That is what they are afraid of. For a few minutes I want to deal with the long list of sections a contravention of which will be an offence when this Bill becomes law. The list is a good deal longer than it was, and rightly so, because in the original state of the Bill sections and not subsections were referred to and some mandatory duties imposed on registrars and on the Minister himself, which were capable of being neglected in contravention of the section, theoretically would have exposed the Minister or registrar to prosecution, which obviously was not intended. That aspect of this section has been improved. On the other hand, this is still a drafting disaster and I will briefly explain to the House why this is so.
In section 14 (1) a duty is laid on officers, members, agents, or servants of a society, the affairs of which are being investigated under section 13, to produce to the inspector all books, accounts, deeds, records or other documents and so on. Obviously, that is a mandatory requirement. Yet in section 28, which we are now amending, there seems to be no reference to the offence of failure to produce. There is reference, on the other hand, to a failure to supply. I know that the same thing is meant but we are talking about a situation in which a counsel or solicitor defending a society or officer on indictment or on a summary charge would be looking closely at such matters. The draftsman should have made sure that the words in the section which lays the duty and the words in the section which imposes the penalty and which constitutes the offence are the same. This is a sloppy way of doing this job. I can see quite clearly what is intended but it should not be necessary to have to interpret it in this way.
The same section, 14 (1), requires the officer to give the inspector all assistance. This presumably includes answering questions; that must be the principal component of the idea of giving assistance. Yet this component is particularly singled out in the second subsection and is there declared to be an offence under section 28. Are we to take it that other forms of refusal to give assistance besides refusing to answer questions or to produce documents, if there can be other forms, will not be penalised? They seem to me to fall outside the provision of subsection (2) and equally they seem to fall outside the provision of section 28.
Exactly the same kind of thing could be said about section 23. Again the word "produce" is used instead of the word "supply". Finally, section 35 (2) makes it an offence punishable on summary conviction to a fine of £500 or less to fail to comply with the provisions of section 35 (1). Why is this offence separately listed? It seems to be the only one in this Bill, which contains a lot of potential offences, in which a separate subsection is included with a separate penalty provided.
These are points which suggest that this drafting is still untidy. While we will not oppose the section and we acknowledge that an effort has been made, we feel that a much better effort could have been made.