HC Deb 16 July 1973 vol 860 cc215-7

Order for Second Reading read.

12.1 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Michael Havers)

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

The Bill repeals 118 Acts and part of 140 others, those being Acts which passed into law between 1424 and 1971, on the ground that they are no longer of practical utility. It has been considered by the Joint Committee, which reported in May of this year having made a few minor amendments, and is part of the process of statute law revision which has been carried out at regular intervals since 1856, when the Repeal of Obsolete Laws Act was passed. There have been 45 such repeals since then. The Bill marks a further stage in the process of statute law revision following the systematic review of the statute book by both Law Commissions, to whom I am sure the House will be grateful.

I remind the House that although the Pillory Abolition Act 1816 is repealed by the Bill, it does not reinstate the use of the pillory, nor does the abolition of the 1818 Act for the better regulation of traffic on Westminster Bridge and the prevention of obstruction thereon mean that the bridge will be a free-for-all. In fact, no by a laws were made under that Act, and such regulation of traffic and prevention of obstruction as is possible is regulated by other byelaws of the Traffic Act 1957.

I hope that the Scottish judges will not be too worried by the repeal of the Judges Act 1540, which provided that all judges must act impartially and for the punishment of anyone who, without cause, casts reflection upon the integrity or character of the judge. Those who have read some newspapers lately would not have appreciated that that Act operated in Scotland.

This is a useful piece of legislation, which is the result of a great deal of hard work, and I hope that it will lead to the considerable slimming down of the statute book when it comes to be reprinted. I commend the Bill to the House.

12.3 p.m.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

I welcome the Bill, which is the fourth of its kind to be produced by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission. In performing this work they may perhaps be seeking to scrape the bottomless pit, as I observe that even quite recent statutes have parts which require to be repealed because they have become spent. None the less, this is an extremely valuable task which we all appreciate.

I was relieved to hear the Solicitor-General explain the effect of the repeal of the Pillory Abolition Act 1816. In the fear that it might have a different effect from that which he explained, I took the trouble to look up the circumstances in which the pillory was used and could be used today if its use were again to be permitted. I see from Pollock and Maitland's "History of English Law Before the Reign of Edward I"—

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Silkin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I see that Pillories and tumbrels seem to be reserved almost exclusively for bakers and alewives who break the assize of bread and beer. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be able to explain what they are, but in case he cannot, the same authors tell us that The lord who has view of frankpledge usually has also 'the assize of beer', that is the power of enforcing the general ordinances which from time to time fix the prices at which beer may be sold; sometimes, but much more rarely he claims the assize of bread. He seems to have been a former version of the Price Commission.

They go on to say that Out of beer the lords made some considerable profit. —that has certainly been repeated in modern times— It is a common thing to find manorial jurors presenting as a matter of course that all the brewers, or rather breweresses, of the village have ' brewed against the assize '; whereupon all of them are amerced; and it is common again to find the king's advocates"— they no doubt would include the Solicitor-General— complaining that the lords inflict pecuniary amendements upon those hardened offenders who ought by rights to suffer in their persons by means of the pillory and the tumbrell. At any rate, we now know what the bakers and alewives have been saved from.

On a rather more serious point, I am glad to see from the Order Paper that further stages of the Bill may be taken tonight. It would be absurd for the House to be brought back again to deal with a Bill of this kind, which is highly unlikely to require amendment. Indeed, it seems absurd that this sort of Bill, and the consolidation Bills, which are as it were the reverse of the repeal Bills, should, unless there is anything controversial in them, have to come before the House at all, let alone at this hour of night.

I hope that the Select Committee on Procedure will consider the whole question. The Solicitor-General has already helped greatly by introducing the idea of dealing with all stages in a single night. Having taken that step, I hope that we shall be able to take another—not so very bold, in all the circumstances—to find some other means of dealing with Bills of this kind, unless they are controversial, otherwise than on the Floor of the House.

12.9 a.m.

The Solicitor-General

I agree with and welcome everything that the hon. and learned Gentleman said in his closing words. We have sought in every way to simplify this process. I should welcome anything that can be done to simplify it further. No doubt we can put our heads together, and, particularly through the usual channels, persuade others to see whether we can achieve this.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

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

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

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

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