HL Deb 10 April 1968 vol 291 cc444-63

8.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Stonham.)


My Lords, on the Motion, That this Bill be now read a third time, notwithstanding that these Benches are not at this moment at the pinnacle of popularity in the House, I should like to say a word in addition to what was said yesterday. As was said yesterday, it is less than 48 hours since the Report stage of this Bill was concluded in this House, and we are now asked to take the Third Reading. The Government must have been aware at 11 o'clock last Monday evening that they had it in mind to put down the Third Reading for this evening. The Clerk of the Parliaments must have been informed of this, for it was put down on the Order Paper which appeared yesterday morning that it was proposed to take the Third Reading this evening. Why was the House not told on Monday evening that within 48 hours of the Report stage it was to be asked to take the Third Reading? Why was the House not informed that in accordance with Standing Order No. 43 any Amendments on Third Reading would have to be put down within 24 hours?—because, of course, Amendments in manuscript are not allowed on Third Reading and 24 hours notice has to be given. Whether this was an act of discourtesy to the House on the part of Her Majesty's Government I do not propose to discuss, because I think it is a matter perhaps more serious than discourtesy.

I am suggesting that the House was treated by Her Majesty's Government with something less than frankness in not being informed 48 hours ago that it was proposed to take the Third Reading this evening. In the exchange yesterday afternoon on future business between the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Leader of the House concluded with the following sentence: We are following this procedure not merely for the convenience of another place but for the convenience of Parliament as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 172, 9/4/68.] I am all in favour of the convenience of Parliament, but I am even more strongly in favour of considering the convenience of people outside Parliament, and I think that if Parliament considered their convenience rather more than we sometimes do we should stand higher in the estimation of the people outside. Surely one of the purposes of spacing out the stages of Bills is that experts outside Parliament in the particular field shall have a proper opportunity of watching the progress of the Bill at each successive stage in Parliament and coming forward with their advice as to how the Bill can be improved upon stage by stage.

I should have thought that the advice of lawyers outside Parliament, and, in particular, the academic lawyers in the universities, was to be welcomed and they were to be encouraged to watch the progress, stage by stage, of a Bill like this Theft Bill. But what happened? Because Her Majesty's Government had not even arranged for the complete official report of the Report stage of last Monday to appear in the Hansard of that day, and because part of it did not appear until the Hansard had arrived at the Printed Paper Office this morning, those persons who receive their Hansard by post will receive the complete report of last Monday's Report stage to-morrow morning. What help is that to them if they were to have ideas for the Third Reading debate, to find, as they will when they read that Hansard, that the Third Reading debate is all over?

I believe that the convenience of people outside Parliament demands that this Motion be withdrawn this evening and that the Third Reading of this Bill be taken one Parliamentary day late, on the day when we return after the Easter Recess. If that arrangement cannot be taken in its stride by another place, then I do not know another place as well as I thought I did. This would, at any rate, encourage experts outside Parliament to feel that their following of Parliamentary proceedings was worth while, and that they were not being ignored by some steamroller operated purely for Parliamentary convenience. I urge Her Majesty's Government this evening to say that they will withdraw this Motion for Third Reading and will put forward the Motion for the Third Reading on the day we return after the Recess.

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 10 [Removal of articles from places open to the public]:

VISCOUNT DILHORNE moved, in subsection (2), to leave out all words after "mentioned in that subsection". The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment to Clause 10. We discussed this particular point on Report stage. It is in relation to the new clause dealing with the removal of articles from places open to the public. On Report I moved an Amendment to draw attention to the fact that the protection given to houses open to the public was really vitiated by the requirement that there could be no successful prosecution under this clause without its being proved that the removal of an article from that house (a prosecution which might have taken place six months later after someone had visited it) was by reason of "the use of some opportunity or information obtained by visiting the building as a member of the public admitted for the purpose". As the Bill stood, if something was taken from a country house open to the public a conviction could not be obtained for the offence created by this clause unless it could be proved that the thing was removed in consequence of the use of some opportunity or information obtained by visiting the building, and to my mind that completely vitiates the clause.

