HC Deb 19 January 1968 vol 756 cc2156-8

Order for Second Reading read.

1.36 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Arthur Irvine)

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

The Bill is pure consolidation and does not alter the law. The subject matter of the law here consolidated can be expressed as being provisions to give statutory effect for a limited period to resolutions varying or renewing taxation. The position is that the Joint Committee on the Consolidation of Bills has reported upon the Bill and has expressed the opinion that, as I have said, the Bill represents the existing law.

If I may anticipate what may be comment upon the Bill—that it deals with an important but none the less comparatively small part of the law—I would say that unless consolidation is in some degree piecemeal, the whole of consolidation is in danger of being held up. I put it to the House that there must be a balance in our treatment of these matters. It has been thought right to deal with the matter of the provisional collection of taxes in this separate Consolidation Bill, which I recommend to the House.

1.38 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The Solicitor-General anticipated my criticism of this Consolidation Measure. It must be the shortest Consolidation Bill on record. According to the Long Title it seeks to consolidate the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1913 —which is an Act of four Sections, one of which is just the Title of that Act— '' and certain other enactments relating to the provisional collection of taxes or matters connected therewith. One finds, on turning to the Schedule of Repeals, that those certain other enactments consist of four Sections and of part of a Schedule.

One usually thinks of consolidation as concerning some problem area of law— perhaps a fairly wide area in which Statute has piled up on Statute until the law is difficult to apply. One thinks of cases in which the law requires to be brought together in some orderly fashion. I am a little puzzled to understand why such a very narrow area was taken for consolidation in this respect, providing a Bill of six Clauses and five pages. Surely it would have been better to take a wider field. No explanation of this was given to the Joint Committee, but the hon. and learned Gentleman has given what he offers as the explanation that consolidation as a whole would be held up unless we did it piecemeal this way by small Measures. It seems that this is a very small area for consolidation and that the efforts might have been applied to a wider area of the law.

I will put only one question on the form of this Consolidation Measure. The Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913, which the Bill seeks to consolidate, applied to Northern Ireland and it was held that the phrase "House of Commons" in that Act applied to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. However, in Clause 6 of this Measure we find that The enactments specified in the Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of that Schedule. It goes on in subsection (3): Nothing in this Act applies to, or affects the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1913 in its application to, the House of Commons of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Over the page, the first repeal in the Schedule is the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913, and the extent of the repeal is stated to be "the whole Act".

I recollect that, when we have dealt with Statutes referring to England and Wales and Scotland, in the "third column "—if the Act continues to apply to Scotland after consolidation—the Act has been so mentioned. I should have thought that it should have been mentioned in the "third column" in this case to warn readers that the Act still applies in Northern Ireland and that there has not, in fact, been a repeal of the whole Act.

Although this is a small Measure and although the efforts could have been applied to a wider area, I welcome it for what it does in this small area.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

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

Committee upon Monday next.