HC Deb 24 January 1967 vol 739 cc1341-3
Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I beg to move Amendment No. 135, in page 31, line 44, at the end to insert: 'and the provisions of the Recorded Delivery Service Act, 1962 shall apply to this Act as if the said section 56 as hereby revived had remained continuously in force from 24th November, 1949'. I make no excuse for moving this apparently innocent and, one might almost say, trivial Amendment because, when the matter was raised in Committee, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Power said, in answering a point put by me: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point which has created a great deal of discussion within the steel industry and among many people for some time past, and it is a very valid point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th December, 1966; C. 2342.] The point, quite simply, is that the Recorded Delivery Service Act was passed after the 1949 Iron and Steel Act, substantial portions of which are revived by the Bill, had been declared to cease to have effect. Section 1(1,a) of the 1953 Act says: The Iron and Steel Act, 1949, shall cease to have effect… The Recorded Delivery Service Act provided that it should apply only to Acts passed before 1962, and the question therefore arises—and this is a legal point of some nicety—whether the 1949 Act has remained in force despite what was said in the 1953 Iron and Steel Act, or whether the provisions in the Keeling Schedule 4 to the Bill represent new legislation. If they do represent new legislation, then the Recorded Delivery Service Act cannot apply to them and the words in the Amendment are necessary if this method of serving notices is to be applied. If the words of the Act are, as a matter of law, taken to have remained in force ever since 1949, the Recorded Delivery Service Act will automatically apply.

This, therefore, is a peg on which one can hang the broad question: does the 1949 Act, these musty old bones, which my hon. Friend the Member for Peyton —[Laughter.]—I am sorry—

Mr. Peyton

I certainly represent myself, but I represent a few other people as well.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

From my reading of the paper this morning, I gather that my hon. Friend represents a few rainbow coloured rats as well.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a marginal comment.

Mr. Jenkin

And the House has no power to deal with those matters, Sir.

The point is quite short. Do the provisions of the 1949 Act as revived in this Bill represent new legislation or are they old legislation which has remained in force, though of no effect, and is merely revived by the Bill? If the latter, the Amendment will not be necessary. If the former, the Amendment becomes desirable and should be accepted.

Mr. Marsh

Having heard the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) quote words which I used in the early hours of one morning in Committee, I shall never again be guilty of irony at any hour of the day or night.

The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue in the belief that there may well be a legal inaccuracy in the Bill, and it is right that he should, as a lawyer, raise it. As he says, the question of interpretation is whether Section 56 of the 1949 Act is an enactment to which Section 2(1,a) of the Recorded Delivery Service Act, 1962, applies. Section 2(1,a) provides that this Act applies to the following enactments, that is to say,—

  1. (a) the provisions of any Act…passed before or in the same Session as this Act".
In other words, the question to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention is whether Section 56 of the 1949 Act is to be regarded for the purposes of the Recorded Delivery Service Act, 1962, as having been passed before that Act.

This matter has raised considerable public interest and concern, and we have given careful examination to it. Obviously, if one is presenting a Bill and it is found to be technically inaccurate, this is a good time to stop and do something about it. However, the point was carefully considered by the Parliamentary draftsman during the preparation of the Bill, and it was considered also in Standing Committee D. The Parliamentary draftsman was entirely satisfied then that Section 56 of the 1949 Act was a provision falling within Section 2(1,a) of the Recorded Delivery Service Act 1962. Since then, we have had the position examined again and, despite the arguments advanced in Committee, he has found nothing to cause him to change his view.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pressing the point because it is in the interests of both sides that legislation shall be technically and legally accurate. But I am advised that for the purposes of Section 56 of the 1949 Act Recorded Delivery will be an alternative to registered letter.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

As a gesture of magnanimity to the right hon. Gentleman, we thank him for what he said, and, in the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.