Skip to main content

Applications (Procedure)

Volume 149: debated on Friday 16 December 1921

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will inquire into the great dissatisfaction that exists with regard to the procedure being adopted before the Committee appointed by him to consider applications under Part II of the Safeguarding of Industries Act; whether he is aware that evidence is not given under oath, and that therefore no penalty can be imposed for wilful false evidence; that cross-examination of witnesses is not permitted to objectors to the granting of applications; and that, in view of the fact that particulars of the evidence in support of an application are not furnished to objectors before the hear- ing by the Committee, no sufficient opportunity is provided for producing rebutting evidence?

The Safeguarding of Industries Act confers no powers on Committees to take evidence on oath. The Statutory Rules of Procedure, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member, provide that no witness shall be examined or cross-examined except by the members of the Committee. This limitation, which was decided on by the Board of Trade after full consideration, applies of course to all witnesses, whether they appear in support of or in opposition to an application. With regard to the last part of the question, this is a matter within the discretion of the Committees themselves. I have no doubt that they will afford all proper facilities to witnesses to enable them to present their cases.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in practice the truth is disregarded and there is no remedy?

I should be sorry to assent to the proposition of the hon. Member. I have no reason to believe that people tell lies when they come as witnesses before these Committees, and, having regard to the class of men chosen to serve on these Committees, I imagine that they are quite capable of distinguishing between the truth and fiction.

How can evidence be tested if the right of cross-examination is not given?

Of course, the word "tested" needs definition, but I think the procedure is quite sufficient for the purpose.