HC Deb 21 April 1948 vol 449 cc1896-8
Mr. Peake

I beg to move, in page 63, line 22, to leave out Subsection (2).

The Subsection provides that: (2) The provisions of the said Tenth Schedule may be supplemented in relation to any Act passed before this Act by an order made by the Secretary of State in any particular case where that appears to him necessary for harmonising that Act with this Act. This Clause is reminiscent of a former Clause which used to be known as the King Henry VIII Clause, which gave power by order to adapt Acts of Parliament to make them fit in with particular circumstances. If we look at the Tenth Schedule, we see that it refers to matters of considerable importance. It deals with the adaptation and interpretation of enactments, and Part I contains general provisions for the adaptation and the interpretation of law. Part II deals with specific adaptations. Presumably the right hon. Gentleman anticipates, quite apart from these adaptations and interpretations of law, that it may be necessary for him to make some additional adaptations of law, and therefore he wants to take power by order to make such additions to the Tenth Schedule to harmonise the present Measure with any Act which Parliament has passed in the past. That, on the face of it, looks like rather a wide power to take and one which requires some explanation.

Mr. Ede

May I say that this Amendment has nothing to do with his late lamented Majesty King Henry VIII? We have searched the Statutes thoroughly, and, so far as public general Acts are concerned, we believe that we have managed to include in the Tenth Schedule all the adaptations that may be necessary. As was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland when a not dissimilar point was raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid), there are in different parts of the country special Acts relating to elections and similar things in particular cities and boroughs, and we would not like to say that we can be certain that we have covered all the points, although we have done our best. We have, therefore, asked that this Subsection be included.

I would point out to the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) that this Subsection has precedents to justify it. It was included in paragraph 7 of the Sixth Schedule to the 1918 Act, and, coming to even more modern times, in paragraph 8 of the Third Schedule (Adaptation of Enactments) of the Parliament (Elections and Meeting) Act, 1943, which I think the right hon. Gentleman had some responsibility in commending to the House, a similar Clause was included, and paragraph 5 of Part II of the Fourth Schedule to the Representation of the People Act, 1945, with which again the right hon. Gentleman had some close association, made a similar provision.

Mr. Peake

If I may interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, there was not, of course, such a vigilant Opposition in those days.

Mr. Ede

There was no Opposition at all. I shared with the right hon. Gentleman in a very minor capacity the responsibilities of government in those days, and he should not flatter himself that his lapses would not have been noted even on his own side of the House if they had, in fact, occurred. I suggest that these precedents and the needs of the moment are sufficient to justify the inclusion of this Subsection in the Bill. It would be lamentable if we found that some city or borough in the country had some special provision relating to its elections which we did not happen to have picked up in this Bill, and we thereby caused confusion in the conduct of the elections.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman is as persuasive as usual, but he has not satisfied me of the need for this Subsection as it stands. The right hon. Gentleman said he was satisfied that there was no conflict between previous public Acts and this Bill, and he was apparently concerned with private Acts. Is there any reason why this Subsection should not be drafted to refer only to private Acts? The right hon. Gentleman is taking power to alter public Acts, but he has told the Committee that he is satisfied that there is no need for that power, and it seems strange, therefore, to take it. In principle, it is a thoroughly bad thing to take power by order to alter public Acts of Parliament unless some real necessity is shown, and the Secretary of State has said that there is no such necessity. I should be grateful if this Subsection could be modified to give him power in this way to deal only with private Acts.

Mr. Peake

Before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the suggestion made by my hon. Friend. In the hope that he will reconsider the matter between now and the Report stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 63, line 35, to leave out Subsection (5), and to insert: (5) The enactments mentioned in the Schedule (Obsolete enactments) to this Act shall cease to have effect to the extent specified in the third column of that Schedule. This Amendment is for the purpose of transferring to a new Schedule a list of obsolete enactments to be repealed. The list of these obsolete enactments which come to light is increasing, and hon. Members will see on page 2321 of the Order Paper a proposed new Schedule giving a much more extensive list than the list proposed in Subsection 5 of Clause 68 as introduced. There are a great many very ancient and largely disused provisions affecting the law, and I think it would be more convenient now to write this list into a Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 69 and 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.