HL Deb 02 March 1972 vol 328 cc1213-43

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. First of all, on behalf of solicitors I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for the Statement he made as to his action under the Courts Bill. I am very sorry that I was not in my place when he made it. I should like to have been here to thank him for the way he gave effect to the Amendments I moved when the Bill was in Committee. I am tempted to say that my absence was per incuriam, but those words have received such intensive consideration by the Judicial Committee of your Lordshops' House in the last few days that perhaps I ought to avoid the phrase altogether. Secondly, I should like to say, again by way of thanks, that I am very grateful to the Government for having made the services of Treasury Counsel available to me on the drafting of this Bill. I also thank them for the skill and assiduity with which they have applied themselves to the task.

The third and last preliminary observation I should like to make relates to the form of the Bill. It could have been cast in a somewhat similar form particularly so far as the Schedules are concerned, but the object has been to put the legislation, when this Bill has been passed, in a shape which is convenient for consolidation. I think it is time that the Solicitors Acts were consolidated, and that accounts for the form of this Bill and particularly of its Schedules. We were proceeding by way of re-enacting, subject to Amendments, which is always a bit complicated. You might call this Bill "The Solicitors (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill", and it is notoriously difficult to deal with such a Bill on Second Reading. In fact I really do not know how one deals with so many different subjects in a connected fashion. However, I should like to refer to the principal provisions in the Bill, to explain them and to justify them if I can; and if I leave out anything that any noble Lord thinks ought to have been explained or dealt with I will endeavour to do this at a later stage.

With those preliminary observations, I come to Part I of the Bill and Clause 1. The effect of this clause will make it unnecessary in future for a solicitor to be a British subject. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it is already becoming a little difficult to find out who is technically a British subject and who is not, having regard to the great changes that are taking place in the Commonwealth. In the days of William III of course it was very easy indeed to distinguish between a British subject and a "Hanover rat". It is not quite so simple as that to-day; and when we come to consider the Treaty of Rome the problem will he greater. I have to try to please noble Lords on every side of the House to-day, and therefore I suggest that I ought to say to those on the Government or Liberal Benches "when the Treaty of Rome becomes binding in this country"—and to other Peers perhaps I ought to say "if". I think that would be a tactful thing to say. But when or if we have to deal with the Treaty of Rome it is quite obvious that we may have to consider the admission to the Roll of people who are not British subjects; that is inherent in the Treaty and in particular in those Articles which deal with the right of settlement. Of course, anybody coming from abroad who wishes to become a member of the Bar or a solicitor will have to subject himself to the full training necessary for that purpose. But subject to that there seems to be no particular reason why a solicitor should necessarily be a British subject. The reason why he has to be, under the Act of Settlement, is that as an officer of the court he holds an office of trust within the meaning of the Act. But I trust that your Lordships will think this is not a thing which we need necessarily bring into discussion to-day.

Clause 2 is fairly obvious, I think. At the present time the Law Society, before it accepts an articled clerk and again before a solicitor is admitted, has to consider whether the candidate has the moral fitness to be an officer of the court. That is a very difficult phrase to apply. I do not know that it is very easy to find any other form of words, but it is proposed rather to widen the inquiry and to say that the test shall be the character and his fitness and suitability to be a solicitor. I do not think I need particularly labour that point.

When we come to Clause 3 we are dealing with a purely administrative matter. At the present time if a solicitor wants to take his name off the Roll, to become a barrister or for some other reason, he has to apply to the Disciplinary Committee who alone can strike him off. This has nothing to do with the disciplinary proceedings at all. The proposal in this clause is that the Law Society itself shall be able to take this action without having to refer it to the Disciplinary Committee. The concurrence of the Master of the Rolls, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, is needed because there can always be an appeal if the Law Society does or does not do what the solicitor wants.

When we come to Clause 4 we are dealing with what is primarily a domestic matter; that is to say, the amount the Law Society may charge for issuing the practising certificate which all solicitors require. We are proposing that the statutory limit of £20 should be omitted (inflation is hitting the costs of the Law Society as it is hitting everything else); but we also propose to retain the protection which exists at present, that the amount must be approved by the Master of the Rolls, and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice.

Next we come to Part II of the Bill, and here we are dealing with the Schedules. The Schedules are really designed to protect clients; they are not for the protection of the solicitors at all. The Schedules are mainly the old Schedules amended and revised in certain respects, and they are brought into effect by Clause 5. I do not think I need say very much about them; they are mainly a repetition of the existing law. Clause 6 enables the Law Society to take over quickly the papers of a solicitor who has been practising on his own and has died. I am afraid that solicitors are not always as careful as they should be in arranging their own affairs—sometimes they are too busy in arranging their clients' affairs to consider their own. It may well be that the solicitor appoints executors who are not solicitors and who have no idea of what to do about the practice. In such cases the Law Society seeks power to take charge of the situation. That is wholly for the benefit of the clients.

In Clause 7 we deal with a situation which is rather awkward in practice. It is absolutely cardinal that no solicitor, or his partner, should practise before another solicitor, or his partner, who is a justice of the peace in a particular area. It sometimes happens that solicitors who are justices of the peace in one particular area are called upon to serve from time to time in other courts, and even, in certain circumstances, in the Crown Courts set up by the recent Act. We think the right course to take there is to distinguish between the court in which the solicitor usually sits and the court in which he may occasionally sit. With the first type of court we retain the existing prohibition; with the second type of court we prohibit the solicitor from sitting. In that way the principle that I have indicated is preserved.

Clauses 8 and 9 contain the provisions about the Disciplinary Committee, and we propose that the name be changed from the "Disciplinary Committee" to the "Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal". The reason is that at the present time there is a certain amount of confusion in the lay mind between the Law Society and the Disciplinary Committee. The Disciplinary Committee is not a committee of the Law Society; it is a committee appointed by the Master of the Rolls from among past or present members of the Council of the Law Society; but they are quite different bodies and the Law Society acts, as one might say, as prosecutor before the Disciplinary Committee. We think it would be desirable to change the name to the "Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal", to draw the clear distinction between its functions and the functions of a committee of the Law Society. At the same time we seek to enlarge the powers of the Master of the Rolls as to who may be appointed to the Disciplinary Tribunal. We think that it is undesirable to emphasise the connection between the Law Society by retaining the provision that the Master of the Rolls may appoint only past or present members of the Council, and we consider that it should be thrown much more widely open to any solicitor of 10 years' standing.

