HC Deb 02 April 1963 vol 675 cc299-301
Mr. Skeffington

I beg to move, in page 98, line 22, at end, to insert: (2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in sections 37 or 40 of this Act or the repeal of any enactment specified in the said Schedule 17, but without prejudice to the provisions of sections 81 and 84 of this Act, no such repeal as aforesaid shall affect the operation of—

  1. (a) the provisions of any local Act which are deemed to be, or have effect as if, incorporated in, or are read or construed as one with, the enactment so repealed; or
  2. (b) the enactment so repealed so far as it has effect for the purposes of any such local Act provisions as aforesaid or so far as it is applied for the purposes of, or deemed to be incorporated in, any local Act.
This is another important point which, unfortunately, we did not have time to discuss in Standing Committee. It deals with another constitutional conundrum of which we have had no indication of any solution and which, although minor compared with some of the matters which we have discussed this afternoon, is, nevertheless, of quite considerable importance, particularly where individual rights under bye-laws may be concerned.

The House will be aware that the Bill effects a large number of extensive repeals. For example, a good deal of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936 has gone, although, having shown the Government the absurdity of repealing the whole of it, we were successful in getting some Sections put back. But if we look at the repeal of certain Sections of that Act it will be found that it makes nugatory very important provisions in the London County Council (General Powers) Acts, and other local enactments.

Last year we passed the 1962 General Powers Act. Section 23 (3) of that Act refers to certain essential provisions in connection with the prevention of flooding of basements. Words in that subsection say that This part of this Act shall be construed as one with the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, and that Act shall have effect as if this section and the two next following sections were contained in Part II thereof. That part of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, has now been repealed so that the powers which existed and which were desired under the 1962 Act have no effect whatsoever.

This is the only occasion, I think—and I qualify this because it is easy to be wrong—where the Minister cannot cure the omission, defect or forgetfulness of the administration by Ministerial order, because if the local Act and the ancillary provisions on which that administration depends have been repealed then clearly no order can have any effect whatsoever. The only way in which one could bring back these powers would be to bring in fresh legislation.

I wonder whether the Government have addressed their mind to this kind of case. I have given just one example, but there must be many others. One could spend all one's time in research on this Bill, but, unfortunately, Members of Parliament have other things to do. The example I have given is a good one; some of the powers which we gave to the London County Council last year just cannot be used because the relevant Sections of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, are repealed.

The Amendment, with the usual wisdom and caution of the Opposition, is merely a holding Amendment. It seeks to hold the position in relation to local Acts until such time as the Minister can make any necessary amending order, as he has power to do under Clause 81 of the Bill. In view of the fact that we are once again coming to the rescue of the Government in the constitutional chaos which they have created, I hope that the Minister will say at once that he accepts the Amendment.

Sir K. Joseph

I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendment at once, but I recognise that there is, possibly, some substance in what the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has said. I should like to consider the point he has made, take legal advice, and do anything which is shown to be necessary later. We do not want the repeal of the 1936 Act to carry with it all sorts of other repeals without making sure of what we are doing.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has done, and I hope that, with the promise I have given, he will be prepared to withdraw his Amendment.

Mr. Skeffington

I should have been happier in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment if the Minister had said that there was almost certainly some substance in the point I made rather than that there was possibly some substance in it. I think that he was a little ungenerous to the research which has been done. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.