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Documents And Information Required By Overseas Courts And Authorities

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1979

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10.17 pm

Order. I shall call the Secretary of State in a moment, if hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber will do so quietly.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) moved an amendment which would have extended the Secretary of State's powers to give directions under clause 2 so as to enable him also to prohibit the giving of oral evidence in response to a requirement from an overseas court, tribunal or authority. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) supported him. I explained in reply that the Government were sympathetic to the purpose of the amendment and would consider moving an amendment to cover the point on Report. These amendments carry out that undertaking. I shall be happy to enlarge further if my hon. Friends wish me to do so.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 2, in page 2, line 32, leave out from first 'or' to end of line 33 and insert

'to furnish any commercial information to any such court, tribunal or authority;'.—[Mr. Nott.]

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 3, line 9 leave out from 'country' to 'or' in line 10.

In Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) moved an amendment in similar terms to this. His intention was that the Secre- tary of State would be precluded by virtue of clause 2(3)(a) from issuing a direction only where either criminal or civil proceedings had actually been instituted in an overseas country. He argued that clause 2(3) went too far by restricting the Secretary of State's ability to issue a direction where civil proceedings were merely contemplated in the overseas country from which the requirement for information originated. This is the "fishing expedition" situation.

Having reconsidered the question, I agree that my hon. Friend was right, and it is for that reason that the Government have tabled this amendment. I can enlarge further if my hon. Friend wishes me to do so.

One of the merits of reporting back to the House is that sometimes one hears that the Government have done what one sought to get them to do in Committee. I am glad that my right hon. Friend listened to the proceedings in Committee and has reported to the House as he has.

Amendment agreed to.