible to Parliament for the exercise of his discretion. I should like him to elaborate that point. Does he imply that if the Secretary of State takes action under the clause as it stands such action will be reported to Parliament? Or would it simply be left to a Member of another place, or a Member of your Lordships' House, to raise the matter in debate or on a Question?

Frankly, while it is true that the Royal Commission indicated that this power should be given to the Secretary of State, this was conditional on the Secretary of State's assuming responsibility for the police forces in this country. It was a double-barrelled recommendation; and the second recommendation of the Royal Commission the Minister has specifically turned down—and a good job too! But he takes this other line in regard to the chief constables. After all, if this clause stands, it is going to make a breach between the chief constable and the police authority. The chief constable will not recognise the police authority in the ultimate. He will say that he is responsible to the Secretary of State and not to the police authority. I feel that the clause may cause great difficulties between the chief constable and the police authority, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider what he has already indicated to us.


May I reply to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burden? He has taken the view that my noble friend took: that, since the Secretary of State has not taken formal responsibility for efficiency, he should not have the power to retire the chief constable. But this does not follow. If anything, the absence of formal responsibility makes this reserve power even more important; because the object of this Bill is to see that the Home Secretary can take a more active part in seeing that police affairs run properly. Unless he has the reserve power, he cannot do that. On the question of Parliament's position, up till now the Home Secretary has not been able to answer Questions in Parliament about provincial police forces. As he is now taking additional responsibilities under this Bill, he will in future be able to do so, and I presume that Questions will be raised, in the ordinary way, in both Houses.


The point is that it will be for a Member of another place, or a Member of your Lordships' House, to raise a matter after action has been taken by the Minister.


I do not know whether the noble Lord really thinks that a chief constable is going to be dismissed because his force is inefficient without the whole of the police authority knowing of it. I cannot imagine that it will happen as he describes. The Secretary of State will tell the police authority that the force is inefficient, and that he thinks it is the chief constable's fault, and he will ask for him to be retired. And if they do not agree, they will then start to argue the matter. It really will not happen at the last moment.


Will the Home Secretary draw up a code defining efficiency? And who is going to define inefficiency? There is no definition of inefficiency.


I am grateful to the Minister for the trouble he has taken in explaining what I still consider to be the wrong view, but I am not prepared to carry the matter any further. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29, agreed to.

Clause 30 [Reports from chief constables]:

7.2 p.m.

LORD MILVERTON moved to add to subsection (1): and the chief constable shall submit a copy of the report to the police authority at the direction of the Secretary of State if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the matters specified in the requirement are connected with the discharge of the functions of the police authority".

The noble Lord said: Clause 12 recognises the right of a police authority to obtain information from the chief constable regarding the policing of their area. Subject to the restrictions in subsection (3) of that clause, it is theoretically possible for police authorities to ask their chief constables for the same information as may be requested by the Home Secretary under Clause 30. Indeed, this is likely to happen where information is required about an occurrence within their knowledge. However, where knowledge of any circumstances gives rise to a request and it has gone to the Home Secretary through, for example, an inspector's report, the police authority may be unaware of them. If they are relevant to the discharge of the police authority's duties, then any information which the chief constable gives the Secretary of State ought also to be made available to the police authority, and this Amendment would provide for this.

Moreover, very exceptionally, circumstances could arise where there was disagreement between the chief constable and the police authority on a matter affecting the functions of the police authority, and unless an Amendment on the lines proposed is included, then the Secretary of State might receive a partial account made from the chief constable unbeknown to the police authority, and the Secretary of State, on the basis of this account—I am not suggesting that it would be a deliberately biased account, but it would be delivered from one angle—might be minded to give advice to the police authority which was not based on an appreciation of the full facts of the matter.

It is not suggested that the police authority should be kept informed of informal consultations between the Home Office and chief constables on what might be called professional or technical matters, and the Amendment is so framed that the police authority would not be concerned with these. The use of the words "copy of the report" is intended to make clear that the Amendment would not catch reports made by chief constables to the Home Office by word of mouth, but, if it was thought necessary, it could be reworded to make quite clear that it applies only to formal written reports. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 36, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Milverton.)


