HC Deb 29 January 1968 vol 757 cc1025-8

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 4, at end insert: 'except as stated in section 6(3) of this Act'. I raised this subject on Second Reading and although it is a matter of drafting, the whole of Consolidation Bills is a matter of drafting and unless the drafting is right, the Bill is purposeless. I have to refer first to Clause 6(3) in order to explain the Amendment to the Schedule. That subsection says: 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". In subsection (2) there is reference to the enactments repealed in the Schedule. The enactments specified in the Schedule are repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of the Schedule. Against the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913, appear the words "the whole Act". That is not true. Having regard to the provisions of Clause 6(3), the whole Act is not repealed.

As the Bill is drafted, it is wholly misleading to say that the whole of the provisional collection of Taxes Act, 1913, is repealed. The practitioner studying a Consolidation Measure turns first to the Long Title to see generally what the Measure intends to do, and then in practice at once to the Repeals Schedule to see what of his old law is now embodied in the new Consolidation Measure. If he does that in this case, he will find that the whole of that Act is said to have been repealed, whereas in fact it has not been wholly repealed but remains in operation so as to affect Northern Ireland.

I am aware that the Government of Northern Ireland's (Adaptation of Taxing Act) Order, 1922, interpreted this Act as having some reference to Northern Ireland, but it did not make a new Act applying to Northern Ireland and it seems quite untrue to say, as the Schedule does, that the whole of the Act is repealed.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Arthur Irvine)

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) referred to this matter on Second Reading and I have given careful thought to his Amendment. Clause 6(3) provides that nothing in the Bill applies to the House of Commons of the Parliament of Northern Ireland or affects the 1913 Act in its application to that House. It is perfectly accurate to say, as the hon. Gentleman has said, that in the third column of the Schedule, on the extent of repeal, against the 1913 Act it is recorded that the whole Act is repealed. But, of course, the operation of the Schedule and of Clause 6(2) which introduces it is governed by the provision of Clause 6(3), that nothing in the Bill shall affect the 1913 Act in its application to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland.

The words there "nothing in this Act" comprehend Clause 6(2) and the Schedule. Therefore, on analysis, in my submission, there is no room for uncertainty as to the effect of the provision as it stands. I readily agree that the question remains whether this is a sensible way of giving effect to the law. As to that I have made careful inquiries. The position is that the general practice is to rely on the provision in an Act which defines its territorial extent, and not to repeat that provision in a repeal Schedule.

That rule has been followed in Finance Acts in relation to enactments passed before 1922, which apply, for example, both to death duties and Stamp Duties in force in Great Britain, and to those duties in force as transferred taxes in Northern Ireland. The last Section of a Finance Act contains as a matter of common form a provision to the effect that: Except as otherwise expressly provided, such of the provisions of this Act as relate to matters in respect of which the Parliament of Northern Ireland has power to make laws shall not extend to Northern Ireland. A repeal Schedule relating to duties which, in Northern Ireland are transferred taxes, contains no express savings.

It is true that in the Finance Act, 1967, contrary to the general practice, there was express provision made saving the Northern Ireland exception. Having put the saving in terms, and spelled it out in the body of the Act, and not relying in this instance, in the 1967 Act, upon the overall saving for Northern Ireland in Section 45(7), it was thought right in that special instance alone to make provision in the Schedule to make it clear, as the hon. Gentleman desires to have it made clear in the present instance, that the saving had taken effect.

That course was followed in the special and peculiar circumstances of the Finance Act, 1967, and was done because it was represented to the draftsmen that that was a desirable way of dealing with the matter. What I have just said about the 1967 Act does not alter the weight of the point that I have earlier put forward, namely that the general practice is to make provision in the repeal Schedule for the repeal of the whole Act, and rely upon what is contained in the body of the Statute to show the territorial extent of the provisions. It is my recommendation to the Committee that it is desirable to adhere, so far as possible, to the general rule that the provision regarding the territorial extent of a Statute is included in the Statute once only. Departures from that practice can only tend to lead to confusion. So long as it is understood that the extent of a repeal Schedule cannot be determined without looking at the body of the Act, no danger arises. But if a practice grew up of sometimes repeating such provisions in repeal Schedules, people who did not find such a provision in a repeal Schedule and did not look at the body of the Act would be liable to be misled.

The reasons for the special entries in the Finance Act, 1967, were as I have put forward. They do not apply in this consolidation Bill where the danger of the exemption of Northern Ireland being overlooked is, in my view, not real. The Bill relates primarily to the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913, and there is no reason to depart from the general rule that provisions for territorial extent are not repeated in a repeal Schedule. There is some reason to think that if the departure from precedent were made which is incorporated in this Amendment, the overall result would be to add to rather than diminish the risk of misunderstanding and confusion. For that reason, I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Graham Page

That was a most unsatisfactory answer. The Solicitor-General asked whether this was a sensible way to give effect to the law. Clause 6(3) says quite clearly that the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913, remains in force for Northern Ireland. The Schedule says that the whole Act is repealed. Is that a sensible way of enacting the law? If it is sensible to put it in the text that the Act remains in force for Northern Ireland, I am sure that it is sensible to repeat it in the Schedule.

If the precedents do not support us, it is about time that we changed them. They will not cause the confusion to which the Solicitor-General referred. The confusion will arise from following precedent and saying two contradictory things in the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 55 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without Amendment.