§ [Nos. 11–13]
§ Clause 23, page 13, line 14, after ("person") insert ("or to reliance on information supplied by another person")
§ Clause 23, page 13, line 17, leave out from first ("the") to ("he") in line 18 and insert ("hearing")
§ Clause 23, page 13, line 19, leave out from ("writing") to end of line 21 and insert ("giving such information identifying or assisting in the identification of that other person as was then in his possession")
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 13. I believe that these three Amendments to subsection (2) of Clause 23 can conveniently be taken together. This subsection, providing in its original form that a person who intends to rely on the defence that his offence was due to the act or default of another must give the prosecution certain information in advance, was added to the Bill by an Amendment put down by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, on Report. On that occasion my noble friend Lord Brown, when welcoming the principle of the Amendment, mentioned that drafting might need further examination.
873 Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 make two small changes in the drafting which were found to be desirable. The first provides that the time limit for giving the relevant information to the prosecutor shall be seven clear days before "the hearing", the word "hearing" being more appropriate than the expressions originally used to describe the various kinds of proceedings that may be taken under the Bill. The second ensures that the defendant must give any information he has that would identify or assist in the identification of the other person concerned. The original wording might have allowed him to withhold the other person's name and address even though he knew it, and yet to satisfy the requirements of the subsections by giving some vague and less helpful information.
Amendment No. 11 extends the requirement of the subsection to cases where the person charged intends to rely on the defence that the commission of his offence was due to reliance on information supplied to him by another person. The same considerations apply as when the intention is to plead that the offence was due to the act or default of another person and it is sensible that the prosecution should be entitled to the same information in advance of the hearing. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, concerning particularly Amendment No. 11, I spoke against the inclusion of these words during the stages of discussion in this House. Since then, in common with the rest of your Lordships, I have followed very carefully all the discussions at Committee stage in another place, and at Report stage, and I still regret their inclusion. I believe, and I am certainly not alone in my belief outside the House among people interested in consumer affairs, that their inclusion weakens the Bill. I really and truly believe this. I would say to my noble friend that obviously the weakness has been corrected to a limited extent by the later Amendment, No. 13 on the Paper, which we are also discussing, which requires the defence to provide information, et cetera, as to the name of the informant. Although I think it is rather hopeless asking for comments on what 874 I say, I believe that this provision still leaves the informant himself completely out of the clutches of the law, since the information may well have been given orally. I wonder whether the Minister, when he comes to reply could let me know if I am correct in assuming that this Clause 11, and the inclusion of these words, does mean that if they were given orally the person concerned would be out of the clutches of this particular Amendment.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, the noble Baroness has me at a disadvantage. I am afraid that, as I said earlier, I cannot give her an undertaking now to that effect. I can inform her later of the legal position. I hope that she will accept this assurance.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I accept that the Minister is at a disadvantage: I know that this is not his Bill. But, equally, we are at a disadvantage. We are supposed to be discussing the Commons Amendments, and there is not much point in discussing them, and asking for genuine information, if one is always told that one will be written to, because by then the Bill will have gone.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I do not think we on this side worry too much to find noble Lords and Ladies on the opposite side squabbling among themselves, but I am sure that they ought not to do this at this stage of the Bill. Surely the procedure is that each Member speaks once only on each Amendment.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.