§ Mr. English
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to clear up a matter of some considerable confusion. The Solicitors (Amendment) Bill is proceeding through the House in Committee, having passed through another place. On Thursday morning the Committee ascertained that there is proceeding through another place the Solicitors Bill, which is a consolidation measure. On Wednesday the Joint Consolidation Committee of both places met to consider the second Bill. That Bill describes as an Act the contents of the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill, the latter not yet having been passed by Parliament.
As the Joint Consolidation Committee has no power to do other than con 1002 solidate the law and to amend it only in minor respects, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Committee has any jurisdiction to consider this Bill and whether you will direct hon. Members not to attend such a Committee to discuss the Solicitors Bill. Secondly, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider the fact that a Bill is before another place which implies that this House will pass another Bill without any amendment.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) and to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) for giving me notice of this matter. I have therefore had the opportunity to consider it. I understand that the Solicitors Bill [Lords], a consolidation Bill at present in another place, includes the provisions of the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill which is now in Committee in this House.
There is nothing novel about that situation. The object of this manner of proceeding is to save time and to ensure that when a consolidation Bill becomes law it is as fully up to date as it is possible to make it. This House is in no way precluded from amending the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill, and any amendments which this House makes and which are agreed to in another place will automatically be inserted in the consolidation Bill before it leaves this House.
§ Mr. Christopher Price
On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker, I take the point that you have made, Mr. Speaker. But is it not an affront to the privilege of hon. Members of this House that another place should purport to introduce a Bill which could mean that hon. Members of this House completely wasted their time by considering in Committee matters on the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill which might become redundant by the Report stage and Third Reading, if those stages are reached? A point of privilege is concerned when another place presumes to take decisions and to describe the Bill as the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1974. Some of my hon. Friends think that this is an affront to a Committee of the House which is working very hard on the Bill upstairs.
§ Mr. English
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Whatever the precedents in other cases, the present Solicitors (Amendment) Bill is the fourth such Bill brought before this House. Originally we were told as back benchers that the first Bill could not be amended in Committee because it had been agreed by the Law Society and was a private Bill. On the second occasion, the Law Society agreed to meet us but would not agree to amend its Bill. The third and fourth have been Government measures. In view of that history, the rather sordid implications of the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill are obvious to those of us who have been discussing these measures for some four years.
§ Mr. Speaker
I recollect some of the suggestions made by the hon. Gentleman from time to time in the last Parliament. I understand that there is nothing novel about this procedure. It is designed to save time. I think that there has to be a balance. One has to consider whether it is saving time or not, as the hon. Gentleman has said, and those who manage the business of both Houses will no doubt take into account the points which both hon. Members have made.
Mr. R. C. Mitchell
Further to that point of order. Is there a precedent for a Joint Committee of both Houses to sit on a consolidation measure which consolidates something which has not yet gone from this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am informed of the following precedents: The Industrial Injuries and Diseases Act 1967, the Export Guarantees Act 1968, and the Prevention of Oil Pollution Act 1971. I have not had time to examine each of these Acts in detail, but I am advised that they are precedents.