HC Deb 10 March 1970 vol 797 cc1300-2

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

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

This Bill is not only a consolidation Bill but also a statute law revision Bill in some part. Clause 61 deals with the statute law revision matters together with Part II of Schedule 6, which is brought into operation by Clause 61.

The Acts set out in Part II of Schedule 6 as those which are to be repealed relate to the branding of herrings. This does not mean that people catch a herring and brand the individual fish, like catching New Forest ponies and branding them. I understand that people used to brand the barrel in which the herrings were placed. That arose from the fact that a bounty was paid by the Crown to encourage the catching of herrings. It is perhaps a coincidence that we have been discussing tonight help for the fishing industry by advertising to encourage people to buy fish. It might be thought that had we saved branding this would have solved the matter without the Order that has just been debated.

It is significant that the bounty was abolished as long ago as 1838, but branding continued for 101 years after that as a guarantee of the quality of the herrings. Throughout that period there were still Statutes dealing with branding the barrels, as we can see from the list of the Acts, running up as late as the Herring Industry Act, 1935.

Even as late as the Statute Law Revision Act, 1963, which repealed certain Statutes relating to herrings and the branding of herrings, the Acts in Part II of the Schedule were left unrepealed. This raises some doubt whether it is right to repeal them now, only a few years later. In particular, we are left in doubt because in very recent and very substantial Statute Law repeal legislation I had hoped that the principle had been established that the House would have the benefit of an assurance that all parties concerned with obsolete Statutes which it was sought to repeal had been consulted.

I raised this point briefly on the Second Reading of this Bill, and the Solicitor-General said that the Joint Committee on Consolidation must have been satisfied that proper consultation had taken place before Part II of Schedule 6 was prepared. But in the report of the Committee we find that the very point was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), who asked specifically whether any consultation had taken place before this Part was introduced as statute law revision. He received no direct answer, but one gathered from that that no consultation had taken place. It is a great pity if that is the case, because the House should be able to judge the value of obsolete Statutes, which perhaps sound as if they are of no further use, by being assured that those who are really concerned with them—in this case, those in the herring industry—have been consulted before the draftsman, no doubt in all good will, inserts them in a repeal Clause.

But it seems to me that in this case there has not been the consultation that we were given some assure would take place when we had a statute law repeal Bill before the House. It is regrettable if no consultation took place in this case, for how are we to know, without great research by individual hon. Members, about the need to repeal Statutes relating to herring branding at this stage when it was not necessary to repeal them only a few years ago?

12.45 a.m.

The Solicitor-General

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has to say on this point, as I did when he touched upon this in the Second Reading debate.

I think that the hon. Gentleman's contribution is a useful one. I do not think I have anything to add about the bearing of the matter upon the Bill, because the fact that the point of the practical utility of the enactment was raised in the Joint Committee at least shows that the matter was not ignored altogether.

On the other hand, at the moment I am bound to say that I am ready to give general consideration in principle to how far it may prove to be desirable in future to have regard to the representations of outside bodies on the issue of the practical utility of perhaps an ancient enactment. That sounds a desirable purpose to my mind. I would expect to find that the matter is rather carefully investigated, but unless we take up this point in a practical fashion it may prove to be a very esoteric process, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 62 agreed to.

Schedules 1 to 6 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.