§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER)
I beg to move that this Bill be recommitted in respect of the following clause—"The expenses of the prosecution of a misdemeanour under this Act shall be defrayed in like manner as in the case of a felony."
§ Motion put and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ New clause proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
I do not think that that is necessary. The Amendments were on the Paper a considerable time, and no other Amendments were moved; therefore I do not think it necessary to reprint the Bill, which has been very little altered.
§ MR. M'LAREN
I do not wish to unduly delay the progress of the Bill, but I wanted to ask how it is that there is no record of the Amendments which were carried, in the Votes and Proceedings issued on the day after the Bill 33 passed through Committee. I know, as a matter of fact, some of the Amendments that were carried, but in the Votes and Proceedings there is simply a statement that the Official Secrets Bill passed through Committee with certain Amendments, or words to that effect, and no record is to be obtained as to what Amendments were carried. I therefore think it is desirable that the Bill should be reprinted.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
The Bill on the Table shows all the Amendments, and that can be seen by any hon. Member who desires to do so. No Amendments were carried except those standing in my name, and one which I accepted from the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I should like to make an appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury on this question, in order to ensure that this proceeding should not be drawn into a precedent. We had a little friction last Session with reference to the reprinting of Bills. The general rule of the House has been that if Bills were amended in Committee, they should be reprinted before they were read a third time. Now, I think it should not be left to the discretion of any individual official of this House to say whether or not the Bill should be reprinted. We know that when no Amendment is made in a Bill the House generally assents to the Third Reading immediately. I quite accept the statement of the Attorney General that the Amendments made are unimportant in this case, but I think the broad general principle that when a Bill is altered in Committee it must be reprinted before it is read a third time, should be followed out in all cases.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I have noticed that extreme inconvenience occasionally arises from the impossibility of knowing what is done in Committee during the late hours of the night, and I think, perhaps, the difficulty as to reprinting Bills might to a great extent be avoided if the Votes and Proceedings were a little more full, and if they gave textually all important Amendments introduced into a Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
May I point out that every hon. Member has a right to look at the Bill on the Table and see what Amendments have been introduced. I will consider if it is desirable 34 to make any change in the practice of the House with regard to the reprinting of Bills; but I would point out that hitherto it has not been the practice of the House to reprint the smaller Bills.
I think the right hon. Gentleman might consent to have this Bill reprinted. The Attorney General has been extremely fortunate in his opportunities of pressing it forward, but it is noteworthy that it has been twice necessary to re-commit the measure for the purpose of inserting Amendments proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. He tells us that they are not important Amendments, but it strikes me that at any rate one Amendment is calculated to make the Bill more stringent and more dangerous than it was, and I should not be surprised to find that my hon. Friend opposite who gets so many secrets from contractors may be called upon, under the amended clause, to do two years with hard labour for an infringement of one of its provisions. I will not now pretend to criticize the Amendment which was introduced at a time when I was absent, and when also the hon. Member for Crewe was absent.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
We will consent to reprint the Bill and save the expenditure of any further time in discussing this point.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended to be considered upon Thursday, and to be printed. [Bill 274.]