§ Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ Order for Third Reading read.9.53 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. John M. Taylor)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
For the third time tonight I should like to express our gratitude to the Law Commission for its contribution to law reform and to all those who have helped the smooth passage of the Bill.
The Bill abolishes the rule against the admissibility of hearsay evidence in civil proceedings in England and Wales. It will make the law easier to understand and to apply. I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)
We join the Minister in thanking the Law Commission. However, the best way to demonstrate our thanks to that august body would be to complete in its entirety the programme of work that it proposed, which we have considered during the present Session. I very much hope that we shall do that before the end of the Session.
If we do so, the Minister's words may have a slightly less hollow ring than they currently have—not as a result, I must add, of anything that he has said or done. If only the actions of some other hon. Members who are sitting behind him were not such as to give his words the rather hollow echo that they have tonight.
202 I do not refer to the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), who is sitting behind the Minister, but, as is often the case, to those faceless, nameless ones whose visage and name feature only too clearly in the minds, not least the silent ones who sit on the Treasury Bench. We know who they are, and we will have no hesitation in naming them in the fulness of time. Now is not the time to do that; now is the time to wish the measure well. It is long overdue.
We welcome the review of the hearsay rules as they affect civil evidence. A similar review is necessary in relation to the way in which they affect criminal evidence, and we look forward to the time when that task has been completed and we are able to take through the House measures aimed in that direction. The court should be concerned primarily with being a forum in which the truth is able to speak for itself. The abolition of the hearsay rule in relation to civil evidence makes that more likely to be the case than it was hitherto.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.