§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, observed that the statutes with which it proposed to deal were 120 in number, extending over a period of about 500 years—from 13 Edw. I. to the 17 Geo. III. A cursory view of the titles of those statutes would, he was sure, satisfy their Lordships that they ought not at this time to form part of the law of England. Those statutes had been condemned by the Statute Law Commission, and this Bill had, he believed, passed the other House without a word of dissent from any quarter. There was this danger attending these obsolete laws, that, although they might be permitted for a long time to slumber, they could at any period be called into pernicious activity. On these grounds he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved—That the Bill be now read 2a.
gave his hearty concurrence to the measure, observing that while the common law held a statute, no matter how old or disused, to be in use unless repealed by the same power that called it into existence, the civil law held that any law that had fallen into desuetude lost all force and became extinct. This Bill would help to purge the Statute-book from a mass of excrescent legislation, and the noble Lord was entitled to the thanks of the public for introducing it.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that a noble Lord having asked him whether he intended to propose that this Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, he had replied in the negative; and for this reason, that the measure had already undergone the full consideration of the Statute Law Commissioners, in order that it might have been introduced with several other Bills which they had in preparation, and which would, he hoped, be ready to be laid on the table before the end of the Session. The object of the Commissioners had been to discover all those effete enactments which were a disgrace to our Statute-book, with a view to their repeal; 1896 but it was necessary to include within the same category not merely entire statutes that were practically obsolete, but all the parts of statutes of the same character. This task was, however, found to be so great that it was deemed better not to delay the introduction of the present measure until it had been completely achieved. Such a postponement would have made this a "sleeping Bill;" and it had, therefore, been thought inexpedient. The measure had his entire concurrence; and, under the circumstances which he had described, he believed that to send it to a Select Committee would be a sheer waste of valuable time.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
, while he abstained from opposing the Bill after the explanation just given, was understood to protest against the passing of laws of the highest importance without the House being furnished with the documents and evidence on which they were based.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
supported the measure; adding, that he hoped the Irish statutes, in similar cases, would undergo a similar deletion.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Friday next.