Clause 10 deals with a purely technical point. At the moment the position is that the Disciplinary Committee is required by law to state the facts of a case before giving its decision. That means there is a good deal of drafting to be done before a decision can be made known. It is highly desirable that the decision should be made known immediately, if possible, and the drafting done afterwards. For that reason it is suggested that it would be much more convenient not to require the facts to be stated before any decision is announced, but to give power to the Committee—the Tribunal, as it will be—to announce the decision and then draft the full statement of facts and reasons afterwards.

Now we come to the provisions in Part III with regard to the Compensation Fund. I ought to remind your Lordships that the Compensation Fund is a great work undertaken by the whole of the solicitors' profession on behalf of the very small number of people who suffer as a result of the dishonesty of solicitors. Such cases are very rare, but they unfortunately exist. The principle of the Compensation Fund is that the whole profession stands behind every solicitor, so that any client who suffers from dishonesty can make a claim on the Compensation Fund. We call it the Compensation Fund because that is what it is; but ever since it started it has operated as an indemnity fund. We do not dare call it that yet, but that is what it has been in the past, and in this sense no admitted claim has yet been rejected by the fund. It is a very tiny proportion of people who suffer, but there it is. I took power in the 1965 Bill, which I had the honour to take charge of in your Lordships' House, to raise the maximum levy which could be made on the profession to £50 in any particular year. I am thankful to say we have never had so far to exercise that power.

There are one or two provisions here to which I think I ought to draw attention. The first is that under the present law if you are an unfortunate client you have to prove actual loss before you can make a claim on the Fund. We propose to alter that to empower the Fund to make payment if it is satisfied that the client is likely to suffer loss. That is a very important provision from the point of view of the client, because as a rule these matters take a long time to work out and settle; and if a grant could be made to a client who is likely to suffer loss it might relieve a great deal of hardship which would otherwise be suffered through the inevitable delay. Another interesting provision of this clause relates to cases where the innocent partner of a guilty solicitor has had nothing whatever to do with the dishonesty of his partner—and this often happens because sometimes, unfortunately, the dishonest partner goes to great lengths to conceal from his other partners what he has been doing. We are taking power in this clause—and I think it is a very wise provision; I hope your Lordships will agree—so that not only can a grant be made to a client but a grant or a loan, as the case may be, can be made to the innocent solicitor in order to enable him to make reparation to the client; because, of course, clients are entitled to look to all the partners—they are jointly and severally liable—and this is a different method of awarding compensation to clients. It makes good sense, I think your Lordships will agree, to enable the innocent solicitors to make reparation themselves. I think that is all I need trouble your Lordships with in regard to the Compensation Fund.

When we come to Part IV, Clause 12, we find there is a curious quirk in the law to-day. If a solicitor and a client make an agreement in contentious matters about what the costs shall be, it may very well be that the client does not want to challenge all of the bill; he may not want to challenge any of it; but before the solicitor can sue on it the bill has to go before the taxing master and the taxing master has to consider on behalf of the court whether this was a reasonable agreement to be made. The effect of this clause is that if the client does not want to challenge the bill, or wants to challenge only part of it—shall we say, the disbursements or part of the costs, and not other parts of the bill—then he can go to the court and have that limited right of challenge. Of course, we retain the existing protection for clients under a disability, such as infants and so forth.

Clause 10 deals with a purely techcality about the time within which certain applications must be made, and is designed to meet the criticisms in the particular case made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cross, when he was Mr. Justice Cross, in 1961. Clause 14 deals with a curious point under contentious business in the county court. At the moment there is a distinction in the county court, as indeed there is in the High Court between party and party and solicitor and client costs; that is to say, between the costs which can be awarded against an unsuccessful party and the costs which can be awarded as between a solicitor and his own client. As it stands at the moment there is no discretion in a county court case to depart from the party and party taxation, whereas in the High Court, which of course has jurisdiction which overlaps very much with the county court, there is power, if the taxing authorities in the county court think fit, to draw a distinction between party and party and solicitor and client costs. That is, as I submit, a perfectly reasonable provision.

Clause 15 deals with quite a different matter. As it stands at the moment, a solicitor cannot become a commissioner for oaths without being separately enrolled, separately appointed by the Lord Chancellor. This gives a great deal of extra work to the Lord Chancellor's Department and to the Law Society for the purpose of keeping the Register and getting these appointments made, and so forth. It is suggested that all solicitors should automatically be commissioners for oaths—which most people seem to think they are, but in practice they are not. We of course preserve the right to the Lord Chancellor to appoint anybody other than a solicitor to be a commissioner for oaths, as is occasionally done at the present time.

Clause 16 is a rather technical clause but I think I ought to say a word on it. It relates to termination of a retainer of a solicitor. At the moment, a solicitor is not entitled to throw out a case unless his client refuses to put him in funds to meet disbursements. The object of this clause is to enable the solicitor to make a reasonable demand on account of his actual costs. It is quite unreasonable to expect a solicitor to go on acting for a client when he has no prospect of being paid. So the object of this clause is to put disbursements and costs on the same footing so far as that is concerned.

The rest of the Bill I do not think I need comment on at all. The Schedules are amended, but for the most part they apply the existing law with only procedural changes. If any noble Lord wishes me to deal further with that, I shall have an opportunity of doing so. However, there is just one point I ought to mention. It is supremely unimportant but it raises a point where I am asking your Lordships to depart from a decision which you came to on the 1965 Bill. It arises on paragraph 6 of Schedule 1. There we have this odd situation to-day that this notice which has to be served under paragraph 5 must be served—this is quoting from the existing law Within eight days … or within a further six days thereafter". They are rather like the days of grace in an insurance policy. It arose in this way. A manuscript Amendment was put in at the last moment in another place; we had reached practically the end of the Session and I humbly advised your Lordships to accept the Commons Amendments, including this curious Amendment, on which I ask your Lordships to have second thoughts and to correct to-day.

