HC Deb 02 July 1965 vol 715 cc1066-71

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I beg to move, in page 3, line 36, to leave out Clause 8.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

I suggest that the following Amendment should be discussed with this one, in page 3, leave out lines 44 and 45.

Mr. Bell

As you indicated, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it would be convenient to take the two Amendments together, because the second is an alternative to leaving out the whole Clause.

This Clause confers on Her Majesty in Council power to alter provisions of the law where there might be a conflict between them and the Convention or between them and any other Convention. It appears to me—and that is why I move the Amendment—that this is an extremely wide power to confer on Her Majesty in Council, even though the order is subject to the negative procedure in each House of Parliament.

We are getting into what I think is the rather bad habit, more especially in Private Bills than in Public Bills, of conferring on somebody, often a Minister—in this case it is by Order in Council—power to make any amendment of the law whatever to correct what appears to be a contradiction between a Measure which is going through the House and any previously existing law.

This provision extends it a bit further, because it allows an Order in Council to be made to resolve any conflict between this Convention and any other Convention which has been signed by Her Majesty, which seems to be an extraordinarily wide power to confer, and also any enactment of the Parliament of the United Kingdom giving effect to such Conventions.

The Amendment, to leave out Clause 8, would delete those powers. The next Amendment, which is an alternative, would leave the power by Order in Council to resolve any conflict between this Convention and any other Convention but would not give power by Order in Council to remove any supposed conflict between this Convention and any Act of Parliament.

I appreciate that it is a bit late in the day, but at least the Bill is on its way to another place. Unlike some, it has not been brought from the Lords. Things can be done in the Lords which perhaps cannot be done here at this late stage of private Members' time. I hope that my hon. Friend can meet me on this issue, if he cannot accept either Amendment. Clearly, at this hour I will not press the Amendment, which might have the effect of losing his Bill. Having brought one of these Bills through the House myself I would not dream of doing that. I hope that my hon. Friend will feel disposed to giving me an assurance that this matter will be considered by those responsible for the Bill in another place.

Mr. McLaren

The purpose of the Clause is to apprehend that there might be a marginal conflict between this Geneva Convention, which is the subject of the Bill, and the Guadalajara Convention on the carriage of goods by air, which has been enacted into the statute law of this country by the Carriage by Air (Supplementary Provisions) Act, 1962.

The conflict occurs because the limits of liability by road hauliers who send goods in vehicles which might be transported by air would be different from those which would be carried by air in the ordinary way. This is a very rare case which might never arise and I suggest that it would be reasonable to provide for the contingency in the way the Clause provides for it. After all, the only alternative would be to pass legislation in Parliament if the conflict were to arise, and I think it is very likely it will never arise. But, having made his constitutional point so clearly, I hope that my hon. Friend will not be minded to press it. I am perfectly prepared to say that what he says will be considered, without wishing to give any assurance in the matter.

Mr. Swingler

There is a minor conflict between the Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Road and the Guadalajara Convention which carried out supplementary provisions on the carriage of goods by air, because of the difference in the limits of liability. Other conflicts between these conventions may be discovered, but the Clause is strictly limited to removing such conflicts. It cannot be used any more widely than that. It is right that the Clause should remain in the Bill so that such minor conflicts can be removed without having to pass another Bill through Parliament.

Mr. Bell

This is not a unique Clause, because it is appearing in one form or another in a good many Bills these days. I thought it desirable to voice this protest about it, because it is becoming something of a bad habit, and I am not sure I am altogetherhappy about leaving it to Orders in Council to deal with conflicts between statutes which may subsequently be noticed.

I do not think that it is a good principle, and I still regret that it should find its place in the Bill. I understand the difficulty of my hon. Friend in giving me a firm assurance at this stage. Nevertheless, I take it he has given me an assurance that those in charge of the Bill in another place will take into account what I have said and consider whether it is desirable to move an Amendment of this kind which will not destroy the Bill as a vehicle for carrying into effect the international convention.

On that understanding, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I beg to move, in page 4, line 4, to leave out subsection (2) and to insert: (2) Any such Order shall not enter into force until a copy thereof has been laid in draft before Parliament and approved by resolutions of both Houses. The effect of this Amendment is to substitute the affirmative Resolution procedure for the negative one. Very largely, it is consequent upon what I have been saying about the merit and effect of a Clause of this character. If we are to have Amendments to the law made by Order in Council, then Amendments in statute law made by Order in Council to clear up difficulties that have arisen, and which are not noticed when the Bill is introduced, ought to be done by laying the Order in draft form before each House for it to be affirmatively voted upon, rather than have changes made by Statutory Instrument.

Mr. McLaren

We are concerned, as my hon. Friend says, purely with the question whether we should adopt the affirmative or the negative Resolution procedure. As with the last Amendment, the subject matter is concerned with marginal conflicts on points of detail in cases which may never happen. My own view is that it would be sufficient to have the negative procedure and for hon. Members, if they wished, to put down a Prayer in the usual way as happens in so many of our important subject matters.

I am sure that the Patronage Secretary will agree that the whole trend of our modern procedure is against having to clog our parliamentary machine with too many affirmative Orders that have to be taken after 10 p.m.—of course that is often unpopular with hon. Members on both sides of the House. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment.

Mr. Bell

I appear to be in a very accommodating mood this afternoon, but I hasten to say that it is only because it is now five minutes to four o'clock on the last day of private Members' time, and I should not like to see my hon. Friend's Bill come to a sticky end. For that sole reason, and not because I am convinced, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified]

3.56 p.m.

Mr. McLaren

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

As I am conscious of the clock, Mr. Speaker, I will merely say that the Bill gives statutory effect to the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, which was signed in Geneva in 1956. The text of the Convention is contained in the Schedule, and the first Clause enacts it into our domestic law. We took part in the preparation of the Convention, and several European countries are already parties to it. It came into force in 1961.

It was announced by the Government of the day in 1963 that the United Kingdom would accede to the Convention when the legislative apportunity arise. That opportunity has come, I hope, today. It will be helpful for us to be parties to the Convention because we shall have the opportunity of being more influential in the future policy of the Committee that meets from time to time.

3.57 p.m.

Mr. Swingler

I congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) on piloting the Bill through the House. The Government very much welcome its passage. The Bill ratifies a Convention which was made in 1956, which came into force in 1961, and to which nine European countries have already adhered. It is something we feel to be in the interests of transport and road carriers generally.

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) on bringing the Bill through to this stage. As emerged earlier, I had exactly the same experience as he some time ago, except that on that occasion the Bill concerned the carriage of goods by air. I also had something of a tightrope to walk on Report, but I remember getting the Bill through at about one minute to four o'clock.

I should not like my hon. Friend to get his Bill through before that time, as he would then do better than I did, but I am sure that, after this stage, he will find his subsequent course in another place much smoother and less beset with the perils that one can find here.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.