HC Deb 22 July 1960 vol 627 cc1032-4

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

4.2 p.m.

Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I rise to say a few words about the Bill, which I strongly support, and which, I understand, has no opposition. The House will appreciate how necessary it is to have Bills of this nature when it considers this one's provisions. I draw the attention of the House to Section 67 of the Post Office Act—which it is proposed to repeal in this Bill—which provides that If any hawker, newsvendor, or idle or disorderly person stops or loiters on the flagway or pavement opposite the General Post Office in London"— whatever that may mean— … or in any part thereof, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds. In other words, it means that around the vast number of buildings which at present exist as the General Post Office, nobody is allowed to loiter, or walk about. Indeed, the person who sells newspapers outside these buildings—I think that it is a lady—has for many years been liable to fines of £5.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that on Second Reading rules require him to deal with general principles and not with matters of detail.

Mr. Janner

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but talking from the general point of view, I point out that a restriction like that on a vast body of buildings obviously creates a silly—perhaps I should say a nonsensical—position. Such a law, cannot of course, be—and has not been in this instance—carried out. Thus the repeal of Section 67 of the Post Office Act means that any good lady selling newspapers opposite the buildings of that description will no longer be liable to a fine of £5 for each offence.

I should now like to draw the attention of the House to the Treason Act, 1790, of which one Section conferred a great boon on a lady who had committed treason in that she could be hanged instead of being burned. That Section is now being repealed. It said that even though she was to be hanged instead of burned, she was still liable to the serious consequence that her heirs and succesors would become liable to various penalties under the Corruption of Blood Act, 1840. Infliction of corruption of the blood was defined as—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There must be some limit to this process, in the general interest. What the hon. Member is saying does not relate to general principles. It may be unfortunate for this lady to whom dreadful things are to happen, but in connection with the general principles of the Bill she is a detail.

Mr. Janner

The lady may be a detail, but the fact that a number of ladies were freed from the possibility of being burned and can be hanged instead is of some interest. It is also of interest to note that the corruption of blood, which is no longer to be a penalty and which was imposed, strangely enough, by an Act which, although it has never been repealed has been considerably modified by a later Act, which says that there is no corruption of blood in that sense—

Mr. Speaker

I am unable to follow the logic which the hon. Member is pursuing. By this process we are not repealing, but revising and perhaps continuing.

Mr. Janner

With the greatest respect, we are repealing a Section of an Act—Section 4 of the Treason Act, 1790, and the Corruption of Blood Act, 1814.

Mr. Speaker

I suspect that in connection with the general principles of the Bill they are matters of detail and that the hon. Member is dealing with individual consequences in individual cases.

Mr. Janner

I am doing my best to keep within the rules of order as you understand them, Mr. Speaker, and I would be very loath not to do so. I am trying to point out, by illustrations of one repeal, that there are matters in the Bill which are of considerable interest to us all, and I am saying how wise it is that a committee should exist to revise Statutes and bring them up to date when they are absurd and when they should have been repealed long ago. It is in that spirit that I rise strongly to support the Bill and to hope that in future we shall not have similar Acts on the Statute Book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bryan.]

Committee upon Monday next.