The effect of this Amendment, as my noble friend has said, would be that where the Secretary of State called for a report from a chief constable, a copy of the report would go to the police authority, if it related to matters connected with the discharge of the functions of the police authority. The copy would be supplied by the chief constable at the direction of the Secretary of State, if the Secretary of State was satisfied that it related to such matters.

May I draw attention to the background of this clause, which is primarily intended to put on a statutory basis the long-established practice of the Secretary of State to obtain such reports as he needs from chief constables. In Scotland, this practice was given statutory recognition in the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956. One practical result of giving the Secretary of State this power will be, in spite of the doubts expressed by noble Lords opposite, to enable questions to be asked in Parliament seeking information about provincial police forces. It has never been suggested in the past, so far as I can trace, that copies of reports sent by chief constables to the Home Secretary should be made available to the police authority. Therefore, in so far as the clause is giving statutory recognition to an existing practice, there is no scope for any reference to the police authority.

The second objection is one of principle. It is essential that the Secretary of State should be able to rely on being able to obtain quick, full and accurate information from a chief constable and that the chief constable should report to him with complete candour. Any arrangement under which the chief constable's reports would be made available to the police authority would be bound to impede the candour with which he reports to the Home Secretary.

There is no question of going behind the back of the police authority in having this direct link between the Home Secretary and the chief constable. That link has always been there and is now being given statutory authority. Furthermore, the police authority themselves will be approached by the Home Secretary when he wants information and comments on a matter directly within the authority's responsibility. There is the same contact between the Secretary of State and the police authority as there is between the Secretary of State and the chief constable. To depart from what has always been the practice in this matter, from what has worked well and from what I believe is essential so as to get information with complete candour, seems to me to be wrong and I must resist this Amendment.


The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has doubtless noticed that there was no speaker from the Opposition Front Bench on the previous Amendment. That was because we were satisfied with the explanation which the noble Lord put forward in rejecting the Amendment, but on this occasion it does not appear to us that he is right. He made a considerable point of the need, which is not disputed, for the Home Secretary to be able to rely on speedy and accurate reports from chief constables. He also made the point, which again is not disputed, that a chief constable ought to be able to report to the Home Secretary with complete candour. There may be times when he may be saying something in his report which would not be acceptable to the police authority or appropriate to be reported to the police authority. But all these things are taken care of by the Amendment and the explanation which the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, gave. Indeed, I understood the noble Lord to say that if the principle was conceded he would not be averse to some different form of words to safeguard the position.

It seems to me a most reasonable thing for a police authority to think that it would be extremely useful if they received a copy of a report made by their chief constable to the Secretary of State, always with the proviso that it could be done only with the consent and on the authority of the Secretary of State, who would have the responsibility of deciding whether the matters in the report came within the functions of the police authority.

I think that this is a most reasonable suggestion. The noble Lord said that this clause gives, as it were, statutory effect to an existing procedure (these are not his exact words), and there is no room for extending it to ensure that in certain circumstances the police authority would have a copy of the report, but I must say that I do not agree. If we are giving statutory force to something which has been the practice for some time, then surely there is every reason for making a modest extension of that statutory privilege in order to keep police authorities informed on matters on which they have every right to be informed and where the Secretary of State would decide that they have the right to be informed. I think that on this Amendment we must support the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Derwent will have another look at it.


The noble Lord has not dealt with what I feel is my strongest argument against the Amendment: that is, the need for complete candour in the relationship between the chief constable and the Secretary of State. If this Amendment were made, a chief constable making a report to the Secretary of State would never know whether he was going to be asked or directed to submit a copy to the police authority, and the candour would probably be less than candid. That is the main argument. There are the other arguments, with some of which the noble Lord has agreed, but on the question of complete candour, it is absolutely essential for the chief constable to be able to say to the Secretary of State, as he can to-day, what he thinks is correct.

If it is a question that affects the police authority the Secretary of State, as to-day, will refer it to the police authority if he thinks it necessary. But if a chief constable reported to the Secretary of State never quite knowing whether words he was saying to the Secretary of State were going to be repeated back to him, that would be an impossible situation. One cannot run a police force in that way. I am afraid I cannot give way on this one.


