HL Deb 26 July 1875 vol 226 cc7-10

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, this was the eleventh volume of the work for the revision of the Statute Law that had been presented to Parliament, the object sought to be obtained being to expunge the dead from the living statutes—a course the im- portance of which he need not dwell upon to justices of the peace, solicitors, and the public. The work had its origin in an attempt to issue a new edition of the living statutes; but soon after the work commenced a difficulty arose how to distinguish what were living from what were dead statutes. Acts that repealed others gave no difficulty, and did not require to be printed, but an immense number of Acts stood in a different position—some were virtually repealed by new Acts which covered the same area as the old ones, and others were repealed because the provisions in the new Acts were inconsistent with the old ones. Under these circumstances, it soon became apparent that it was impossible for any draftsman to undertake the responsibility of saying what were old Acts that might be safely omitted from the edition, and therefore it was found necessary that, as the work of revision progressed, it should receive at the end of the Session the authoritative declaration of Parliament as to what Acts should be omitted from the new statutes. The work had been done under extremely able hands—at first under the able superintendence of Messrs. Reilly and Wood; then the task fell to Mr. Wood alone; and subsequently Mr. Rickards was associated with that gentleman in the prosecution of the work. By the labour of these gentleman 10 volumes had already been completed, and had received the sanction of Parliament by means of Bills similar to that he now presented. The number of Acts passed since the 53rd Geo. HE that had been repealed or expurgated by this means were 7,000 repealed and 2,000 partially repealed statutes. Parliament had from time to time accepted these Bills upon the names of the professional draftsmen under whose care they had been prepared. Every Bill prepared by the draftsman stated the ground upon which any particular statute was declared to be repealed or partially repealed—but when the Bill was passed these notes were omitted from the Act. The draftsmen had also submitted their labours to different Departments and Public Offices before presenting them to Parliament, and in that way they had insured a certain degree of accuracy which could not possibly have been arrived at in any other way. Seven octavo volumes had been published dealing with the statutes down to the last Session of William IV., which were equal to three ordinary quarto volumes of the statutes they were in the habit of using. The eighth volume would be published in the ensuing autumn, and the 9th early in 1876; and he expected that six more volumes would complete the Statute Law down to 1868—the period originally contemplated—which would be equal to seven quarto volumes. In addition to this there had been published yearly a chronological table and index of the statutes, giving the title of every Act passed, and stating what had become of it—whether it was living or dead; and the second part of the volume contained an index of the statutes in force. The price of these volumes was exceedingly moderate. He did not mean to represent this work of Statute Law Revision as final or complete; but it was extremely substantial. He looked forward to the time when there would be a cheaper edition of the statutes in a still more useful form, and also that they might anticipate in a short time being able to make a division in English, Irish, and Scotch Acts, so that the statutes might be had of each country in a separate form. The perfection of the revision of the statutes would greatly facilitate their consolidation, and he proposed to lay on the Table of the House a Copy of the Papers that had been laid on the Table of the House of Commons, containing Minutes and Memoranda of the Statute Law Commission upon the subject of consolidation of the statutes and the proposals they had made. The Government, acting on the proposals, had prepared as a sample of the consolidation, seven consolidation Bills dealing with particular subjects of the law, which would be laid on the Table for consideration during the Recess, and it would be found that where any change had been made in the wording of the enactments there had been none in their spirit. They were in a sense specimen consolidation Bills, and they dealt with subjects on which there was a considerable amount of legislation—such as the administration of oaths, the issue of writs by the House of Commons, the regulation of chemical works—and where consolidation was much required.

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.