The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, indicated that he was a little troubled about making this clause too wide, applying to too many houses, and getting too near the case for which I have argued, the removal of the word "permanently". If I may suggest it to him, I suggest that he might look at the conditions which are laid down in relation to opening of country houses. I think that under some regulations they have to be open a certain number of times in the course of the year, and I would suggest to the noble Lord for consideration—I do not want an answer now—that that might be a much better test than imposing this burden on the prosecution, which the prosecution would not, I think, be able to discharge.

I should like to say one further thing about this Amendment. I raised this question on Report. I was shocked and staggered to hear my noble friend Lord Conesford claim the credit for this Amendment in the course of our discussion yesterday. I always like to give my noble friend the utmost possible credit; I always have since we were in Chambers together. But I thought yesterday that his claim was a bit much. I think it is a bit much now. If he wants the credit of it, by all means let him have it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 27, leave out from ("subsection") to end of line 34.—(Viscount Dilhorne.)


My Lords, I had no idea that my noble and learned friend was going to say this, but I thought it prudent to be here to watch him. I would remind my noble and learned friend, whose diligence throughout the proceedings on this Bill I very much admire, that when he had moved his Amendment on Report stage my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross pointed out that the acceptance of his Amendment would make the clause in every respect more useless than it was already. I thereupon suggested that, while my noble friend had been quite right in proposing to strike out what he proposed to strike out, he did not propose to strike out nearly enough, and I thought that the correct Amendment was the one which he has now moved. I most gratefully acknowledge everything that my noble and learned friend has done in the course of this Bill, but this particular Amendment happens to be mine and not his.


My Lords, since this Amendment, if accepted, will, I think, be the 35th Amendment to this Bill which Her Majesty's Government will either have moved or will have accepted, I hope this finally disposes of the proposition that was put forward to us at the beginning of the Committee stage, not once but over and over again, that because 17 lawyers of such distinction had sat upon this matter for so long it was unlikely that Parliament would be able to come forward with any worthwhile Amendments to it.

As to the Amendment, may I say this. I hope that if this clause is being looked at again the opportunity will be taken to make the quite small drafting Amendment necessary to ensure that if something is taken from the garden or the grounds of a building, that is to say, if a statue is taken from a garden, the protection of that statue under this clause will not depend, as it does now, in the way that the clause is drafted, upon whether the public have access to the building as well as to the garden. In my submission, it would be absurd to have that arrangement whereby the garden is protected provided that the public have access to the house, but that if they have access only to the garden, as in many cases they do, then the garden is not protected under the clause. It needs only a small drafting Amendment to achieve this purpose, and I hope that the opportunity will be taken to achieve it.


My Lords, your Lordships will not expect me to intervene in the dispute between the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and his noble and learned friend, Lord Dilhorne, as to the authorship of this particular Amendment. It may be that there is a dispute as to who should draw the commission on it—I do not know. I can only say that I personally forgo any claim. But it is on record that the noble Lord, Lord Cones-ford, drafting on his feet, did in fact suggest what we are now proposing to insert.

I think that there is general agreement that the clause in its present form is a substantial improvement both on the clause in the original Bill and on the truncated clause which we were considering at the Report stage. But I realise and accept that, unless the article is taken from a permanent exhibition, the clause as it now stands depends on proof that the temporary taking was done by the use of some opportunity or information obtained by visiting the building as a member of the public, and that many noble Lords still feel that this requirement is unsatisfactory and will greatly reduce the value of the provision. The Amendment moved by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, would remove the requirement.

As I explained at the Report stage, the requirement in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of the clause was included to try to set some limit to the circumstances in which a place which was only occasionally or periodically open to the public was protected. But, my Lords, the Government intend thoroughly to examine the whole clause to see if we can find a way to remove or relax the requirement in paragraph (a) while at the same time not opening up the clause too widely; and since we intend to do that, I am prepared to advise the House to accept the noble and learned Viscount's Amendment. I want to make it clear that we do not think that the clause as then amended would necessarily be right. I think it would probably go too far. I think there is general agreement on that.

