HC Deb 14 March 1947 vol 434 cc1714-7

It and so far as the provisions of any law made by the legislature of Newfoundland or Southern Rhodesia for the purpose of giving effect to the Chicago Convention, any Annex thereto, or an amendment of the Convention or any Annex thereto, or for any other purposes similar to any of the purposes of the Air Navigation Acts, 1920 and 1936, or of this Act purport to have extra-territorial operation in relation to aircraft registered in Newfoundland or Southern Rhodesia, as the case may be, the said provisions shall be deemed to have such operation.—[The Solicitor-General.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause is to make it certain that the Legislatures of Newfoundland and Southern Rhodesia have the necessary powers to implement the requirement placed upon them by Section 12 of the Chicago Convention. In effect, that requirement is that they should see that their own operators, that is to say, operators of registered aircraft in their own territories, comply with the law of countries other than their own territories when operating in those countries. There is some doubt, particularly having regard to the wording of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, as to whether, at the moment, they would have power to give extra-territorial effect, as necessary, to their own enactments. This Clause seeks to remove that doubt. It deals with Sections 3 and 10 of the Statute of Westminster. I will not trouble Members with the details and intricacies of those Sections, but I hope the Committee will agree that the Clause does what is required.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sure that the Committee would like me to say how glad we are to see a Law Officer of the Government present today. It is very unusual. At Standing Committees, and on other occasions, we have searched anxiously for a Law Officer, and I now congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman for turning up to give us the benefit of his advice. I would like to ask two questions. First, did Lord Swinton, at Chicago, act on behalf of both the United Kingdom and the Governments of Newfoundland and Southern Rhodesia, or did they have separate representatives there, and, if so, were all the decisions which we agreed to agreed by their representatives? Second, is there any precedent for this action? Has any other Bill, since the Statute of Westminster, included a Clause of this kind, or are we now breaking new ground in the same way as the Parliamentary Secretary rather broke new ground, I am sorry to say, a few days ago?

The Solicitor-General

The answer to the question about Lord Swinton is, "Yes." The answer to the question as to whether this is a precedent in point of drafting and structure is "No." If hon. Members will look at Section 3 of the Statute of Westminster they will find that that is in almost exactly the same terms. There is also another precedent in one of the pre-war 1939 Acts.

Mr. C. Williams

I, too, think that we are fortunate to have the Solicitor-General here today. But I wonder why this Clause was not put in when this Bill was first drafted? It refers to Newfoundland and Southern Rhodesia, and I should like to be sure that we shall not be called' upon to pass an amending Act before long for the purpose of including some other Dominion or Colony. It would be unfortunate if we passed this Bill today without that assurance. If research has not been made into this point, perhaps it would be possible for the Government to look at it between now and the Report stage. It having been admitted by the Government that the Bill was not drafted correctly in the beginning, we should now have an assurance that the position of other Dominions and Colonies will be looked into, so that on this vitally important matter we may be re-assured.

The Solicitor-General

It was not thought, when the Bill was first drafted, that there was real doubt about this point, but after it had been in draft the question was raised by representatives of the Dominions themselves, as to whether, on a certain reading of it, doubt might not arise. The new Clause is introduced ex majore cautela as a matter of extra precaution, to make certain that there is no doubt, and to answer the points that were made by the Dominions as to the possible effect of the Bill as it stood. As regards the hon. Member's second point, while one can never foresee what may arise later, I can assure him that it has been carefully considered. He will know, of course, that Newfoundland is in a special position. It was a Dominion under the Statute of Westminster, 1931, and was then placed in a special position by the Newfoundland Act of 1933. Southern Rhodesia, as the hon. Gentleman also knows, is a self-governing Colony, and as these two territories were thought to stand in a separate category it was thought necessary to deal with them apart. So far as we can see, the question cannot possibly rise again in respect of other Dominions.

Mr. Williams

It would be awkward if, during the transition in India, this matter arose there, or if Burma or Ceylon were involved. However, I thank the Solicitor-General for his assurance.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.