I did mention the point about candour. I recall saying that the report would go to the Secretary of State and he would be in a position to decide whether the nature of the report—meaning the matters with which it deals and, presumably, the language which is used—would make it fit to submit to the police authorities.


The point the noble Lord has not dealt with is that when the chief constable wrote the report he would not know whether it was going to be divulged or not.


Surely a police authority ought not to be tried and condemned on the report of a chief constable which may attack or reflect on their work without knowing what is in the report. Surely any man, and especially a man of the stature of a chief constable, would not be lacking in candour in regard to a police authority if they were not doing the right thing so far as the police under his control were concerned. We are not wedded to this form of words, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, agreed, but we feel, as my noble friend Lord Stonham put it, that the police authority have the right to have knowledge of any report dealing specifically with the exercise of their functions. We are not asking for reports to be sent which may be outside that scope. The clause would remain, and the copy of the report would go to the police authority if, in the view of the Secretary of State, the police authority ought to have knowledge of its contents. My noble friend Lord Stonham did not suggest that every report from the chief constable should go to the police authority. It is a limit- ing Amendment which I should be quite ready to support.


I think the noble Lord has not read the Bill. We are not talking about the chief constable getting fed up and writing rude things about the police authority to the Secretary of State (which I cannot imagine any chief constable doing). These are reports called for by the Secretary of State on matters that he wants to know about the policing of the area. Having been asked for a report by the Secretary of State, it is essential that the chief constable should be able to answer with complete candour. If any criticism is to be made of the police authority, that will doubtless be done in one way or the other by the Secretary of State, and not by the chief constable. These are reports for which the Secretary of State is asking. He wants a confidential report and a report made with complete candour, and for that reason we cannot put anything into the Bill which compels the Secretary of State to decide whether he should or should not give the report to the authority. If the chief constable thinks that his confidential report will be broadcast by the Secretary of State, then he will not give it with complete candour.


I do not want to take up the time of the Committee in repeating what has already been said, but I must say it seems to me that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill visualises what to me should be an unthinkable state of affairs between the chief constable and the police authority. I should have thought that the chief constable would never mind any report, however candid, being sent to the people who are called the police authority. But we are once more brought up against the idea that the word "authority" seems to be a complete misnomer and becomes increasingly less appropriate. I must thank the Minister for the trouble he has taken in explaining the Government's point of view, but I cannot say I am satisfied. I do not wish to take this Amendment to a Division, but would rather let it be negatived.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Local inquiries]:

7.20 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, after subsection (5), to insert: (6) Any person attending any inquiry held under this section may be represented by counsel, solicitor or any other person.

The noble Lord said: Clause 32 empowers the Secretary of State to set up tribunals for local inquiries into the policing of an area before which witness's may be summoned to appear. Our Amendment seeks to provide that any person attending any inquiry held under this section may be represented by counsel, solicitor or any other person. This seems to me a necessary and a reasonable provision. There have been many tribunals of one kind or another. They are, of course, a useful and necessary means of ascertaining the truth in certain circumstances, but their procedure has caused a great deal of misgiving among members of the public—a misgiving, I understand, which is fully shared by the legal profession. Even the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, would probably agree, in the light of his experience of some of these tribunals, that the procedure is by no means highly satisfactory.

Inquiries by such tribunals are not trials, although with a judge or a barrister in the chair they appear to the public to have some of the trappings of a judicial proceeding. Although they are not trials, the publicity given to the proceedings often has the effect of putting the witness on trial by public opinion, sometimes with disastrous results to the individual. It is very different in a case of a proceeding before the courts, because there there is a recognised procedure which serves the double object of helping in the ascertainment of truth and in protecting the witness.

The witness's evidence in an ordinary court of law would have been available to counsel in the form of a proof of evidence, which has the advantage, of course, of cutting out irrelevances and directing the counsel's attention to the points on which the witness can speak. In fact, a witness trial without such a procedure is quite unthinkable. When the witness is in the box under examination-in-chief, he is under the protection of the court and also of the counsel representing the party to the action that has called him. When he is under cross-examination, he is under the same protection. The result is that the truth is arrived at easily and expeditiously, and the witness is protected all the time.