We may be able to do it in several ways, and I will certainly consider the suggestion which the noble and learned Viscount has made. That is one way. I would not comment on it now, except to say that it may be thought by some to be too restrictive. There may be more than one way, and we shall explore them all. But it may be, in the last analysis, that we shall fail to find any more satisfactory form for the clause than the form in which it now stands. It may be that we shall be obliged in another place to seek to reverse the Amendment which the noble and learned Viscount would now make and which I now advise your Lordships to accept. If that should happen, the Amendment we now hope to make would at least ensure your Lordships an opportunity to consider the whole clause again at a later stage. I am, in short, prepared to accept the Amendment as an earnest of our good intentions—indeed a guarantee of them, if such be needed—recognising that more work will have to be done on the clause in another place before we get it right.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, asked me to make sure, when we look at the clause again, that it covers the case where something is taken from the grounds of a building it the grounds are open to the public and the building is not. Having regard to what he said on the Motion, That the Bill be now read a third time, I would make this comment. When he was in my office at the Home Office yesterday afternoon, and we discussed the Bill, I understood that this was the only point outstanding. I did not know then that he was proposing to raise the objections which he has raised to-night. I give the noble Lord the assurance which I then gave him, that we will certainly consider the point about the gardens and try to meet it—again subject to the need, as we see it, not to make the clause unnecessarily and undesirably wide. I hope that with what I have said your Lordships will agree that the Amendment which has been moved by the noble and learned Viscount will meet the present position and that the House will accept it.


My Lords, with the leave of the House may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for so gracefully accepting the last Amendment that I have to move on this Bill, and for what he has said about it. I quite understand that he will look for other solutions of the problem, and I shall understand, but regret it, if the result of that investigation means that he tries to reinstate these words. I hope that he will find a better solution. But I am grateful to him, and entirely understand the basis on which he accepts it.

May I conclude by thanking my noble-friend Lord Conesford for so satisfactorily drafting the last Amendment that I moved. May I say that I hope in future, whether on his feet or sitting down, he will undertake to draft other Amendments for me equally satisfactorily?

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

8.57 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I think we were all agreed about two things when we began our consideration of this Bill on February 15: first, that it raised nothing which could, in any sense, be regarded as a Party matter; and second, that our common concern was to see that it left this House as good a Bill as we could make it. Let me say at once that if we have been able to make some improvements in it, nothing that we have done can detract from the splendid foundation laid for us by the Criminal Law Revision Committee in their painstaking and thorough inquiry, and in presenting us with a draft Bill.

It would be idle to suppose that any Committee could produce a Bill on a subject such as this—or, indeed, on any subject—with all of which everyone would agree. To me, therefore, it is less remarkable that we have made some changes in the Bill which the Committee produced than that the essentials of it—in particular, its new concept of theft—have stood up so well to the searching scrutiny which the House has given them. I know that the Chairman of the Committee, Sir Frederic Sellers, has come here many times in person to follow our debates, and I think that we should all wish to pay to him and his colleagues a tribute for the giant stride in the improvement of the criminal law which their endeavours have made possible.

We have spent many hours on the Bill, but I do not think a minute has been wasted. The Government have at all times been open to suggestions and many helpful ones have been made. As a result, in some places, such as what is now Clause 14, we have made quite substantial alterations and in the new Clause 15 have what will be found, I believe, to be a useful provision. In other cases, the Government have, I believe rightly, dug in their toes, and on one or two occasions I may even have been able to persuade noble Lords that I was right and they were wrong. I have been anxious at all times to serve the House, and will not now do it the disservice of speaking at length. But I should like to perform the best last service I can do for the House before the Bill goes to another place by surveying briefly the issues on it which are outstanding when it leaves us.