My Lords, I think that is all I need trouble your Lordships with concerning this Bill. I have tried to deal with it in as general terms as I can, and if any noble Lord thinks that I have left anything out which ought to have been included in my statement I will try to take the opportunity of remedying that defect either to-day or at some later stage. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Tangley.)

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, may I also at the outset make one or two preliminary observations, the first of which is that I should like to express my gratitude to the Law Society for placing at my disposal written material which enormously facilitated my task in studying this extremely important and technical Bill. I am most grateful to them and I can assure them that I have made full use of it.

May I next say to the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, who has introduced this measure, that I think he has discharged, and is in the process of discharging, a really valuable service, not only, as I am sure members of the profession would readily agree, to the profession of solicitors but to the public at large. That profession is one on which the public tremendously relies. It is an important public interest that it should be well conducted, well organised and fully manned. It is a profession which has, and has always had, an extremely high standard of honour, of which it is justly proud and which it must maintain in order to deserve and enjoy, as it does enjoy, the complete confidence of the many members of the public who have to have recourse to it in order to vindicate their rights and secure protection in the eye of the law.

The noble Lord, in what, if he will allow me to say so, was a most admirable explanation of this Bill, described it as being in effect a miscellaneous provisions Bill. I should think it obviously was so. It is one which is extremely difficult, as he said, to discuss on Second Reading because it comprehends such a number of diverse matters of great import to the profession, and perhaps the importance of which is much more easily understood by practising solicitors who have come into contact with the matters with which the Bill deals, than members of the general public would find it easy to evaluate. The noble Lord managed to make his address not only interesting but, if he will allow me to say so, easy and agreeable to listen to, which is a remarkable achievement in the case of such a very technical Bill.

My Lords, looking at the Bill as it were from the outside, what I should think might well strike one is particularly Clause 5 and Schedule 1, for this reason. In that clause and in that Schedule, if this Bill passes into law (as I hope it will) the Law Society is given extremely drastic powers to deal with the very occasional delinquent solicitor who is dishonest in his conduct of the affairs of a client or of a trust. They are drastic powers and at first sight they seem to be extremely severe. I think the public will be grateful to the profession for being ready to ask for, and to take upon itself, such very drastic powers for the purpose, after all, of protecting members of the public who have the misfortune of coming into contact with the very rare solicitor who for one reason or another departs from his strict sense of duty to his client. I have examined the powers and I would not venture to submit to your Lordships that they are too severe. Severe they are, but as I have said we should be grateful to the profession for having armed themselves in this way, and I personally would not criticise them as going beyond what is reasonable in any particular instance. I should like to return to that aspect of the matter a little later when I have dealt with some of the individual matters to which the Bill has reference.

If I may, my Lords, I will follow the plan of the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, in going through the clauses one by one, pausing at those which seem to involve some topic of rather general application. I will start with Clause 1, to which the noble Lord referred, and that clause enables non-British subjects to become solicitors. The noble Lord explained the two reasons which in particular had actuated the Law Society and himself in seeking from Parliament this change in the existing law. I think the noble Lord will also agree that the change is in accordance with a recommendation of the Report of Professional Services of the Monopolies Commission in 1970, which is perhaps a third and additional reason.

The second reason given by the noble Lord—namely, the likelihood of this country joining the European Economic Community; and in my particular case the appropriate word would be "when" and not "if"—is one of far-reaching consequence. I suppose he had in mind the Article which is relevant to this particular topic—Article 52 of the Treaty of Rome. That Article is drawn in very general terms and I have no doubt that the Government, as the noble and learned Lord may be able to tell us, has given consideration to its full implications. If I may quote just part of Article 52, the words are: Within the framework of the provisions set out below, restrictions on the freedom of establishment of nationals of a Member State in the territory of another Member State shall be abolished by progressive stages in the course of the transitional period. Then I omit some words, and the Article continues: Freedom of establishment shall include the right to engage in and carry on non-wage earning activities. My Lords, I should have thought that the meaning of those words—and I speak without having considered them with any great profundity but indicating what they seem to me to mean—is that most, if not all, professions should be open to non-British subjects, or rather members of the Community countries, provided of course that they are able to demonstrate that they have passed—as the noble Lord said—the necessary tests to show that they have acquired the knowledge and expertise necessary to enable them to practice in the particular professions. We are concerned to-day with the profession of solicitors, but I should have thought that those words—and I do not know whether or not the noble and learned Lord will agree with me—would apply to most professions, if not all. I do not ask him to reply now because I know the point is one of difficulty, but no doubt it will have to be considered in due course.

I should like to pause for a moment on Clause 2, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, has said, substitutes as the test for practising the profession of a solicitor for the existing words which are to be found in Section 3 of the 1957 Act—namely, "moral fitness to be an officer of the Supreme Court", these words: character and his fitness and suitability to be a solicitor". I pause on those words because I personally have had some experience of rather similar phrasing which is applicable in the case of a student who wishes to be called to the Bar. The words which his sponsor has to certify are that he is a "fit and proper person to be called to the Bar". The words which Clause 2 seeks to introduce into the Bill have been in the 1967 Training Regulations for Solicitors and therefore they are well known, and it may well be the case—and I should have thought that it probably was the case—that the Law Society has, as it were, developed a case law of its own to indicate the kind of application that those words would have in particular cases. If I may say so, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that it is not desirable that the Law Society should have to act as a kind of moral censor, which was requisite when the words were, "moral fitness to be an officer of the Supreme Court". It should not be for them to decide whether an applicant should become a solicitor if he has been suspected perhaps of an irregular association with a member of the opposite sex to whom he is not lawfully married. I should have thought that the extension of the phrase may at any rate pose questions. The words are "fitness and suitability". I very much hope that nobody would ever be excluded because of his political views. There might be some cases of difficulty. Supposing one had an applicant who was a very convinced anarchist and against any kind of legal system of any sort or kind. I would hope that the Law Society would not exclude him if he was in other ways a fit and suitable person to become a solicitor. All sorts of situations can be imagined. Long-haired, bizarre dress, I should have thought clearly were out. But suppose a young man was found at a party at which "pot" was being consumed. These sort of difficulties may arise, and common sense will no doubt dispose of them. I simply call attention to the kind of difficulties that might arise in unusual cases, and I pass on from it.

