Orders of the Day — Schedule 4

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th March 1972.

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PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF OFFENCES

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

I beg to move a manuscript Amendment, in page 159, line 21, column 3, insert "Summarily".

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. It has been known for some time that the Bill would be considered in Committee. We hear now for the first time of a manuscript Amendment. No hon. Member has a copy of that Amendment, and it is unfair for the Solicitor-General at the last moment to put down a manuscript Amendment.

The Second Deputy Chairman:

I think the hon. Member will be satisfied when he has heard the nature of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

I appreciate the ever alert concern of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) for parliamentarians being given notice of Amendments. On the other hand, he has an equally alert concern for the accuracy of the Statute Book.

The hon. Member will see that Schedule 4 is a convenient table which was welcomed by the Joint Consolidation Committee and which sets out the mode of prosecution, type of punishment and so on for each offence. Through inadvertence either in printing or draftsmanship the word "Summarily" has been left out of column 3 on page 159, and it is to move the insertion of that word that I now rise.

I hope the hon. Member will forgive me and anyone else who may be responsible for the over-meticulous sense of accuracy with which we move to correct the omission of that one word. I hope he may feel that the fact that the omission came to light only during the weekend can be counted in my favour, and that I shall be regarded as a man of virtue rather than a man of vice in having the courage at this eleventh hour to rectify the omission.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Far be it from me to think the Solicitor-General guilty of any vice. I pay tribute to him for being meticulous. Knowing how meticulous he was with the Industrial Relations Act I can well understand how much he is on his toes. I am sorry he discovered the omission only at the eleventh hour. This does not alter the fact that the Bill has been before us for some months. I should have preferred the hon. and learned Gentleman to have made the discovery some weeks ago.

Although it is only a small Amendment, we could then have had proper notice of it, which would have given me the opportunity to pay him an even more fulsome tribute than that one I am paying him now. Had he not had to explain that he discovered the omission only at the eleventh hour, I would have said that not only is he not guilty of any vice but he is more diligent than anyone else.

In paying the hon. and learned Gentleman this tribute, I express the hope that in future these errors, whether they be printers', draftsmen's or his own Department's, will be discovered rather earlier so that we have proper notice of intention to make an alteration, in which case I could prepare myself to make a long, handsome speech of congratulations to him. It would certainly be more convenient to the Committee if these things were discovered earlier.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) that it is as well that this Amendment should be made. While it would have been for the convenience of the Committee to be given notice of the Amendment, in a statute of this complexity it is understandable that mistakes are sometimes made. I am sure that the Amendment is right because, if I read the text of the Bill correctly, by leaving a blank under the heading "Mode of Prosecution", it could have been assumed that there would not be a prosecution at all. My hon. Friend is very diligent and alert in bringing forward instances where the present law is not being enforced, and I am sure that he would not wish there to be any suggestion in any instance that no action could be taken.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules 5 to 10 agreed to.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with an Amendment.