§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Jacques.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.
LORD AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 87, line 11, leave out ("commission of the offence") and insert ("act or omission").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I need not detain the House long. This Amendment is consequential upon two similar Amendments to Clause 169 which the House agreed to on Report. I beg to move.
§ LORD JACQUES
My Lords, we accept this Amendment, first because it is strictly correct and, secondly, because it will make the Bill consistent within itself. There are, however, two minor difficulties. The first is that it makes the Bill in this respect a little inconsistent with the Fair Trading Act and the Trade Descriptions Act. Consultations will take place as to whether this inconsistency would result in any confusion and the final decision will be based upon the result of those consultations. Secondly, I must also say that we believe that there is a slight defect in the three Amendments moved by the noble Lord and if that be so they would in any case have to be put right. I believe they are very minor indeed.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, before the Third Reading is put to the House—though I do not propose to halt or delay the progress of this very useful Bill—may I say that this is a comprehensive and very complicated Bill. It is capable of being readily understood by lawyers, and perhaps by experts belonging to trade associations. But it is one which will have to be administered through millions of small traders and many more millions of ordinary members of the public, and I am wondering whether the Government could give us a promise that at the time the Bill becomes operative they will issue something in the nature of a "child's guide" for the benefit of all those traders and members of the public who will be bound by its provisions in the future.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is out of order. He is speaking to the Third Reading. The Question has not been put yet.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, adverting to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, the Question is, That this Amendment be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say Content. To the contrary, Not-Content. The Contents have it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Moved, That the privilege Amendment be agreed to.—(Lord Jacques.)
§ On Question, an Amendment (privilege) made.
§ LORD JACQUES
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. At this stage, after our long deliberations, I think I should make some comment.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the Third Reading was moved and agreed to. I do not know what power I have to intervene in these matters.
§ LORD JACQUES
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
We have spent a lot of time on this complicated and highly technical Bill and before we part with it I think it would be appropriate if I were to say a few words about it. First, in regard to the drafting of the Bill, we knew from reading the Crowther Report that this was going to be a highly complicated and technical Bill. We knew that there were such variations in the forms which consumer credit could take that they appeared to be almost infinite. We knew that in a measure of this kind it would be necessary to make provisions which would at least minimise the evasions. We knew, too, that the Bill was so wide in its 1331 scope that it would be necessary in the interests of both debtors and creditors to ensure that certain forms of credit were excused from parts of the Bill.
Some criticism of the drafting appeared recently in The Times. We consider this to be completely unwarranted. This is a highly complex subject and we think the draftsman has done a good job in making the Bill as readable as it is. It would not be difficult to imagine the same subject dealt with in a much more complicated and less readily understood way. Our deliberations have improved the Bill. The close attention which this House has paid to it ensures that it leaves us in a much better state than when it arrived. We have made clearer some of the basic definitions used in Part II; we have radically revised Part IX and made the important extortionate agreements provisions more workable. We have catered for some difficulties that the Bill might have caused to the banks and other similar institutions. Even where the Government have been unable to accept Amendments or suggestions put forward these Amendments and suggestions have none the less caused us to re-examine the Bill in the areas concerned to see whether it really does what we want it to do.
The Bill is leaving this House in a very workable condition. All this improvement has been due to a large amount of hard work that has been put into the Bill by many of your Lordships. To name all of them would take too long, but I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for their constant constructive criticism; also the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for their help in the difficult judicial control and more legal parts of the Bill, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for constantly keeping us on our toes in endeavouring to remove excess words and make meanings crystal clear. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and the noble Lords, Lord Seebohm, Lord Mais and Lord Helsby, have given us some education in the ways of the banks, and we are grateful for their constructive comments. Other noble Lords both in and out of this Chamber have helped. The House can congratulate itself on a job that has been well done.
1332 Among the substantial repeals that this Bill effects is that of the Pawnbrokers Act 1872. This has stood the test of time and has existed with very little amendment for over one hundred years. I hope that the amount of work that your Lordships have put into this Bill will mean that we are launching this infant upon the world where it will do service for an equal number of years. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Jacques.)
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he will give some attention to the suggestion I have just made, that a sort of "child's guide" shall be issued for the benefit of the public?
§ LORD JACQUES
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I will give the assurance that the question of a guide will receive careful consideration—but I hope not a child's guide.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, for what he said about some of us on this side of the House. We have already thanked him warmly in the course of the Report stage for his help and for that of his noble friend Lord Shepherd, and we are indeed grateful. May I particularly say that we were most grateful for the assistance we were given in the provision of notes on clauses and on Amendments. As he said, this is an extremely complicated Bill, and he knows from his recent experience how difficult it is for Oppositions to deal with such Bills. We are therefore all the more grateful to him, and I should be happy if he would pass on our thanks to his advisers for the kindness they have shown us. We have dealt with the Bill expeditiously. We have improved it, and my only advice to the Government is that if they continue to produce Bills which were in the mind of the previous Government, we shall continue to work with harmony and speed in getting the legislation through this House.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, in non-Party measures of this kind we in this House enjoy, from the Opposition point 1333 of view, the co-operation of the Government on numerous occasions in our effort to improve Bills and to carry out the function of this House as a revising Chamber. We are very grateful for the cooperation that we have received from both Ministers in charge of this Bill and we feel that our efforts to improve it have been well worth while.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.