I entirely agree, if I may say so, with what the noble Lord said on Clause 3. It is quite absurd that a solicitor who for admirable reasons may wish to have his name withdrawn from the Roll should have to ask a committee which is called a disciplinary committee. It has absolutely nothing to do with discipline, and he may have admirable reasons for wishing to have his name withdrawn. It has been recognised recently that it is desirable in the public interest that transfer between the Bar and the solicitors' profession should be facilitated. It is accepted that a student of law very often does not make the right choice, from his point of view, at that stage in deciding which of the two professions he wishes to join, and he might, having joined one, find later on that he would have preferred to have joined the other. Therefore, the arrangements now have facilitated transfer, and I think that makes it all the more important to make it unnecessary for a young man who has become a solicitor and wishes to have his name withdrawn in order to join the Bar to have to apply to a disciplinary body. Discipline does not enter into it in the least. Therefore, I would agree with that change.

On Clause 4 may I ask one simple question, which I am sure the noble Lord will be able to answer? Does the fee payable for a practising certificate qualify as a deduction for the purpose of assessing income and surtax liability on a solicitor? When I had something to do with this sort of problem, I remember thinking that possibly it did not, because it was a fee he had to pay not in the course of the conduct of his practice, but in order to qualify him to practise. In these days it makes rather a difference whether or not it is an allowable deduction. I have no doubt that the noble Lord will be able to answer that from his experience, and I should like to know the position.

I come to Clause 5, which has to be read together with Schedule 1 to which I referred earlier. It is a very striking clause and Schedule 1 is striking. At first sight, the powers seem very drastic. In point of fact, if one looks at Schedule 1, it is closely modelled on Schedule 1 of the 1965 Act, although it is extended in scope. I would not ask your Lordships to look at it in any detail, but it may he of some value to look at what I might call the high peak of severity. It is our duty as a legislative House on Second Reading of a Bill to examine it and be fully conscious of what we are enacting. May I examine that high peak by directing your Lordships' notice to the following changes? To begin with, under Section 31 of the 1957 Solicitors Act the Council. before it could use the powers conferred by Schedule 1 in the form in which it ultimately appeared in the 1965 Act, had to have "reasonable cause to believe" that there had been dishonesty on the part of the solicitor. Only in that situation could the powers be exercised.

One significant change that is made is that the words "reasonable cause to believe" have been deleted, and the words "reason to suspect" have been substituted for them. If, therefore, the Council has reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of the solicitor it can, in terms of Schedule 1 of this Bill, by notice put into operation in relation to that solicitor the full powers which are contained in Schedule 1 of this Bill. I think it might not be unnecessarily trespassing on your Lordships' time if I quote from paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 in order to indicate what can be done by the Council of the Law Society if that notice has been given; in other words, if the Council has reason to that solicitor the full powers which are contained in Schedule 1 of this Bill. I think it might not be unnecessarily trespassing on your Lordships' time if I quote from paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 in order to indicate what can be done by the Council of the Law Society if that notice has been given; in other words, if the Council has reason to suspect dishonesty it can give notice, and then it can exercise among other powers the following: The Society may require the production or delivery to any person appointed by the Society at a time and place to be fixed by the Society, and may take possession of all documents in the possession or control of the solicitor or his firm (whether or not the documents are the property of the solicitor or his firm), or relating to any controlled trust. If any person having possession or control of any such document fails to comply forthwith with any requirement made under this paragraph, he shall be guilty of an offence and he liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50. That means that if the Council has reason to suspect—not certainty; simply reason to suspect—it can give notice and it can then require documents to be delivered at any time and place to themselves or any person they may indicate as recipient of the documents, whether the documents belong to the solicitor or to somebody else; and anybody who fails to comply forthwith, excuse or no excuse, can be subject to criminal process and fined up to £50. That is the power.

It has to be considered against the words to which I have referred, "reason to suspect". When the phrase was "reasonable cause to believe", I assume that the requisite was in the first place that the Council should in fact have believed that there was dishonesty and, secondly, that it should have had reasonable grounds for so believing. "Reason to suspect" is far more restrictive. I should like to hear from the noble Lord whether he has formed a view about this. All that is requisite to bring into operation the words "reason to suspect" in the first place is that those responsible must think there is a likelihood, or perhaps just a possibility, of dishonesty and, secondly, they must have a reason for so thinking which must be respectable in the sense only that it is not bogus. It may fall far short of something that is reasonable in the sense that it might influence the judgment of ordinary reasonable people.

I said at the outset that I do not criticise these powers; I simply call the attention of the House to their drastic and far-reaching quality. In the very nature of things the Council must be able in the event of dishonesty, in order to protect the client or the beneficiary under a trust, to act at once and effectively before the funds in which the client or the beneficiary are concerned disappear. Speaking for myself, I entirely accept that in order to make this action effective at once, within the necessarily short period of time, it needs just precisely these powers which the Bill asks from your Lordships' House and I hope that your Lordships will think it right to grant these powers.

A word on Clause 7. It is in the public interest that the services of experienced solicitors should be available as justices of the peace. As the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, said, in the existing situation there really is often a very strong deterrent against a busy solicitor's offering his services and accepting the honour and duties involved in being a justice of the peace. If he is a justice of the peace for a Commission area, his practice is prohibited in the whole of that area. That means that a solicitor who sits perhaps in one court in one petty sessional division of that area and not in others, simply cannot practice—nor can his partners—anywhere else in that Commission area. I think that restriction is quite unnecessary, although everybody accepts that it must be apparent that there is no question of any solicitor sitting on the bench being otherwise than completely independent and uninterested personally in any issue which comes before him for trial.

Clauses 8, 9 and 10 are technical. The noble Lord, Lord Tangley, has explained their purpose very clearly, and I need not add to what he has said, except perhaps one word about Clause 10, the importance of which may have escaped those who are not immediately concerned with the operation of the functions of what will be the Disciplinary Tribunal. If, as is necessary at present under Section 49 of the 1957 Act, the finding of the Tribunal has to be preceded by a full statement of the facts, it will often be impossible to deliver the decision of the Tribunal at once. The solicitor who appears before the Tribunal wants to know immediately what his fate is going to be. Supposing there is a case in which there are a great many documents and a number of complicated facts to decide. It may take a considerable time before a proper and carefully considered statement of those facts and documents can be prepared and made available, and therefore delay is bound to ensue. This imposes great hardship on the solicitor concerned, who is no doubt most anxious to know what his fate is, and this delay is obviated by the change proposed in Clause 10.

