Lords Amendment: In page 6, line 3, at the end, to insert:
(8) Where it appears to a government inspector for the purposes of the principal Act that an offence has been committed in respect of which proceedings might be taken under this section against the occupier of a factory and the inspector is reasonably satisfied that the offence of which complaint is made was due to an act or default of some other person and that the said occupier could establish a defence under subsection (6) of this section, he may cause proceedings to be taken against that other person without first causing proceedings to be taken against the said occupier.
In any such proceedings the defendant may be charged with and, on proof that the contravention was due to his act or default, be convicted of, the offence with which the said occupier might have been charged.
I beg to move, "That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
This Amendment substantially alters the existing Clause and, in my view, gives a more just rendering of the powers of the Home Secretary than existed in the Bill as originally drafted. I think that point was raised by the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) on Third Reading. It placed upon the occupier of a factory the responsibility of bringing before the courts a person who might be considered before proceedings were taken to be responsible for the fireworks being rendered dangerous to the public. It was left to the occupier to have the responsibility of bringing such a person before the courts.
This Amendment places the responsibility on the Home Office for bringing before the courts a person who may be considered blameworthy for breach of the Section, other than the occupier or manufacturer. For that reason, I think that the Amendment is a more just rendering of the purpose of the Clause.
Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett:
I beg to second the Motion.
Here again, we have by the exclusion of the actual manufacturer who may not be responsible for the prosecution of a scoundrel made the situation a little more comfortable for the reputable manufacturer who, in fact, at no time is likely to be to blame. I think that the Amendment fits in with the course of events which have taken place so consistently in this Bill.
Initially the Bill was entirely concerned with the prevention of the circulation of dangerous fireworks, and had as its primary idea the protection of the public, possibly somewhat at the expense of the manufacturer who we presume not guilty until found so. During the course of the Bill, Amendments have been produced in another place and here, and the consistent course has been to protect to a reasonable extent the manufacturer until he is found to be guilty.
This is an Amendment the need for which was first drawn to our attention by the noble Lord the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). As the Clause stood, when it made the manufacturer absolutely responsible for any breach of the Clause, but provided that if someone else was to blame or he thought someone else was to blame, the manufacturer could have that person brought before the court and convicted in his stead. That seemed to be getting back almost to the whipping boy idea, that when one is accused of something one can say, "Please do not beat me; I will find someone else whom you can beat." That does not seem to be the right sort of procedure. There may be cases from which it is clear, even before the proceedings are brought, that someone other than the manufacturer is the person really responsible and should be accused of a breach of the Section.
The subsection which it is proposed to insert makes it possible to prosecute such a person without first having to prosecute the manufacturer. If, however, the manufacturer is guilty, or there is a case against him, this does not prevent him from being charged in the first instance, but it relieves him of being prosecuted merely to secure that someone else who is really the guilty party should be capable of being prosecuted.