HL Deb 15 June 1874 vol 219 cc1566-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he would take the present opportunity of asking their Lordships' attention for a few moments to the progress that had been made in the revision of the Statute Law of this Kingdom, and, as incidentally connected with it, to the question of the codification of the unwritten law. In 1868, when he had the honour of holding the office which he now filled, a Commission was appointed to publish a revised edition of the Statutes of the Kingdom down to that year. The public were under an obligation to the gentlemen who had undertaken that somewhat laborious task for the way in which they had been discharging it since the day of their appointment. Down to the present time five volumes of that revised edition of the Statutes had been published. They included the Statutes down to the year 1824. The revision proceeded on the principle that only the Statutes now in force should be published in the revised edition; but, in order that there might be no mistake as to what Statutes remained in force after the publication of this edition, there was published pari passu with it a series of Acts repealing the Statutes which had been spent, or had become obsolete. Their Lordships would see that they had not merely the word of the Revisers as a security that the Statutes included in the volumes were the only ones on the Statute Book up to the date of those volumes; but the spent and obsolete Acts were actually repealed, and lists of the repealed Acts were published at the same time as the revised Statutes. In illustration of the extent to which the revision had already been accomplished, he would state that the five volumes of Statutes already printed had superseded 43 volumes of the 8vo., or 26½ volumes of the 4 to. editions of the Statutes. With the Statutes would be published a chronological table and a complete Index of the Statute Law. The first edition was down to 1870, and the second to 1872. He now asked their Lordships for a second reading of the Statute Law Revision Bill of this year, by which it was proposed to repeal all Acts that had become spent or obsolete down to 1837 and had not yet been repealed. The sixth volume of the Revised Statutes would bring down that work from 1824 to 1837, and the expurgation would be continued from 1837 to 1868. As the Revisers got into more modern times they did not get rid of so many Statutes, and to bring the work down to 1868 nine or ten volumes more would be required. It was proposed that the Index should be kept up as an Annual Index, so that anyone who purchased it could have an Index of the whole of the Statute Law down to the end of the last Session of Parliament. It had become of importance now, when we were dealing with the subject as a whole, that there should be a consolidation of the Statutes of the present Reign, and it was proposed that next Session a Bill should be brought in for that purpose. With such a consolidation and the revision now being effected, the country would possess a perfect edition of the Statute Law down to 1868, in about 15 volumes. There would remain, however, a work of difficulty and importance—the codification of the unwritten laws. On this subject various proposals had been made. He thought that a great deal of the difficulty had arisen from endeavours to embrace in the codification the Statute Law as well as the unwritten Law. In his opinion a codification of the Statute Law would be almost impossible. What we wanted was an expression of the unwritten or Common Law. He hoped, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, at the beginning of next Session, to make a proposal for such a codification. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.