I say nothing on the Compensation Fund beyond associating myself very warmly with what the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, said about it. It obviously is a most important and excellent institution, which gives very great protection to members of the public who might otherwise suffer loss. I will go quickly through the remaining clauses because, as the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, said, they are technical in nature and do not, I think, involve any point of general application. I should just like to ask one general question on Clause 15. The power of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor under the Commissioners for Oaths Act 1889 is preserved by Clause 15(5). I gather that is because he has the power to appoint as commissioners for oaths persons who are not practising solicitors. Is that power often used? Is it really necessary? The noble and learned Lord has very kindly shaken his head, and has given me his answer. I wonder whether he really wants to retain it—but that is a matter for him and those who prepared the Bill.

One final observation on the Bill. The last clause, Clause 19(4), extends Clause 1 (which relates to the eligibility of solicitors who are not British subjects to become solicitors) to Northern Ireland. None of the other provisions of this Bill, however, are extended to Northern Ireland. I should like to know why that is. I assume that this change in the Act of Settlement is a change which has a constitutional flavour about it, and that that is the reason why that particular clause is extended to Northern Ireland. The others do not have that characteristic, and therefore it is left to the Government of Northern Ireland to make such changes as they think in their own discretion are necessary.

My Lords, I want to make only one concluding general observation. The law relating to the profession of solicitors at the moment is found in two major Acts: one, the Solicitors Act 1957, and secondly, a second major Act, the Solicitors Act 1965, with which the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, will always be gratefully associated because of the work he did in relation to it. I believe I am right in thinking that the present Bill is a step in a rather more far-reaching purpose to consolidate the whole of the law relating to solicitors. It certainly should be found in one place, and I am very glad to hear that this Bill, which indeed is precisely in terms framed in order to facilitate that, will in due course, find its place with the Acts of 1957 and 1965, in one large consolidated measure. I hope your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, as Master of the Rolls I have a special relationship with solicitors. Historically it was the Master of the Rolls who was in charge of solicitors, but now solicitors are the one great profession that is under the control of Parliament. It needs a Statute to regulate the profession of solicitors. May I say, as Master of the Rolls, that there used to be a parchment Roll of solicitors. It is now the only Roll left to the Master of the Rolls, but it is simply a foolscap list. On the few matters relating to the Roll, may I say that I should welcome the extension to people who are not British subjects. People who are not British subjects can be called to the Bar now, and there is no reason why they should also not be called, to be admitted to be solicitors, especially in view of this country's early advent into the Common Market.

The next requirement in this Bill withholds and takes away the old qualification that the Society must be satisfied as to the moral fitness of the candidate to be a solicitor. Nowadays, students and others object to their morals being the concern of others: they say that their morals are their own private concern. So the Society are now proposing to be satisfied only as to their character and fitness and suitability. It comes very much to the same thing, but in modern language.

May I come to the next clause of the Bill which my noble friend Lord Stow Hill mentioned, and that is the drastic power for the Society to intervene when it has reason to suspect that the solicitor may have been guilty of dishonesty or, indeed, of not acting for the funds and the like. The previous provision required that the Council of the Society had a "reasonable cause to believe", and before they could act they had to have sufficient evidence in their hands to warrant a prosecution and to obtain a verdict of guilty. That did not enable them to act quickly enough, and the amended version reads that if they "have reason to suspect"—that is, good cause, good information in their hands whereby they feel the circumstances are so suspicious that steps must be taken to protect the clients and the public—then they can act. I would submit to your Lordships that that is a good practical amendment.

The next part of this Bill with which, as Master of the Rolls, I am particularly concerned is the tribunal for disciplinary matters. In the past there has been a disciplinary committee, as it is called, appointed by the Master of the Rolls from the 50 or 60 solicitors who are members of the Council of the Law Society. It has always been the Master of the Rolls who has appointed the members. Naturally enough, members of the public thought that the disciplinary committee was just another committee of the Law Society, such as the Professional Purposes Committee, and that there would be a solicitor brought before a committee of the Law Society by the Law Society. The Law Society, it was thought, was being judge in its own cause. That was a wrong and erroneous impression, because the committee was completely independent. As a member of the Bar, I have appeared before it and I have often said that it is one of the best tribunals that I have known and have ever appeared before. But to remove all suggestion that it is a committee of the Law Society itself, this amendment is to describe this as the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. In addition, the Master of the Rolls is not hound to confine himself to the mere 50 or 60 members of the Council. He can select the members from all the solicitors throughout the profession, and the number is increased to 15 to enable that to be done. I should hope your Lordships would think that that would be a further improvement in the disciplinary machinery of the profession.

There is nothing more that I would say about these provisions. I have had the benefit of seeing the President of the Law Society and the members of the Council and have gone through the provisions with them, and we have had the benefit this afternoon of having my noble friend Lord Tangley explain them to the House. All I would say is that I warmly commend them to your Lordships' consideration.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, as we all expected, the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, delivered a remarkable speech which gave the House the benefit of his very deep knowledge of the subject with which he was dealing. He, and the noble and learned Lords who have followed him, have lucidly explained practically all the provisions of the Bill. They have all commended the acceptance of the Bill by your Lordships, as do I. A measure of this nature must of necessity contain a large number of technical terms and provisions, but it is in the main a further step in the development of a professional service of considerable value for the benefit of the community at large—a service which unfortunately all too often is misunderstood and consequently misrepresented, even in some political circles which certainly should know very much better. The provisions in this Bill are put forward for your Lordships' approval after diligent inquiry into the present legislation affecting solicitors, in an attempt to rectify any defects which have been disclosed by such study. The skill and experience of officers, members and staff of the Law Society drawn from all parts of the country, and other eminent knowledgeable persons, have been used for this purpose. The intention is also to bring the law relating to the profession up to date in consequence of legislation which has been passed, particularly after the Solicitors Acts of 1957 and 1965.