First, the Government will have to consider the position created by the deletion from the Bill at the Report stage of what was then Clause 6. When, at the Report stage, I moved some Manuscript Amendments which were consequential on that deletion the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said: I understand this means that the noble Lord will not seek at a later stage to reintroduce Clause 6 in the form which has now been excised. Does that also mean—I hope it does not—that he is not giving consideration to an entirely different wording to carry out the intentions which he said lay behind Clause 6? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8/4/68; col. 114]. As I explained then, the immediate purpose of the consequential Amendments was simply to clean up the Bill. Your Lordships would not have wished the Bill to go forward with a reference in it to a clause which no longer existed. But I was interested to learn from the noble and learned Viscount's remarks, if I understood them correctly, that he saw a need at least to consider whether the Bill should contain something to meet the intentions, as I had explained them, of the clause, even though he so greatly disliked the clause in the form in which we put it forward.

Certainly we shall be taking stock of the situation created by the deletion of Clause 6 and considering what, if anything, we ought to propose in another place to fill the gap. As I explained at the Report stage, it would not be easy to give effect to our intentions in any different form, but we shall consider most carefully what can be done. I cannot to-night be more specific than that. Then there is Clause 10, the Goya Clause, which we have already discussed on the Amendment moved by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne. I repeat the assurance I gave then that we shall most carefully consider all that has been said about the clause, including the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale.

One of the most important clauses in the Bill is Clause 20—Blackmail—to which my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill eloquently moved an Amendment proposing that the test of the reasonableness of using a threat should be an objective test. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor explained why, as at present advised, the Government found that approach unacceptable but he added (col. 135): However, in view of the cogent argument which has been put forward by my noble friend Lord Stow Hill I will see that exactly what he has said is considered.… He went on to say, specifically, that he would seek the views of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice. I am glad to repeat that undertaking.

Finally, may I refer very briefly to some of the more detailed points raised at the Report stage? The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, moved Amendments to delete from subsections (2) and (4) of Clause 5 words dealing with what is "an intention to deprive" which he thought to be out of place in a clause dealing with the meaning of "belonging to another"; and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor undertook to consider again whether it would be more appropriate to have those provisions in some other place in the Bill. That will be done. On Clause 8—Burglary—I will, as I said, look carefully to see whether, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, suggested, there is a gap which we could fill, without making the offence too wide, in cases where a person trespasses in a building and commits malicious damage there although it is not his intent to do so when he enters. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, also had a drafting point about the words which were added to subsection (3) of the clause—he thought that the reference should he to "any person having a habitation", not to "the person"—and I shall be looking at that, too.

Last, but not least, may I repeat the assurance which I gave to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that we shall look closely into all the repeals proposed by the Bill, having regard to the changes made to it—in particular, to the original Clause 15—Criminal deception—which is now Clause 14, to make sure that the repeals are still desirable and that we shall not, by making them, leave any undesirable gaps in the law. Finally, may I thank noble Lords in all parts of the House for their constant kindness to me and their cooperation whilst I have endeavoured to discharge an exacting, absorbing, task which I count myself privileged to have been asked to carry out. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Stonham.)

9.6 p.m.


My Lords, even though I may have spoken for over four hours on this Bill—and I do not know who spent the time adding it all up—I hope the House will forgive me if I spend a few minutes on the final stage of this Bill. It would not be right to treat this stage as a mere formality. It is a very important Bill, and the long and detailed consideration which we have given to it has, I believe, been fully justified; and I gather from what a e noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said that he entirely agrees.

My mind goes back to the second day of Committee so long ago as March 7, when the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, thought he would have a little fun at my expense or be rather sarcastic about me. He then said, if I may remind hint, in column 1496: Here I must say that 1 admire very much the courage of the noble and learned Viscount in putting down 25 Amendments to this Bill. He then went on to say something which I am sure none of us who have taken part in the debates on this Bill will ever forget: The Bill was drafted by 17 of the best-known judges and academic lawyers … They spent nine years on this subject. The noble and learned Lord then went on to say: … I should have thought it is a brave thing to say that on 25 different Amendments: 'I know better than they'. They thought about every word. What the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor really meant was that it was an infernal cheek on my part to think of tabling Amendments to a Bill sponsored by such eminent persons. But what in fact has happened? I tabled only 25 Amendments in Committee and drew upon myself that rebuke. The Government on Report have tabled no fewer than 35 Amendments to meet points raised in Committee. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker of Waddington, who also rebuked me on the same lines, found it necessary to table three Amendments, all of which the Government have accepted. To adopt the words of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I am glad that the Government have had the courage and been brave enough to make these Amendments, despite the parentage of the Bill. I am glad, too, that our efforts convinced them that this Bill was capable of improvement.

