HC Deb 27 February 1967 vol 742 cc2-7

Order for Second Reading read.

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

10.6 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

This is the Second Reading of a Consolidation Bill which I find extremely difficult to understand. Normally, one can learn much from the minutes of evidence, taken before the Joint Select Committee, about what the Bill intends to do, even though the evidence refers to a memorandum from the draftsmen without printing the memorandum. Perhaps in passing I might say that it would be much more helpful to those trying to understand a consolidation Bill if the minutes of evidence printed the memorandum on which the evidence is taken. Although one can normally follow the evidence without having the text of the memorandum before one, on this occasion I find it impossible to follow that evidence and to put any meaning into it and to understand whether this is the right moment at which to consolidate the law on teachers' superannuation.

I do not intend to go into the merits of anything I mention. It is of the form of consolidation that I have criticisms. I refer first to Schedule 4 to show the difficulty which is arising from consolidating the law in this respect at this moment when an Act of 1965 is not yet wholly in operation. The Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1965, repealed a number of previous enactments, but that Act comes into operation on an appointed day which has not yet been stated by regulations.

The result is that Schedule 4 of the Bill has to be drafted bearing in mind the repeals which are to be made by the 1965 Act. The words used in the third column of Schedule 4 set out a number of parts of previous Acts which are to be repealed and yet the meaning of the Schedule is that all the four Acts mentioned in the Schedule are wholly repealed. That is how I understand the evidence which was before the Joint Select Committee.

But who in future who has to read this consolidation Bill could possibly understand that the meaning of the third column of Schedule 4 is that the four Acts there mentioned are wholly removed from the Statute Book? The clue is given by the fact that for the first three the Title is repealed, but that is the only clue. If consolidation were not to take place until after the appointed day for the 1965 Act, the whole drafting of the Schedule would be simplified and would be understandable to those who will have to read it in future.

The same problem arises over Clauses 10 and 11. The minutes of evidence of the Joint Select Committee say that under Clauses 10 and 11 there are two omissions of existing law and three additions to existing law, but it is impossible to understand from the evidence what they are.

It is stated on page 2 of the evidence before the Joint Select Committee: The group of enactments which is formed by Sections 3 to 5 and Schedule 1 to the Bill does not contain two matters which were in the original group"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is on a very narrow line, as he knows. At the moment he is, I think, over it.

Mr. Page

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, we are told in the minutes of evidence that certain parts of existing law are omitted and that certain parts are added in this consolidation Measure. It is impossible to see from the minutes of evidence what is omitted and what is added.

Mr. Speaker

The question is whether these Acts should be consolidated. The hon. Gentleman was in order when arguing about time.

Mr. Page

I understand that the reason for those omissions and additions is that this consolidation Measure must deal with a period between its passage through both Houses and the Royal Assent being given to it and the appointed day under the 1965 Act which it endeavours to consolidate. It is consolidating in anticipation. Although it was given in evidence to the Select Committee that the intention was to bring the 1965 Act into operation on 1st April, we do not as yet know that that will happen, except that there is a Statutory Instrument, No. 157 of 1966, which appoints a day for the purpose of family benefits under Teachers' Superannuation Acts.

We are faced with a consolidation Measure which necessarily must be extremely complicated merely in order to cover a period between the giving of the Royal Assent to this Measure and the appointed day under some other Act which is brought into consolidation. As I understand it, after that appointed day, some of the provisions of this consolidation Measure will be spent and it will be no longer necessary for anyone to refer to them. Therefore, why not wait until the 1965 Act is brought into effect and then carry out a merger of that Act into the consolidation Measure without the complications which occur here?

May I address myself to the provisions where what I have been stating occurs? Clause 18(2) provides: This section and paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 to this Act shall come into force on the passing of this Act … That is the only part of this consolidation Measure which will come into operation when it receives the Royal Assent. The rest of the Act must wait until a day is appointed under an Act which is being consolidated in this Measure. If there could be anything more complicated than that, I cannot imagine it. Subsection (2) goes on to provide: … this Act shall come into force on the day appointed for the purposes of section 2 of the Teachers' Superannuation Act 1965 by regulations made under section 1 of that Act". Yet when we turn to Schedule 4 we find that the Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1965, is one of the Measures which is repealed. Therefore, immediately an order is made bringing the 1965 Act into operation that Act is repealed.

Provision is made elsewhere in this Measure for orders under the 1965 Act to be made so as to refer to this consolidation Measure. This, again, arises from the fact that consolidation is being made in anticipation of the repeal of the 1965 Act. But I wonder whether that is even necessary in this Measure. There is power in Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, 1889, to make Statutory Instruments and orders to prepare for an Act which is being passed coming into operation at some future date. We discussed this matter only recently on the Prices and Incomes Act. Even before an Act comes into operation orders can be made under it if it has received the Royal Assent.

In this Measure, however, provision is made for that in disregard of the Interpretation Act

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss the merits of the consolidation. He can discuss only whether we should consolidate.

Mr. Page

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker. This seems to be a consolidation in anticipation of some other Act coming into operation. It makes provision for the period between the Royal Assent to this Measure and the other Act coming into operation, which would be unnecessary if consolidation were delayed for a time. In addition, the provisions are so complicated to follow that they will only confuse the people who have to operate the Act.

10.17 a.m.

Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)

I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) will not think it discourteous if I do not take up his argument. His analytical mind is well known, and I am sure that the Solicitor-General can comment much more adequately than I can on what he said.

I wish to refer to the method of consolidation as set out, in particular, in Part III and Clauses 10 and 11. A lot of the difficulties and hard cases which arise in connection with teachers' super-annuation are not exactly straight-forward—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot discuss the merits of individual Clauses. All that we are debating is whether certain Acts should be consolidated by the Bill.

Mr. Macdonald

I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I am anxious not to step outside the rules of order. I do not wish to refer to individual cases. I should like to comment, if it be in order, on the fact that Clauses 10 and 11 do not consolidate as explicitly as they might do.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is what I was trying to advise the hon. Gentleman about. He cannot discuss that matter during this debate.

Mr. Macdonald

In that case, I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and make these comments on another occasion.

10.20 a.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Dingle Foot)

As you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, we are concerned only with a very narrow issue, namely, whether it is expedient to consolidate the Statutes referred to in Schedule 4 of the Bill. As the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) sought to raise other matters, you ruled them out of order, Mr. Speaker, and, of course, I should be out of order if I attempted to follow them.

The hon. Member for Crosby made one point which should be considered, namely, the date when this Measure comes into operation. The explanation for the provisions of Clause 18 to which he referred is to be found on the first page of the minutes of evidence, in the first column, where Mr. Graham dealt with this point and said: It might perhaps help if I explain that the Bill does not come into force until the appointed day under the 1965 Act. The position is that although the 1965 Act has quite extensive repeals, none of these repeals takes effect until the appointed day, and in order to consolidate a living body of law it is necessary to wait until these repeals have taken effect then consolidate what remains. I do not think I should add anything else to that. That explanation satisfied the Committee. In my submission it does fully explain the reason for Clause 18. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby that I do have certain sympathy with him. I also read through the minutes of evidence, and I respectfully agree that it would have been easier to understand if the things to which reference is made had been incorporated in the Report.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

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

Committee Tomorrow.