HC Deb 15 May 1981 vol 4 cc1005-7

`In this Act "the Act of 1967" means the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967.'.—[Mr. Rifkind.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.35 am
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

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

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take all those amendments that I have grouped together, namely, Government amendments Nos. 1, 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46.

Mr. Rifkind

I should indicate at this stage that I do not intend to press amendment No. 37, which we feel is not necessary.

The requirement for the new clause and for the consequential amendments arises from changes in practice in the drafting and publication of legislation largely in consequence of the Renton report, "The Preparation of Legislation", published in 1975 and of the new format in which legislation is being made available in the "statutes in force" series. It is a rather dramatic list of amendments, but I assure the House that they are all of a technical and drafting nature in order to conform with the new requirements as recommended by Lord Renton's committee.

Chapter XIII of the Renton report considers in detail the process of amendment of existing legislation. The House will see that in effect everything contained in the Bill is operating on an existing body of law, namely, the provisions of the Countryside Act (Scotland) 1967. The Renton committee recommended that in amending existing legislation the practice of using what it chooses to call the textual method should be applied. That simply means that one should proceed by amending the actual text of original legislation rather than by simply adding new provisions.

The purpose of this approach is to make it easier for the user of the ultimate Act to understand what is intended. Instead of having two separate pieces of legislation which have to be linked, the user will be able simply to look at, in effect, a single document.

The Bill is considered to be an appropriate example of legislation which can be amended in this way in conformity with the Renton recommendations, partly because all the provisions that it seeks to deal with are contained in a single piece of legislation, namely, the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967. The various amendments dealt with in Committee are consistent with that general provision.

It therefore seems sensible that the Government should put forward these amendments at this stage. As I have said, they are not substantive. Nevertheless, they have the desired effect to which I have referred. In most cases, the amendments merely insert a clause of the Bill into the 1967 Act as a new section. In that way, the provisions become subject to the specific rules of interpretation contained in that Act and separate provisions are no longer required.

It is also right that the sequence of clauses in the Bill should, so far as is reasonably practical, follow the sequence of the provisions that they affect in the 1967 Act. That is the sole purpose of the series of proposals for transfer of clauses which form part of this rather frightening list of Government amendments. They do not affect the substance of the Bill's provisions. They will make it easier to read the provisions accurately and to see where they amend the existing legislation.

On that basis, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser), who is the promoter of the Bill, and indeed hon. Members on both sides of the House will accept that this is not only a sensible Bill to which to apply these changes but that this will make the task of those who have to work with the legislation that much easier. On that basis, I commend the new clause and the amendments to the House.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

The Under-Secretary certainly seems to have dreamt up a formidable thicket of amendments, but I take his point that they are principally a matter of rejigging, revamping arid giving a face-lift to the form of the Bill. If the Bill is going to another place, where their Lordships are, for reasons we understand, keen on the recommendations of the Renton report, I would not wish to delay the amendments here or to criticise them.

The general principle of integration into the 1967 Act makes sense, and if clause 1, which enables byelaws to be made to deal with vehicle and aircraft noise, is to remain in the Bill, it seems sensible that it should be incorporated into section 56 of that Act where it would fall naturally into place.

I am a little surprised that the amendments should have been brought forward at this relatively late stage. I understand that the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser) had help with the drafting, and it is therefore a pity that the amendments were not made in Committee. However, it is better that they should be made now than not at all.

Mr. Peter Fraser (South Angus)

The Government have tabled an awesome list of amendments, but I have no objection to their form. They in no way alter the substance of the Bill, and, anxious as I am to secure favour for the Bill in another place, I certainly present no opposition to them.

Mr. Rifkind

I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser), who is the sponsor of the Bill, for their welcome for the amendments. Although it may have been useful for the amendments to be tabled in Committee, it may be preferable in some respects to deal with them now since we can incorporate in them the amendments made in Committee. That makes the whole task of adjusting the Bill to the Renton recommendations slightly easier than it might otherwise have been.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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