As your Lordships are aware, before being enrolled as a solicitor a person has to pass some difficult examinations and serve under articles in a solicitor's office. He has to undergo exhaustive tests to satisfy the Law Society as to his fitness, first to be allowed to take articles and later to become a solicitor. Among those tests at present, under the provisions of Section 3(1) of the 1957 Act which has already been referred to, is the one that no person shall be admitted as a solicitor unless the Law Society is satisfied as to inter alia his moral fitness to be an officer of the Supreme Court". As we have already heard, Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to alter that provision by substituting for the reference to moral fitness, a reference to the applicant's character and his fitness and suitability to be a solicitor. That would correspond with the test to be satisfied on enrolment as a student under the Training Regulations 1957, which itself derives from the Solicitors Act 1936 where this form of words was used. The purpose—and I refer to this again, because it is very important—is to enable admission to be a solicitor to be refused on the grounds, for example, of nervous disorder or mental illness. Of course the profession itself is very anxious that the people who enter the profession shall be suitable persons to do so and shall be in a position to fulfil in a suitable manner their duties to their clients and, through their clients, to the public.

When a solicitor enters into practice he is bound by strict rules as to his conduct towards his clients, as to the keeping of proper books and banking accounts, and as to his financial ability to continue in practice. All of these matters have been controlled under the provisions of current Acts, and, as has already been stated, it is proposed in this Bill to tighten up those measures which, by experience and examination in depth, have been found to be not sufficiently effective. I use the opportunity of this Second Reading to say that I hope your Lordships will realise that at this time it is perhaps important that some consideration should be given to where the profession stands, to what it does, to the difficulties of entering the profession and to the strict manner in which the actions of the solicitor are controlled.

May I point out that a solicitor is entrusted with millions of pounds of clients' money in the course of his activities? More important, perhaps, are the countless clients of meagre means who trust solicitors with their life savings in the course of small property and other transactions. Innermost secrets are divulged to, and discussed with, their solicitors by clients in the firm knowledge that their confidence will not be betrayed. I believe that there are some 25,000 practising certificates issued, and some 18,000 solicitors in practice as principals. The defaulters are very few indeed. So far as possible every conceivable reasonable precaution is taken by the Law Society to prevent abuses. The clauses in the Bill dealing with supervision and safeguards are designed to help in this regard, as I am sure they will. I think the Bill once again alerts the public to the special relationship which a solicitor has towards his client; one which is, for example, similar to that of a doctor towards his patient. The man in the street is, all too often, misled into placing legal affairs in the hands of unqualified persons who have not had appropriate training, and whose activities and funds are not supervised by a responsible authority. This is a risk which obviously should not be taken by any reasonable person. It is like placing his affairs in the hands of somebody who, in the case of a patient, (if I may use the expression) a "quack" doctor.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills for over 30 years, I feel that the amendments which are included in the Bill for the purpose of consolidation are of considerable value. They will result in the saving of much time of the legal draftsmen, and will remove some ambiguities which exist in the law at present.

An illustration of this is contained in Clause 1 of the Bill, which again has already been referred to. Section 3 of the Act of Settlement 1700 provides that aliens are incapable, inter alia, of holding certain offices or places of trust under the Crown. In 1900, the Law Society was advised that this provision had the effect of preventing the admission of non-British subjects as solicitors. Apart from other arguments for the removal of the restriction, a query has arisen as to whether a solicitor who ceases to be a British subject after admission is not thereby disqualified from being or practising as a solicitor. There is uncertainty about this. Unless Clause 1 were passed, the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills would have difficulty in deciding what the position is in law, and possibly might have to leave the uncertainty unsolved in the consolidating Act. I refer to this because we have frequently had experience in the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills of endeavouring to decide what in fact the law really is; and I think that, in so far as the consolidation of Acts affecting solicitors is concerned, this Bill provides something which will be extremely useful and which has been very well thought out.

I do not want to go into all the clauses. Your Lordships have already heard about them, and I think that practically everybody in your Lordships' House will agree that they are measures which, either in their present form or perhaps with some Amendments which may occur to your Lordships on Committee stage, make up a Bill which is an acceptable one and which should be passed.

I want to conclude by referring to one provision which I think is extremely important. I am going to talk about the position of solicitors as justices of the peace. In my view, a solicitor who gives his time for the purpose of sitting on a bench, in addition to rendering the usual invaluable service of a justice of the peace, is rendering a further service to the community by giving the benefit of his professional training and knowledge to the country; and if a solicitor is prepared to do that, then in my view every encouragement should be given to him to act in that capacity. We now know, of course, that solicitors will be sitting as judges in the Crown Courts; and it would have been an absurd thing to have prevented a solicitor who wanted to give his services without any remuneration from sitting with a fellow solicitor who was giving his services for remuneration—and I am glad that the Law Society has taken this point into consideration.

Under the present law, as I understand it. a solicitor is not only prevented from acting in the petty sessions in which he is practising, but is, alas! prevented from practising in the Commission area—which, in a case like Inner London, for example, is a very wide area indeed. Solicitors' firms are now joining up in partnership with other firms. The general trend to-day is that practices become larger in so far as the personnel is concerned; and it would really have been absurd, as indeed it is to-day, I think, for a solicitor not to be able to sit in a court which may be many miles away (as in the case in Inner London to which I have already referred) because he or his partners happened to be practising in a petty sessional division which was part of that particular Commission area.

The provision in this Bill to remove that anomaly is, I think, something which is of very great importance. When we consider a Bill of this nature, with its technicalities and the language which is used, we are apt to regard it as being something dealing only with the machinery of the profession. But this is not only machinery. The machinery is that which affects the destiny of hundreds of thousands of people in our country. From the cradle to the grave they have the need of assistance from the profession of which I have the honour to be a member; and I think that everything which has been produced here—in addition, of course, to the Acts which are in existence at present—is not just a matter of prosaic interest. There is more in the Acts which deal with a profession of this nature than just technicalities. They are dealing with human lives. I make no apology—and I hope your Lordships will agree with me that no apology is necessary—if, in speaking on a measure of this kind, I have sometimes strayed from commenting on the wording of the clauses themselves, and have perhaps dealt in a more general sense with the subject matter, which is so important to me, as I think it is to all of us. I think the Bill should commend itself to the House. and I hope that it will receive an unopposed Second Reading.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, if I may detain your Lordships for just a few moments, I would do so for two reasons. First, I should not like it to be thought that there is no member of our profession who sits upon these Benches. Secondly, I should not like it to be thought that those of us on these Benches do not also support this Second Reading. May I also add a further argument to those which have been advanced in favour of Clause 3 of the Bill? Clause 3 provides that the removal from or restoration of the name of a solicitor upon the Roll at his own request shall be dealt with in future by the Law Society instead of by the Disciplinary Committee. As your Lordships have already heard, the Disciplinary Committee is an entirely independent body; and in the case of a voluntary removal of this sort it really does seem quite illogical that an independent body should have the right to remove from the Roll a solicitor who has been appointed to it by the Law Society.

