HC Deb 03 July 1967 vol 749 cc1178-80

Question proposed, That this be the Third Schedule to the Bill.

10.18 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I had hoped, Sir Eric, that the Amendment on the Order Paper might have been selected. If not, I will address myself to the Third Schedule as a whole. I do not think that the right hon. and learned Solicitor-General will find there is anything ingenious about my argument on this. It is just plain commonsense.

The Third Schedule is headed "Enactments repealed". It states in the Third Schedule no fewer than three times that "The whole Act"—referring to The Legal Aid (Scotland) Act, 1949, The Legal Aid Act 1960, and The Legal Aid Act 1964—is to be repealed. However, the Schedule does not mean what it says, because in Clause 21 it is clearly stated: The enactments mentioned in Schedule 3 to this Act so far as relating to Scotland are hereby repealed to the extent specified in the third column of that Schedule. In the marginal note on page 25, against Schedule 3, the words "Section 21" appear, but I have always been told that in interpreting an Act of Parliament one does not look at the marginal notes because they are not part of the Act. Any practitioner is at liberty to disregard what is in the margin. If he reads Schedule 3 and does not take the marginal note as part of the interpretation of the Schedule, the Schedule is completely wrong. The Schedule does not intend to repeal the whole of those three Acts—it intends to repeal them only for Scotland. The Legal Aid Act, 1960, the Legal Aid Act, 1964, and even a small part of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act, 1949, remain in operation for the rest of the United Kingdom.

Clause 21 provides that the enactments repealed are only partially repealed. That ought to have been said in the Schedule. The Schedule does not say that part of the Act has been repealed; it says that the whole of those Acts have been repealed, so the title "Enactments Repealed" is not only misleading but is entirely untrue. I would have thought that for the sake of accuracy we should import into the Schedule the words of Clause 21, so that the practitioner, turning up this Measure—or anyone else looking for the law—and reading the Schedule would know that it does not mean that the whole of the Acts to which I have referred have been repealed, but that the repeal extends only to Scotland.

If it had said that at the top of the Schedule the whole thing would have been clear. It would have meant only an extra six words. Surely the Government are not so stingy as not to wish to print six extra words, for the sake of clarity.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

Perhaps I may make the point clear. I am reminded, following the remarks of a previous speaker, of what happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when Hamlet altered their schedules. It is normal drafting practice that the operative Clause states any necessary general limitation on the extent of the repeals and the side note to the Schedule refers back to the operative Clause. That is the practice in this Bill.

It is unlikely that any practitioner south of the border would pick up a Bill referring to legal aid in Scotland and think that it would have application anywhere else. I am glad to think that we have a law which is so popular south of the border, but I do not think that the hon. Member's suggestion is necessary, and in my opinion the Schedule should stand as it is.

Mr. Graham Page

The hon. Member does not appreciate that the Acts referred to in the Schedule apply to the rest of the United Kingdom. The 1949 Act applies to the rest of the United Kingdom, because an Amendment had to be made in the Bill to account for the fact that the Scottish Bill referred to "diligence", and we have no such term as "diligence" in England; here it happens to be the execution on a person's goods. An Amendment had to be made in the consolidation Bill to put that right. So the practitioner in England or anywhere else who wants to know the English law has to look at the Scottish Act, because it affects the question of execution on goods in England. To say that these Acts are repealed is just not true.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

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