HC Deb 03 July 1967 vol 749 cc1175-8

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

10.6 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

It is in this Clause that the Bill is called the Advertisements (Hire-Purchase) Act 1967. I submit that this is a wrong Short Title for the Bill. A Short Title cannot be resorted to for the purpose of interpretation of a Bill but it is important that it should be correct, and an ill-chosen one is a great inconvenience to the practitioner.

A Short Title should undoubtedly indicate the subject matter of the Act in words which are those under which the person seeking information on the subject might be expected to look. It should be chosen for convenience of reference for the identification of the subject matter of a Bill. It is not necessarily a description of the subject matter. The basic subject matter of this Bill is hire purchase, the Bill dealing with a part of the law relating to hire purchase—that is to say, the advertising of hire-purchase transactions.

I am sure that the seeker after the law on hire-purchase advertisements would be more likely to seek it under the title of hire purchase than under the title of advertisements. I cannot claim that there are no precedents for unhelp- ful, cumbersome and unexpected titles to Bills. Perhaps the worst of these were among the law reform Acts—the Law Reform (Married Women and Tortfeasors) Act and the Law Reform (Limitations of Actions), etc. Act. We need not continue that practice if we can possibly avoid it.

I do not wish to delay the House on matters of history but I remind hon. Members that Short Titles did not come into operation until fairly late in our history and that citation Clauses such as that which we are discussing appeared only in the early years of the last century. At the end of the last century a great deal of trouble was taken in setting out Short Titles to literally hundreds of Bills in the Short Titles Act, 1892, and the Short Titles Act, 1896. It is noticeable that the titles which were then chosen were chosen from the point of view of convenience.

I recollect that the Act which this Bill consolidates, the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act, 1957, was a Private Member's Bill. I assume that the private Member promoting the Bill chose the title. I recollect speaking for 67 minutes on the Bill. I will not do that this morning. However, I urge that as all the Hire-Purchase Bills and all the legislation has had the title hire purchase as the prime title, the Act of 1957 should be a Hire-Purchase Act and not an Advertisements Act.

Subsequently we had the Hire Purchase Act of 1964 which amended the 1957 Act. It is my earnest submission that this consolidation Bill would have been far more conveniently titled the Hire-Purchase (Advertisements) Bill rather than the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Bill. After all, we have Hire-Purchase Acts. We have no other Act that I know of which starts with the word "Advertisements". It is basically a Hire-Purchase Act and the proper title for it is the Hire-Purchase (Advertisements) Act.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Dingle Foot)

Whenever I am informed that a consolidation Bill is to come before the House I always wonder what scope for amendment the ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) will find. On this occasion he has excelled himself. He wants to change the title of the Act, so that instead of it reading, Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act is will read Hire-Purchase (Advertisements) Act.

When I saw his proposed Amendment I was reminded of Act II, Scene II, of "Hamlet", when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern visit the Throne of Denmark. At the end of the scene the King says, Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern", and the Queen says, Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz. 10.15 a m.

I think it was in precisely the same spirit that this Amendment was conceived. Nevertheless, since we have to draw these fine distinctions. I submit that the original title is more apposite.

This matter was first dealt with, as the hon. Gentleman has said, in 1957 when Parliament passed the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act. We are following the precendent on this occasion.

There are various ways of dealing with how one can distinguish Acts of Parliament. In some countries, for example, the Acts have a number. A Statute is Act 8, 1957, or whatever it may be. In this country we endeavour, perhaps not always with success, to identify Acts by their titles. The general rule is that when there is a composite title of this kind, there is, first, one expression and then another expression contained in brackets. The first expression refers to the genus and the second to the species. This is precisely what is done here. If hon. Members care to look at the Bill they will see that it deals with advertisements. It is a Measure entirely about advertisements, but limited to advertisements referring to hire purchase. Therefore, though there is no great merit one way or the other, I think that the title as it now appears in the Bill is the more appropriate one.

Mr. Graham Page

I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has treated the matter in this way. I appreciate his cultural, if a little facetious, reference to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I do not know whether he and I may be entitled to thanks on consolidation Bills or which one of us is the gentle one.

I urge again that when we have consolidation Bills of this sort we should look at the titles carefully and relate them to the subject which the Bill fits. Here it fits well into the subject of hire purchase. I imagine that at some future date we shall have a complete Hire-Purchase Consolidation Bill and then we shall have to change this one. It will not be an Advertisements Consolidation Bill; it will be a Hire-Purchase Consolidation Bill. I venture to forecast that this title will disappear eventually into oblivion and we shall have a complete Consolidation Hire-Purchase Bill. Whether its genus or species will be hire purchase, I do not know. I do not know the difference between those two words. At any rate, it will be the subject of hire purchase.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed, without Amendment.