There is a phrase I well recollect which was constantly used by the late Lord Winterton in another place, when something rather harsh or sarcastic was said. He used to say, "They were very wounding words". If he had been in this House at this time, I think he would have said the same about what was said on the second day of the Committee. But I am not asking for an apology. To use words which I can adapt from this Bill, I am no sensitive plant, wild or otherwise. But I hope that the noble and learned Lord will recognise and admit that our discussions have not been wasteful, but fruitful; and that they have resulted, as I think they have, in really major improvements to this Bill.

Although our discussions have been long, I am sure that from this side of the House there has been no attempt to filibuster. The points have been many and difficult. I think it was the Leader of the House who drew attention to the fact that there had been disagreement among lawyers on many of the provisions. That is a mere indication of the difficulty of some of the points involved. I must confess that I wish the Government had had the courage—perhaps I had better not use that word again—to go a little further.

I regret that the word "permanently" was re-inserted in the definition of "theft", by a small majority on a Division at a very late hour. I do not propose to debate that again now, but I believe that the time will come when it will be recognised that to make dishonest appropriation of another's property a criminal offence is a desirable change in the law. It would certainly simplify it. You could, if you wished, keep the definition of "theft" as it is, and make dishonest appropriation a separate offence as the Romans did. I was not impressed by the argument so frequently advanced that trivial cases would be covered, for they are covered by the present definition of "theft". The youth who steals a few apples from an orchard will be liable to conviction for that offence.

I believe that one of the major difficulties in relation to this Bill—it is not the fault of the Criminal Law Revision Committee; I do not criticise them about this—is the fact that they were not asked to consider forgery at the same time as they considered larceny. With the benefit of hindsight—and I do not criticise the Government about this—I think a much better job would have been done if they had been asked to do so. If they had the law relating to forgery, to theft and the other offences created in this Bill, under consideration at the same time, I am sure they would have fitted them all together, and that there would be no gaps and discrepancies. Now I rather fear that there are likely to be discrepancies between the law as it will be in this Bill and the law relating to forgery.

One question which I should like to ask even at this late hour, and I should be very grateful if I could get the answer to it, is this. Who is going to tackle the reform of the law relating to forgery? Is it going to be the Criminal Law Revision Committee or the Law Commission? If it is going to be the latter, I ask this: Has the Law Commission at any time been asked for their views on this Bill? If not, should they not be asked? I hope there is no reluctance on the part of the Home Office to consult the Law Commission. I am sure there is none on the part of the Lord Chancellor.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has indicated, there are a number of points which the Government have promised to consider; a number of questions on which there is doubt and disagreement even among lawyers about what is the right answer. I suggest in all seriousness: would it not be worth while getting the views of the Law Commission on these points, and getting their views before the Bill is finally enacted? Take, for example, the blackmail clause. Very real concern is felt about that clause, and there was a great division of opinion. Your Lordships will remember an eloquent speech by my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, to the effect that if a person believed that the means he used to enforce his demands were proper he should not be convicted of that offence, even though everyone else thought that they were grossly improper. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor supported that view. I of course, had no opportunity then of saying anything about it. But the logical conclusion of that argument would seem to me to be that no one should be convicted of dangerous driving, if he himself believed that he was driving safely. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will say that he will consult the Law Commission about this matter.

If it is the case that the Law Commission are going to deal with the law of forgery, may I even now ask one further question? Will they be free to recommend changes in this Bill so as to make the law of theft and the law of forgery fit into one coherent whole, or will they have to base their recommendations as to forgery on the assumption that no changes can be made in the law as expressed in this Bill? That, I think, is an important question and a serious one, and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give me an answer.

