HC Deb 29 July 1946 vol 426 cc512-3
45. Sir W. Darling

asked the Prime Minister if he will propose the appointment of a Select Committee of this House with the intention of devising means whereby Bills and Orders may be so prepared that their intention is expressed in simpler language.

Mr. H. Morrison

I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. Those responsible for the drafting of Bills and Orders are well aware of the necessity for expressing their intention in the simplest language that the subject matter permits, but the draftsman's duty to make himself as readily intelligible as possible must always be related to the important duty of making sure that what he writes cannot be misconstrued by the ingenuity of those who may wish to take advantage of any loophole. In short, the draftsman has a double duty—to be understood and also not to be misunderstood.

Sir C. MacAndrew

Why, therefore, do the draftsmen put an Explanatory Note, in simple language which can be understood, while the main body of the Order is unintelligible?

Mr. Morrison

The Explanatory Note was put in at the urgent request of the House in order to oblige hon. Members.

Sir C. MacAndrew

Why cannot it be embodied in the main Order?

Mr. Morrison

Because the language has to be interpreted in the courts, and argued by counsel on both sides. It must stand legal construction, in the light of legal experience.

Sir W. Darling

Why is it more important that Bills should be intelligible to courts than to people?

Mr. Morrison

Both are equally necessary, but as the courts have to make decisions, that aspect of the matter is equally important, as I should have thought the hon. Member would understand, from his experience of public administration.

Sir W. Smithers

Cannot it become the general practice for all Bills and Orders to have attached to them a Memorandum which will be comprehended by the ordinary citizen?

Mr. Morrison

Indeed, with regard to Orders, that is what we have done. We must be careful how far we go about Explanatory Notes, or the courts will object that the Executive are trying to interpret the law. which is the business of the courts.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the courts would have no objection at all if Ministers said "scarce" instead of "in short supply"?

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