A further small point which has occurred to to me, and which I hope we shall be able to consider further in Committee, concerns sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 3 of the First Schedule. That is the paragraph which has attracted considerable attention this afternoon, and the particular phrase which perturbs me slightly is: If any person having possession or control of any such documents fails to comply forthwith with any requirement made under this paragraph, he shall be guilty of an offence …". It occurs to me that there might be considerable difficulty in the person in question being able to "comply forthwith". I hope that we may consider the possibility of reducing to some extent the strictness of that provision; though I recognise that so far as is possible speed is essential to render it practicable. I listened with great interest and pleasure to the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. I must admit that he frightened me somewhat on one occasion when I rather got the impression that he was advocating that an anarchist should not be debarred from enrolment as a solicitor. I would assure him that I would regard my responsibility to my own clients with great perturbation if I had at least one anarchist, known as such, in my office.


My Lords, I was not advocating a view either way. I was simply saying that the words might pose difficulties and that that is the sort of difficulty to which they might give rise.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that explanation. I would not say that it altogether relieves my anxieties.

The other point I should like to raise is in association with the noble Lord, Lord Janner. Like him, as a member of the Consolidation Committee, I regard the action taken to bring this measure into line with and ready for consolidation as a good step and one which is exceedingly helpful. I hope very much that your Lordships will grant this Bill a Second Reading.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is desirable that someone should speak on this Bill on behalf of the Government and I suppose it is inevitable that that someone should be me. We have listened to a number of attractive and charming speeches from all quarters of the House, and it is hardly necessary for me to go into the details of the Bill. However, I think it is important for me to say that all of the provisions, without exception, have been the subject of quite exhaustive discussion (I do not think that "negotiation" is the right word) between my Office and the Law Society. They all have my approval. The contentious ones have my personal approval; and at least three of them have been not merely approved but rather actively fomented by me for inclusion in the Bill. I refer in particular to the enlargement of the Commissionership of Oaths to the entire profession; the enlargement of the right of solicitors to sit on a magisterial bench except in their petty sessional division, on the assumption that they do not sit on cases in which their partners are appearing as advocates; and the removal of the bar on the admission of aliens to the Roll. All these proposals have not merely my approval but my active support; and I hereby record that fact.

I want to say this in addition. This is a Private Member's Bill and therefore it depends upon the good will of all Parties in both Houses of Parliament for its chances of getting on the Statute Book. It will of course pass through this House without difficulty; but if my voice could for a moment reach to the hubbub going on at the other end of the Corridor I should like to say that this is a very badly needed Bill. The fact that it is technical, that its provisions are miscellaneous and that its content by any standards is not throbbing with human interest should not prevent people from understanding that this Bill is very badly needed indeed and that a real disservice would be done to the administration of law in this country if for any reason it were held up, either by the excessive zeal of its supporters or by the undue conscientiousness of those who would introduce relatively minor Amendments. It is important that it should reach the Statute Book. I promised the Law Society that the little I can do—and I am afraid it is very little—to induce both Houses of Parliament to pass it this Session will be done. Although as a Private Member's Bill, it cannot command Government time, we have, as the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, reminded the House, lent our drafting support so far as we can; and any help that we can give will be available. In the end, however, the question whether it reaches the Statute Bill will depend on the co-operation of members of all Parties in both Houses of Parliament. I hope myself sincerely that such co-operation will be generously forthcoming.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, began with gracious words of thanks about a matter unconnected with the content of this Bill; namely, my Statement about the right of audience in the Crown Court. I was very glad to give that matter my attention and I was grateful to him for what he said about it. It gives me the opportunity of reiterating in this House, and therefore possibly reaching a wider audience, some of the things that I said at greater length when I was addressing the Law Society at their annual meeting at Folkestone last year. I am sometimes very distressed to get letters from Members of Parliament whose constituents are solicitors indicating that they are somehow under the impression that I undervalue the solicitors' profession. I do not think that anyone who was at Folkestone last year, or who heard or read my speech, will be under any misapprehension at all about that. I have worked with, under and against the solicitors' profession for all my professional life, for 40 years. I know innumerable members of that profession quite intimately. There are no words that I can utter too high in praise of the skill, the integrity, the discernment and zeal of that profession in serving their clients, the public and the courts of which they are officers. Almost everything that I have achieved in life would have been totally impossible without a mutual confidence between myself and numerous members of that profession.

The solicitors' profession is in the hands of Parliament, as my noble and learned friend (if I may so call him, in the professional though not in the political sense) the Master of the Rolls reminded the House. The Lord Chancellor's influence over it is really peripheral except as Chairman of the Statutory Committee in which, although he owns a vote and a veto, he does not command, and does not seek to command, a majority. On the other hand, as I said at Folkestone last autumn, I regard myself in some ways inside Parliamentary and Government circles as a sort of shop steward for the legal community, and I do everything I can to promote the interests of all parts of the legal community, the judiciary, the teaching profession, the solicitors and the barristers, to the very best of my ability. And in doing so I think that I am both discharging my constitutional function and also paying a debt of honour.