By the very nature of our procedure our debates on a Bill are not taken up in pointing out its merits and the good things that it does, but in drawing attention to its defects. I should not like it to be thought that I do not recognise that this Bill has many good points. It has; but I must confess that I cannot share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that it is a great stride forward in the improvement of our law. I must confess that when I first read the Bill I was very disappointed. I thought that a great chance to simplify and clarify our criminal law had been missed. I have done my best to draw attention to what I think are its defects. I have not attempted to redraft the whole Bill, although I know an attempt has been made to do so in order to get more clarity and simplicity.

My Lords, I have spoken a great deal. I did not realise, as I say, that it was over four hours, but I hope I did not weary your Lordships unduly. I think everyone will agree that it is a better Bill now. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has indicated, there are still matters under consideration, and I would say that the Bill is still capable of improvement. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, made particular reference to Clause 6. It seemed to me that there was a wide gap between what he said were the intentions of that clause and the language used to carry them out. I think he will find it very difficult to carry out his intentions in such a way that the clause is not so wide as to include a lot of other matters which he does not want included. That, no doubt, will be looked at. When he is looking at that, perhaps 1 e would also look at something which I did not raise on Report. It concerns the definition of "gain". In Clause 33 it says: 'gain' includes a gain by keeping what one has …". That may be entirely appropriate when one is having dealings with the inland Revenue, but I doubt whether it is really an accurate description of what is meant by a "gain".

My Lords, I feel that if we had had more time, and if there had been more time between the different stages, we should possibly have been able to effect even greater improvements. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, referred a little earlier to a steamroller. I feel rather rolled upon. After all, we have had very little interval between the various stages. It was a short interval between the end of the Committee Stage and Report; our days on Report followed in quick succession, as did our days at Committee; and now here we are seeing the final stage. Perhaps, even at this late hour, I may remind your Lordships of an eloquent speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, on March 5. He said that this Bill, which affects the liberties of such a very large section of the community ought not to be pushed forward in this hurried way … a great deal of damage can be dane in the very last stages if, in an understandable anxiety to get the Bill on to the Statute Book, … too much urgency is shown and the work which ought to be done very carefully and, I think, with a measure of slowness is pushed through late in the evening on a number of rather latish sittings".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5/3/68, col. 1294.] We have certainly had those. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that if more time was needed then more would be provided. I think that if we had been given more time it might in the end have led to less time being occupied in debate. As I have said before, no one has tried to hold up this Bill.

In conclusion, I should like to express my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who has borne the burden on the Government Front Bench, on piloting this Bill through this House, and my thanks to him and to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the careful consideration that they have jointly and severally given to the various points that I have raised—and I thank them most sincerely for meeting so many of them. This Bill leaves the House a better Bill. I do not think our time has been wasted; I do not think we have wasted time. I hope that it will be further improved in another place.

9.20 p.m.


I wish to add just a word or two to what my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne has said. Despite the improvements made in this Bill, I think that it may be some time in July before we see it back from another place; and, while I join in the congratulations expressed by my noble and learned friend to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and, indeed, to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I hope they will not allow the details of it to slip from their minds; for I fancy that we shall have further discussion on it then.

I am glad to have heard the catalogue of matters still for discussion, and particularly the points about repeal. This is particularly important. I have stressed this on several occasions—chiefly I think on the Committee stage—and, of course, it ties up closely with what my noble and learned friend said about forgery; because there is in fact a great correlation between the type of crime dealt with in this Bill and forgery, which is not. There is the added complication that since the Criminal Law Revision Committee started to consider what "defraud" was meant to mean, in terms of the old Acts in relation to theft and allied offences, that term has undergone a complete change in the realm of forgery. Furthermore, it has a different meaning in "conspiracy to defraud".

There was a great deal of virtue in what my noble friend said about coordination in the consideration of this Bill and in the consideration which is to come about the next part of the code, if it is the next part of the code, on forgery.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount to tell him—and this is in answer to the noble and learned Viscount's question—that the Law Commission will examine the law of forgery?


