§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. George Benson (Chesterfield)
On a point of order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Bill is not a Consolidation Bill. I do so on the ground that it makes a major change in the law of this country. I know that there are a number of slight Amendments—"corrections and improvements" is the phrase, I think—embodied in the Bill, but when a Bill contains a very serious alteration in the law of the land I do not think it can be permitted to go through this House as a Consolidation Bill.
I would draw your attention to Clause 1 which says:All powers and jurisdiction in relation to prisons and prisoners"—that is an extremely wide phrase—which before the commencement of the Prison Act, 1877, were exercisable by any other authority shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be exercisable by the Secretary of State.That is also an extremely wide provision. At the time mentioned, 1877, there was upon the Statute Book an Act which gave power to put to death any of a particular group of prisoners who escaped from prison. It was the Act Edward I, 23, known as "De Frangentibus Prisonam." The Act was in force in 1877 and it was not repealed until 1948.
I therefore suggest, with great respect, that a Clause which gives the Home Secretary all powers and jurisdictions exercisable by any authority in 1877 reenacts in effect the statute to which I have referred, and that after such a major change in the law it is impossible for the Bill to be classed as a Consolidation Measure.
§ Mr. Speaker
The whole House is indebted to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) for his interesting historical researches. So far as the point of order is concerned, I am bound by the Consolidation Enactments (Procedure) Act, 1949, within which the Bill falls. Therefore I must rule it to be a Bill which has gone through the stages of a Joint Committee, and certification by the 2051 Lord Chancellor and Mr. Speaker as containing only minor improvements. Therefore it is, within the meaning of the Act, a Consolidation Measure, and debate must be conducted on those lines.
§ Mr. Benson
Without in any way reflecting upon you, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the Lord Chancellor has made a very bad mistake in certifying the Bill as a Consolidation Measure and that the Bill is not a Consolidation Bill because it makes a major change in the law. If the Lord Chancellor has made a mistake this House has no right to be robbed of its powers to debate a Bill which makes a radical change in the law.
§ Mr. Speaker
As most hon. Members know, there is the report of the Joint Committee which examined the Bill in detail, and there is the report of the Lord Chancellor and myself. The statute to which the hon. Member refers is of very ancient date and it sounds to me, at first blush, a very proper statute to be consolidated with other and later statutes. I must rule this a Consolidation Bill.
§ Mr. Benson
The statute to which I have referred was repealed after 1877, and prior to the introduction of the Bill.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)
The Bill consolidates a number of Acts relating to prisons and other institutions. A Joint Committee has reported that it consolidates the existing law, with such corrections and improvements as are properly authorised under the Consolidation Enactments (Procedure) Act, 1949. While I do not for a moment trespass on your Ruling, it might be proper that I should mention, in order to avoid misunderstanding, that when Clause 1 says:All powers and jurisdiction in relation to prisons and prisoners which before the commencement of the Prison Act, 1877 were exercisable by any other authority shall — be exercisable by the Secretary of State,it means all powers which are still exercised.
Therefore, if there was an Act of Parliament which was repealed in 1948, it cannot possibly be revived by this Bill. 2052 That is a simple question of legal construction of a statute, and the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) need have no fear in regard to it. The Bill is a matter of pure consolidation.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House—[Mr. Redmayne]—for Tomorrow.