HC Deb 25 January 1955 vol 536 cc110-1

Order for Second Reading read.

7.43 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Measure is an inevitable consequence of the two Bills which we have already discussed today. Again, I find myself in the position of being the sponsor of a Bill the terms of which follow from the Select Committee's work. The Committee was agreed on its necessity and I think that the House will agree that it is an inevitable result of the other two Measures.

For the benefit of those hon. Members who were not on the Committee I will state briefly what the Bill does. First, it continues the existing Acts until the day when the new Bills become law. That is obviously essential to cover the interim period. Secondly, it provides the necessary transitional provisions and savings to ensure that actions started under the existing Acts can continue over the period until the new legislation comes into effect. Anything like courts-martial or any legal procedures of that kind started just before the introduction of the new Bill will be able to continue over the period so that they shall not become invalid. This is a normal legal method of ensuring that various matters of law and courts-martial shall not be invalidated.

Thirdly, the Bill contains the consequential Amendments which spring from the Army Bill and the Air Force Bill and which will require the amendment of other Acts such as the Reserve Acts the Auxiliary Forces Act, and so on.

Lastly, at the time when the new Bills become law this Measure will repeal the various Acts introduced to amend the existing Army and Air Force Acts. If they were left alone we should have a legal nonsense whereby there were Acts in existence to repeal certain aspects of Acts which have been abolished. That sounds rather complicated, but it is obvious that it would be hopeless to have in existence an Act repealing an Act which no longer existed.

This is, in effect, a tidying-up Bill which takes precautionary measures to ensure that what I might call no legal nonsense occurs at a time of transition from the existing law to the new law. Its necessity is agreed and I think its terms speak for themselves. I commend the Measure to the House.

7.47 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he is very grateful that we have not asked him to explain some of the provisions of the Bill. Although I used to belong to the legal profession and am accustomed to dealing with Bills I found some of the provisions rather difficult to comprehend. Certainly, they require reference to other Acts of Parliament and I do not think that either the Secretary of State or myself would be glad to have to get down to that kind of detail now.

As the right hon. Gentleman indicated, there would be a chaotic situation if we sought to repeal the existing Army Act and to replace it by the new Army Bill without introducing a third Bill to cover the interregnum. There is provision for the repeal of other legislation such as the Royal Marines Act of 1847, and it is obvious that from a procedural point of view we should accept the Bill. On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill according read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Redmayne.]

Committee Tomorrow.