My Lords, if I may add this, on this part of the matter, which the noble Lord, Lord Tangley gave me the opportunity to say: I regard my own political life and standpoint, except in so far as it can be identified with any particular sectional interest (and I suppose that we all have particular sectional interests at heart more than others) as identified with that of the professional classes in this country. I am a professional man and the son of a professional man, and I have been brought up and lived in a profession and in a professional context all my working life. When I have made speeches, as sometimes I have, to solicitors and barristers, and also to engineers and doctors, I have always stressed the immense value and importance of the professional classes, and of the members of professions, to the standards of public life and social integrity in this country. I believe that they add something absolutely distinctive, something without which a free society would be wholly impossible and which, I think, tends to be undervalued since they are not persons who command big battalions in the way of votes. They are neither captains of industry nor members of vast trade unions. They are sometimes derided. They are frequently abused. But on the whole I believe them to be the salt of the earth.

My Lords, I do not want to do more than underline what the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, very charmingly said from the Opposition Benches. He asked, I think, only one question of me and that I will seek to answer. It was about the relatively small point of my humble power to appoint commissioners of oaths. I am very glad indeed that this Bill relieves me of the obligation to appoint solicitors by the simple process of making them all commissioners of oaths, without the necessity for the signature of the Lord Chancellor. Lord Chancellors used to be remunerated largely by the number of signatures they appended to documents. This was a valuable source of income because my predecessor, Lord Eldon, who was Lord Chancellor for 27 years—a longer period of office than I hope to achieve myself; he was Lord Chancellor during the reign of George III and George IV—had an average income of £14,728 a year, in the days before income tax and when pounds were weighed in sovereigns made of gold. So this power of making signatures was very important in those days. However, my Lords, I am not remunerated in that way now, although I sometimes think that some of the signatures required of me date back to that time, at any rate in philosophy, and could be reduced in number. This is one way of reducing quite a lot of them.

I do, none the less (this is in answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill) wish, at any rate for the present, to retain the residuary power of making people commissioners of oaths who are not solicitors. There is a mysterious body of men in English law called "notaries" who are not all solicitors. They are mainly there to impress the foreigners. It is on the Continent of Europe that notaries are extremely important and sometimes the office is handed down from father to son. They "protest bills" whatever that may be, and they perform a number of wholly indispensable functions in international law. I think that the Archbishop of Canterbury makes some, but I make others, and, very often at any rate, they have to be commissioners of oaths. I should like to keep that residuary power at any rate until we see how well the public is served when we have made all solicitors commissioners of oaths.

I was grateful indeed to my noble and learned friend Lord Denning for coming in as Master of the Rolls. I am afraid that the Rolls now as he says are somewhat notional objects and I do not know whether he really masters them any longer. But it is a dignified title. He administers the Oath to the Lord Chancellor and sometimes keeps him in order. He was very welcome this afternoon. I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and to my noble friend Lord Brentford for their tributes to their own great profession and for the support that this Bill has had. I do not think that there were very many points in either of their speeches with which I need to deal in detail.

To the noble Lord, Lord Janner, I would say specifically that the clause which enlarges the capacity of solicitors to sit on the magisterial bench, as I think I have already observed, is not merely something which has my approval; it had also my active support in the discussional stage of this particular measure. There must of course be a limit for it, because a solicitor cannot sit in his own back yard. His clients might be thought—even if they did not—to have an advantage; and, of course, his partners could not appear before the bench when he was sitting and so it is really an advantage to exclude him from that. Otherwise I wholly agree that they make absolutely admirable magistrates and I am glad that this Bill will give them an even greater opportunity to demonstrate that fact.

My Lords, I do not think that I need to deal with the Committee point raised by my noble friend. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, will have noted it. With those words may I simply reiterate that this is a Bill which is very badly needed, and I hope that, despite other difficulties in one place or another, it may have the active support of all Parties in both Houses of Parliament.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, may I first express my very deep and warm thanks to the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am blushing on behalf of my profession at the thought of all the kind things said about it during the debate—mostly deserved I must admit, but very nice to hear all the same.

There were two or three points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, to which I think I ought to reply. He first raised the question of Article 52 of the Rome Treaty, the Article which provides for the right of settlement or establishment. I do not know what that Article means. I think it will be a long time before we come to any final conclusion about that. But one element in it must be that it is an anachronism to insist that only a British subject can become a solicitor. That must be inconsistent with the Rome Treaty, whatever view one takes of it.

The second point which the noble Lord raised was about the question of moral fitness, or suitability, or what should be the criterion applied by the Law Society in deciding on applications from would-be solicitors. I think I said that it is very difficult to devise any phrase which is completely free from criticism. I believe that the phrase we have at present is unduly restrictive and could, for the reasons given by the Master of the Rolls, be offensive. I believe that the second one is more sensible. and certainly it will be applied with common sense. He asked also whether the fee payable to the Law Society for the practising certificate is allowed as an expense for income tax purposes. I can only say that I have had over fifty of them, and nobody has ever raised any question about that: the inspector of taxes has always taken it as a matter of course. I believe it is a fact that the practising certificate fee is part of the expenses of carrying on one's practice and is universally allowed for tax purposes. I have never known there to be any question about it.

The matter of changing the words "reasonable cause to believe" to "reasonably expect" has, I think, been so adequately dealt with by the noble and learned Lord the Master of the Rolls that I do not need to say anything more about it: I certainly could not improve on anything said from that quarter. The last question asked by the noble Lord was on Clause 19. He asked: why is it that only Clause 1 of the Bill is made to apply to Northern Ireland? The answer is that Northern Ireland has its own Code of Practice for solicitors and its own machinery for dealing with them. Therefore, it would be quite inappropriate to apply to Northern Ireland most of the provisions of this Bill. But Clause 1 is of general application and therefore quite properly applies to Northern Ireland. The other clauses by definition do not.

The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, raised the point which I thought was quite a bad one. There is no difficulty whatever, in the circumstances he mentioned, for anybody to comply forthwith with an order that has been made. The reason why people do not comply forthwith is that they do not want to. They ought to be made to, and I hope that we shall have no weakening of our attitude in that respect in the course of the proceedings on the Bill.

It only remains for me now to thank the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for his very kind remarks, and for his admirable advice with regard to the future conduct of this Bill both in this House and in another place. I remember the acute anxiety that I suffered when I was in charge of the 1965 Bill as to whether it would get through or be lost in the massacre of the innocents. But it survived, with the one stupid compromise which I mentioned earlier. I hope that this Bill will have an equally satisfactory passage, because I believe, for the reasons which have been given on all sides of the House to-day, this is a very good Bill and very much in the public interest.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.