When a witness is called before a tribunal, it is not necessarily the case that he will have given a proof of evidence to anyone before he gives his evidence. Although the chairman of the tribunal will, of course, in all cases do his best to protect the witness, in fact the protection in this way can never be wholly effective. It is much more likely that the truth will be arrived at, and that the witness will be protected, if he is represented by a lawyer both before and during the course of the inquiry. It is not suggested that, in this case, through this Amendment, legal representatives should have the right to appear as advocates. The extent to which they will participate in the proceedings must, of course, be at the discretion of the tribunal. So far as I understand it, the obvious case seems to be that it is sufficient that the chairman of the tribunal should protect the witness and have the discretion to grant the right of legal representation if he considers it necessary.

Surely, this is not enough. The chances are that the witness may have become muddled and confused before even the need for protection arises in the mind of the chairman of the tribunal. In any case, the witness's evidence will be clearer and more satisfactory if it has been properly prepared in advance under the recognised procedure for the courts. As I said at the beginning, this seems to be a most necessary and desirable procedure if we are to get more expeditiously and completely the truth at such inquiries, and also if we are not going to have witnesses unfortunately victimised merely because they have not had the advantage of legal representation at the appropriate time and all the time. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 44, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Stonham.)


I shall take my answer rather slowly, because this is a legal matter and I should like the noble Lord to listen carefully. This clause empowers the Secretary of State to hold a local inquiry intro any matter connected with the policing of any area. It is a very wide term of reference. The matter under inquiry may or may not be very important. This Amendment would entitle a person attending such an inquiry to be represented by counsel or a solicitor or by a friend, whereas the clause, as drafted, confers no such right.

The noble Lord is quite right in thinking that the Government's view would be, as in the case of other tribunals, that it would be for the person holding the inquiry to decide which of those attending could be represented. It may well be that, in principle, in the absence of an ex press restriction, a person who has a statutory right to appear before a tribunal of this kind has a right to be represented if he so wishes. There are a number of statutory provisions under which parties—and I point out to the noble Lord that word "parties"—are given an express right to representation before particular kinds of statutory tribunals. But in the present case there are no parties to the inquiry—no parties, in the legal sense, in the same way as there are parties to a case. No person is given a right to appear in a way that would attract the particular statutory provisions applicable to certain tribunals where parties are entitled to be represented. There are no parties in that sense here.

I do not think it can be argued that in this form of tribunal, any more than most other forms of tribunal, any person subpoenaed as a witness before a tribunal of this kind has a right to legal representation under that general principle, or should be given such a right by Statute. It is, however, recognised that inquiries into certain matters connected with the policing of an area may involve consideration of a person's or authority's conduct or efficiency. It may be an individual, or it may be a police authority. This would be almost inevitable if the inquiry were in the nature of a postmortem on something that had happened. In such a case, a person's or authority's interest would be affected by the inquiry, and he ought to he allowed representation, if he wished, where he or the authority's interest was affected. I cannot imagine that the type of person, normally a well-known barrister, who would be appointed to hold an inquiry would ever refuse representation to a person whose interests were likely to be affected, because that is the normal procedure at this sort of tribunal. If the person's or authority's direct interests are not affected, representation is not allowed; but if they are likely to be affected they are normally allowed representation by the person holding the inquiry.


May I interrupt the noble Lord, on a point of clarification? If this disturbs the flow, so to speak, perhaps he will deal with it at the end. Would anybody whose interests are not affected want to bring a solicitor or barrister to help him on such an occasion? In other words, the point would not arise unless their interests were affected.


The point is that when a general inquiry opens it may not appear that any individual's interests are involved, but as the inquiry goes on it may appear that a particular interest is affected; and that is the moment when permission is given for the person to be represented. It is a perfectly normal thing. Section 2(b) of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act empowers a tribunal to authorise or refuse (it is a normal thing) the representation of—and here I quote: …any person appearing to them to be interested …". The same thing, with a slight variation, applies in the case of inquiries by Royal Commissions. This is a perfectly normal procedure and I think it is unnecessary to depart from it here.