I think that that will, perhaps, be the next Bill that we have before your Lordships' House. If this is the first part of the code, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not be put off by the reception it has had. There have been criticisms, but of course I agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stonham, said about the virtue of the Report produced by the Criminal Law Revision Committee. I have no doubt that the Law Commission will be equally virtuous in making their Report. There is a relative difficulty about how comprehensive one should be, about how far one should go. This is not only applied, as it were, geographically, so far as the criminal law is concerned: but also in terms of how far one should go in making changes of substance. I think it is here that there have been a number of disagreements, as much as about the geographical territory covered.

There is one last thing that I should like to say: it relates to something which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. I, certainly, have been assisted by people outside this House who have taken the trouble to study this matter in considerable detail and have put forward substantial and most helpful comments to assist me. Clause 15, as it used to be (it is now Clause 14), the criminal deception clause, was considered by a number of those expert in criminal law to represent a very substantial and very important change. The present form of Clauses 14 and 15 really only emerged last week. I do not think there has yet been an opportunity for people outside this House to study them, and I hope the Government will bear that fact in mind.

Those clauses—particularly Clause 15, (as it now is) dealing with pecuniary advantage—I regard as being the most important step forward. My opinion is by no means infallible on this; there may be others who think the clause has failings which ought to be put right. I hope that when the Bill goes to another place, and these new clauses between Clauses 10 and 15 are considered the Government will remain as open to constructive criticism as they have been on other matters. I hope they will not necessarily stick to the words at present in the Bill. I believe that there will be an opportunity for further improvement of this Bill, and that, of course, is what everybody is engaged upon doing. With those words I join in speeding this Bill to another place until the next time when we see an old friend.

9.25 p.m.


My Lords, may I say a word or two? First, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for having mentioned a small Amendment which I had suggested on Report stage and for saying that this may have sympathetic consideration; particularly because this was an Amendment which I forgot to put down and so I threw the substance of it at the unfortunate noble Lord without notice. I do not think I really deserved to have this further consideration and I am all the more grateful, therefore, that it is going to be considered.

May I explain to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that although I did not inform him of my intention to say what I said a little time ago on the Motion for the Third Reading I did inform the Government Chief Whip and the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who was kind enough to have a discussion with me about it before the business was called. I know how busy Ministers are, and this was a matter purely about the arrangement of Government business. I felt sure that it was not a matter that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, himself was concerned with. That was the reason I did not badger him with it as well. I meant no discourtesy to him; indeed, I have been filled with admiration for the courtesy and industry and patience shown by both Ministers who have borne the burden of piloting this Bill through your Lordships' House. In conclusion, may I say to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, that I hope that the 17 very distinguished lawyers may think the Bill has been improved, now that it has been put through the mill by your Lordships.

9.27 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene only because earlier the noble Lord suggested that there had been a lack of candour on the part of the Government. Now that compliments are flowing, rightly, to my noble friend Lord Stonham, I am not sure that his barbs are not aimed at me. I will not follow the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in a further statistical investigation as to the number of hours he speaks in your Lordships' House; he has certainly put up the general performance of Law Lords or ex-Law Lords in a special statistical study which I have shown him. We have appreciated this work and the work that his noble friend Lord Conesford gives in support of him.

I must make clear, my Lords, that it was blindingly obvious to me that the Government wished to have this Bill, in the general interest, as I said, of Parliament and of ensuring that it got off to a good start in another place. By passing it now we save ten days in another place. I can only conclude that what is blindingly obvious to most of us somehow escapes the Liberal Benches. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will say that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition was unaware of it, but he was, unfortunately, away sick at the time; and certainly I think that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, had no doubts of the Government's intention. I do not wish to pursue this—


My Lords—


My Lords, before the noble and learned Viscount speaks—and I know he said that he was trampled into the ground, and I see that he is rising with difficulty—I can only say that if there is an apology due I would give it absolutely freely, because we do depend on a clear understanding among ourselves in this House. We do not normally announce in the House what business is, and if there is a misunderstanding I can only regret it. But certainly, and I am sure that the noble Lord will accept this, there was no deliberate absence of candour.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, if I may put this to him, trailed his coat in the hope that I should trample on it. I first knew about this proposal at a late hour towards the conclusion of the Report stage, and I was horrified. But I do not think there is any point in pursuing it.

On Question, Bill passed and sent to the Commons.