HL Deb 12 December 1979 vol 403 cc1274-5

9.3 p.m.

Report received.

Schedule—[Amendments to Hypnotism Act 1952]:

Viscount SIMON moved the Amendment: Page 2, line 6, leave out ("living").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I shall be brief in view of the important business which is to follow. I raised the point with which the amendment is concerned with the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, in Committee and, not unnaturally, because I shot it at him without notice, he did not know the answer. The word in question appears in the new, amended section of the Hypnotism Act 1952, where it says that subject to certain conditions: No person shall give an exhibition, demonstration or performance of hypnotism on any living person". The significance of the word "living" has completely defeated me, because obviously one could not hypnotise a dead person, and I cannot think of any reason for the inclusion of the word except that this is a copying of the words used in the 1952 Act.

As we are amending that Act by this Bill, it seems that a further amendment to leave out that word would be apposite if, as I surmise, it has no significance. However, I understand that the noble Earl has found some significance and will tell the House about it; and if your Lordships then agree that it is sensible to include the word, I shall withdraw the amendment at once.

The Earl of KINNOULL

My Lords, I am sure the House is always grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, for spotting what may be loose and superfluous phrases in Bills. As he said, he raised this point in Committee and I then promised to investigate this mystery of why it was necessary to emphasise the word "living" in the phrase "living person". As the noble Viscount said, the schedule to the Bill is lifted out of the 1952 Act, but of course one should have been aware that that would not suffice his critical revisionary appetite.

I have taken advice, and the best advice I am given is that if one did not have the word "living" in front of "person", but simply used the word "person" on its own, juridically it could be termed a company. It does not have to be a living person; it could be a company. I do not think even the greatest hypnotist would claim that he could hypnotise a company, even if some chairmen can. I hope the noble Viscount will accept that explanation and withdraw the amendment because I submit that retaining this phrase is necessary, avoids offending the finer feelings of parliamentary draftsmen and adds clarity to a small Bill which has a certain confusion endemically in its subject.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sandys has lost his voice and it falls to me to express the Government view on this amendment, which is apparently that it does not matter very much whether the word remains in the Bill or is removed. We therefore feel that if the noble Viscount wishes to insist and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull does not object too much, then the amendment could reasonably be made.

Viscount SIMON

For my part, my Lords, I should like to stick to the amendment, if the noble Earl does not object too much; but perhaps he does.

On Question, amendment agreed to.