I do not want to labour this point, but my noble friend Lord Derwent has just mentioned the 1921 Act, into which I had occasion to inquire not very long ago. I wonder whether he would bear this in mind when he is considering the conduct of these inquiries, particularly if they are of a mildly disciplinary nature or inquiring into something which has gone wrong? It has been found, under the 1921 Act, that to allow the tribunal itself to act, as it were, as prosecutor or as cross-examiner has the most unsatisfactory effect of making that tribunal appear to the public to be biased on one side or the other. This practice was tried before the war under this particular Act and was found to fail. Instead of that, the more recent practice has been to bring in, I think, the Treasury Solicitor and somebody briefed by him, in order, as it were, to put the case into which the inquiry is to be held.

I do not know how that can be adapted to this particular circumstance, but I do hope that the eminent barrister, or whoever it is going to be, who is to hold this inquiry is not going to have to do so entirely on his own until the occasion arises whereby somebody's interest, as my noble friend has said, appears about to be prejudiced, when there is some case to call for a representative on his behalf.


I would, if I may, without saying anything more at the moment, say that I will bear that in mind. If there is anything further I can say about that particular point later on, I shall do so. I do not think it entails an amendment of the Bill in any form, because it would not be appropriate in the Bill. My noble friend is really talking about current practice. Of course that will be borne in mind.


I cannot compete or dispute with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, on current practice in the legal profession. I must leave the field entirely to him. But it seemed to me that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, failed to deal with the point I tried to make, about the need for legal representation not arising in the mind of the chairman, in some cases, until it was too late to prevent damage from being done.

As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has said he will look again at the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, with the possibility that it may be referred to at Report stage. If that is what he has in mind, I would ask him to look also at this particular point, because I feel that there is a real danger here. I cannot see why the Secretary of State should want to be hard and fast about this and not include, as the Amendment suggests, provision for representation by counsel, solicitor or any other person. At the beginning of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to "parties" and particular cases of a statutory inquiry, and he said that here there were no parties in that sense. The trouble is, of course, that parties appear because the tribunal makes them appear; and at that point I would ask the noble Lord to imagine a situation. An allegation has been made—one which had not previously been thought of—about a person who did not seem likely to appear in a particular inquiry. At this stage the chairman decides that the person must be called. There is no earthly chance of legal representation for that person, and this does seem to me to be a distinct weakness.

I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to consider the procedure in the Bill at the moment, which could permit a very serious injustice or hardship falling on a person, innocent or guilty, against which he could not be protected. Then I would ask him to consider the sort of machinery which exists when there is an appeal, if you like, under the National Insurance Act, where people are allowed persons to represent them. I shall be representing a person before a National Insurance appeal tribunal some time this month, and the Minister has agreed that I should do so.

The woman in question is an Austrian whom I have not seen for fifteen years. Formerly she was my constituent, when I was a Member in another place. Her children, who were then only a few months old, are now over sixteen years of age. It is a question of an appeal under the Act. She cannot come over; she has asked me to represent her; and I am allowed by law to do so. It is not a matter of life and death, or character, or anything of that kind. It is a reasonable procedure. That is all we are asking for here, and we are asking for it in sure and certain knowledge, in the light of cases that have happened in the past in tribunals where we know there has been character assassination, which situation might be provided for if there were legal representation. We want to provide against such happenings here to members of the public, the police or anything else. I really would hope that the noble Lord would at least say, without any kind of a commitment, that he would look at it again.


I am quite prepared to have a look at it again. I do not think we are going to get very far. If anyone thinks he is going to be involved adversely in an inquiry of this kind he can apply in advance to be represented. He does not have to wait until something blows up. If something did blow up unexpectedly he would probably not already be represented. If that is the point, I will have another look at it to see whether we can meet the noble Lord at all.


I am extremely grateful for the assurance that the noble Lord will look at it again. Of course I shall in a moment beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, but I would just ask the noble Lord to consider the possibility that he or I could ourselves be subject to an allegation of which we have no knowledge and we could then be summoned before a tribunal. That kind of position could arise. As he is going to look at it, I will not labour the point further, and I ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clauses 33 to 45 agreed to.

Clause 46:

Back to
Forward to