HC Deb 26 June 1967 vol 749 cc35-7

Order for Second Reading read.

11.43 a.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)

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

This is a pure consolidation Bill. The Joint Committee reported that there was no point to which the attention of Parliament should be drawn.

11.44 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I am sorry that the Attorney-General has been unfortunate enough not to get anything "on the nod" this morning, but a point or two arise on this Bill. It is a consolidation Bill which is entitled Advertisements (Hire Purchase), but it does not consolidate the law relating to advertisements and it does not consolidate the law relating to hire purchase. It consolidates the law relating, as the Long Title states, to the contents of advertisements displayed or issued in connection with hire-purchase or credit-sale. It is rather an extract from the law than a consolidation of the law.

It is, I apprehend, for this House to consider whether it is expedient to consolidate the law in this way or to consolidate a small part of the law in this way. The Bill deals with the narrowest subject in what is, I think, the shortest Bill ever to be presented to the House as a consolidation Bill. Its purpose was admitted before the Joint Select Committee to be to tidy up a remaining part of a previous Act which dealt with several miscellaneous subjects.

There was on this subject the Advertisements (Hire-Purchase) Act, 1957, which was a Private Member's Bill. That Act was amended in 1964 and 1965 by Bills dealing with hire purchase in general. The present consolidation extracts the small subject of advertisements so far as they deal with hire purchase and credit sales from the general law of hire purchase. It is, therefore, questionable whether it is advisable to consolidate in this form.

The Bill does not seem to me to be of a form of consolidation with which we have dealt previously in debating consolidation Bills. It is rather a desolidation than a consolidation. Consolidation should not be merely the tidying up of an amended Statute. The purpose should surely be to provide certainty, clarity and convenience in the statement of the law: certainty by those who draft a consolidation Bill investigating what is and what is not now the law; clarity by a restatement of the law in appropriate words; and convenience by one subject being placed within one Statute.

The Bill certainly gives certainty in a small area, but it does not give clarity by any means in repeating the shocking formula which is contained in Part III of Schedule 1. We might, perhaps, have had a reform of the law before consolidating it in that form of almost unintelligible formula. I question whether it is convenient to consolidate in small parcels or, having regard to the subject matter of the Bill, in small instalments. If this were eventually to be one chapter in a larger volume or one part in a larger consolidation Bill dealing with either the whole subject of advertisements or the whole subject of hire purchase, it might have served a useful purpose, but we are given no understanding that that is the intention. This consolidation Bill is, apparently, to stand on its own.

I wish to record a warning that we may be creating more difficulties by small pieces of consolidation of this sort. We may be putting more statutes on the Statute Book in this way unless there is the intention eventually to consolidate the consolidating Measures in one large statute.

11.50 a.m.

The Attorney-General

I take note of the cautionary words of the hon. Gentleman. This is admittedly a very narrow piece of consolidation, but it was thought helpful and useful to introduce it. The idea, as was indicated to the Joint Consolidation Committee, is to get rid eventually of the whole of the 1964 Act, which consisted of piecemeal amendments of the existing law relating to hire purchase and the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act which dealt with the fraudulent disposal of vehicles which were on hire purchase.

The main part of the law was consolidated in the two Acts referred to in the Note to the Bill—that is to say, the Hire Purchase Act, 1965, for England and Wales, and the corresponding Measure for Scotland. Now, to get rid of another part, we are consolidating this branch of the law. As both the hon. Gentlemen and I have said, this is a small branch of the law, but the combination of the 1957 Act as amended by the 1964 Act is very difficult to follow because it consists to a large extent of piecemeal verbal amendments.

I think, therefore, that the Bill does serve some purpose, although it is a little one. I regret that we have had to reproduce the formula in respect of which the Chairman of the Committee used the phrase "horrible". One of these days we shall get around to dealing with that, also.

Mr. Graham Page

If the Law Commission had been operating under the Resolution we discussed earlier this morning, it might have produced for us a better formula.

The Attorney-General

That may well be so, but the Law Commission is looking at the law of hire purchase now and we must look forward to the day when there will be full scale reform and restatement of the law. In the meantime, I commend this limited Measure to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

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

Committee Tomorrow.