HC Deb 10 November 1975 vol 899 cc1065-9

Order for Second Reading read.

10.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Law Officers' Department (Mr. Arthur Davidson)

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

This is a straightforward, uncomplicated consolidation measure. It consolidates the Airports Authority Act 1965, which, as the House will know, was the Act which established the British Airports Authority, together with nearly all the subsequent Acts which relate to the Authority.

The Bill has been through the Joint Consolidation Committee, which has confirmed that it is a pure consolidation measure and that it accurately represents existing law.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

We are grateful to the Minister for introducing the Bill, but we disagree with him in one respect. He said it was uncomplicated. To anybody who has studied it, it is immensely complicated. But we appreciate that it is a pure consolidation measure, and we have no objection to it.

10.3 p.m.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

As a member of the Joint Consolidation Committee, I wish to observe that the Report which the Committee was ordered to make to the House contains this sentence: The Committee regret that the term 'aerodrome', which is not in common use, is nevertheless perpetuated by inclusion in the Bill. This raises an important matter. Consolidation is not merely intended to bundle together a lot of legislation under a single Act. That is, of course, its most important function, but the opportunity should not be let pass to bring up to date out-of-date language. There is no doubt that the word "aerodrome" is out-dated and does not mean what we think it means. It does not mean what we mean by the use of the word "airport".

I appreciate that there are difficulties in changing all the wording of the legislation deleting the word "aerodrome" and substituting the word "airport". But the least of the difficulties is the fact that the word "aerodrome" has a more restrictive meaning than the word "airport". Briefly, without going into the detailed definitions in the dictionaries, an airport involves much of the paraphernalia of an aerodrome, particularly that which is concerned with the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers. So there is the difficulty that an airport means something more than an aerodrome.

Nevertheless, the Bill is called the Airports Authority Bill, not the Aerodromes Authority Bill. There is recent legislation, entitled the Policing of Airports Act 1974, and there is a reference in the Bill in Clause 10—at any rate, in the rubric—to airport police. It is clear that if the argument were that we should never alter "aerodrome" to mean "airport" in any context, those references would be to "aerodrome" and not to "airport". So even the draftsmen of the recent legislation recognises that there is a sense in which "airport" should be used in legislation of this kind. The word "airport" does not appear in the definition clause—Clause 23—but "aerodrome" does.

I am well aware that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make amendments of this sort at this stage in the House of Commons. I am not sure that the House of Commons has the power to make amendments in any case in consolidation legislation and it would have to be referred to the House of Lords. I am equally well aware that we do not have time to do it and that if it involved many consequential changes that might not be justified.

I have therefore risen to my feet to sound the note of warning that, if it is important to ensure that history does not perpetuate words that are no longer used, or that no longer have their original meanings, the time must come when somebody says, "Let us not use the word 'aerodrome'. Let us use the word 'airport'. Let us define it in the legislation and let us deal with it in that way." Perhaps at some stage in the not too distant future somebody will find a means whereby "aerodrome" can be replaced by "airport" as defined in the Bill referring to all other consequential legislation where it is not important to have legal changes as a result of changing the terminology.

Although I, of course, am not a parliamentary draftsman and I am not sure how this could be achieved, it cannot be beyond the wit of man to bring the usage of words from time to time up to the common, everyday popular meaning without having to change all the legislation which has gone before.

I hope that the Minister will bear in mind the fact that the Committee said more than he said it said and that it particularly regretted that "aerodrome" is nevertheless perpetuated by inclusion in the Bill. I also ask him to invite those who advise him in these matters to apply their minds to ensuring that in future legislation of this nature makes use of more modern language.

10.7 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I wish to be brief. I appreciate that this is a consolidation measure and that there is very little which we can do about it. It refers to a large number of Acts and, as the Minister has rightly said, it merely consolidates them.

I am rising on a simple point concerning Clause 10. A number of my constituents are affected by the policing—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to proceed to discuss the merits of the clause. He is not in order in doing so.

Dr. Glyn

No. I was only regretting that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said, we cannot alter the measure in any way, because, particularly in one clause, it would have been beneficial if we could have altered some of the terms of service which have given rise to a great deal of argument and trouble, as the Minister knows, to a number of people who have been affected by previous Acts. All that this Act does is to consolidate those Acts.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I was very kind to the hon. Gentleman.

10.9 p.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, West)

I am the only member of the Joint Committee on the Consolidation of Statute Law on this side of the House at the moment. That is a very valuable Committee, but it is not always the most exciting. The argument about "aerodrome" and "airport" is about the most stimulating thing that has happened in that Committee for years. We get lost in that Committee, and I do not know whether hon. Members realise what a valuable function we perform in looking at the differences between two concepts such as the old, English "aerodrome" and the new, American "airport".

Mr. Lawrence

The hon. and learned Gentleman has omitted to mention the occasion when the Commons defeated the Lords during the last Session on a measure in the Consolidation Committee.

Mr. Lyons

I shall not remind the House on what trivial matter that took place. None the less, there is something to be said for copying the American innovation of "airport", because it is so functional. When we use words such as "aerodrome" the parliamentary draftsman says, "We used 'aerodrome' in the last Bill, so why bother to change it in this one?", and it becomes self-perpetuating. We need more flexibility in the drafting of our statute law; therefore I echo—perhaps for the only time in my life—the hon. Gentleman's sentiments.

10.11 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

How right the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) was when he said that my words "This is an uncomplicated Bill" were a little optimistic. However, it is an uncomplicated Consolidation Bill, so uncomplicated that not one word has been changed, including "aerodrome". As the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) will know, the word "aerodrome" appeared in the original Airports Authority Act and has been perpetuated in all subsequent Acts that have been consolidated with it.

Had "aerodrome" been changed to "airport", no doubt even more hon. Members would have risen to complain that it was not strictly a consolidation measure. However, I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman's remarks, which I do take seriously, are passed on to my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, and I am sure that the Law Commission and the draftsmen will be interested in them.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole house.—[Mr. Stoddart.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Mr. GEORGE THOMAS in the Chair]

The Chairman

As this is a consolidation Bill, I propose to follow the usual practice by putting the Question on clauses and schedules in groups. I shall be grateful to any hon. Member who has a point to raise if I am able to collect his voice before I put the Question.

Clauses 1 to 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 17 to 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

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