HL Deb 29 July 1889 vol 338 cc1566-8

Order of the Day for the Third Beading read.


My Lords, I have to move an Amendment which is not altogether in accordance with the views of my noble and learned Friend. It is for the insertion of new clauses after Clause 33— 34. In computing any period of time for the purposes of any Act passed after the commencement of this Act, unless the contrary intention appears,—

  1. (1.) A period reckoned by days from or before a particular day, or the happening of an event, or the doing or default in doing of an act or thing, shall be deemed to be exclusive of that day or of the day on which the event happens, or the act or thing is done, or the default occurs.
  2. (2.) If the last day of the period is not a working day, the period shall include the next following day, being a working day.
  3. (3.) If by the Act any act or proceeding is directed or allowed to be done or taken on a certain day, then if that day happens to be not a working day, the act or proceeding shall be considered as done or taken in due time if it is done or taken on the next succeeding working day.
  4. (4.) If by the Act any act or proceeding is directed or allowed to be done or taken within any time not exceeding seven days, any day which is not working day, shall not be reckoned in the computation of the time.
For the purposes of this section the following days shall be deemed to be not working days—namely, Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday, any Bank Holiday under and within the meaning of the Bank Holidays Act, 1871, as amended by the Holidays Extension Act, 1875, and any day appointed for a public fast, humiliation, or thanksgiving. 35. In the measurement of any distance for the purposes of any Act passed after the commencement of this Act, that distance shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be measured in a straight line on a horizontal plane. I must take leave to say that I think the objects of this Bill have been a little misunderstood. Its object is simply to provide an explanation of the meaning of certain words which might not be clearly understood—that people may have in this Bill something in fact like a dictionary before them, which will explain the precise meaning that in law should be attached to certain words. Simply the object is to give the public a dictionary which will enable them to understand the language used in statutes. At present they do not in many cases understand the meaning to be attached to it. My Lords, I think it would be well that there should be some rule, and that the Courts should recognise that rule as enacted by a general statute, unless the contrary intention should appear.

Moved, "That the proposed new Clause stand part of the Bill."—(The Lord Advocate.)


My Lords, nobody will admit more readily than myself the necessity for something of this kind. During my tenure of office I often had to consider what was the meaning of an Act of Parliament, and the labour and trouble involved by uncertainty brought prominently before me that necessity. It is extremely difficult to make everybody concerned in the drawing of an Act of Parliament cognisant of the particular meaning of particular phrases and in respect of certain terms; for instance the trouble involved with regard to the terms "county" and "city" is untold. I would put this case to your Lordships: a Clerk of the Peace in a county wants to consult a particular Act which refers to the service of notices within a certain number of days. How are the days to be computed? Turning to this Act, what does it say?— If by the Act any act or proceeding is directed or allowed to be done or taken within any time not exceeding seven days, non-working days shall not be reckoned. Now that clause applies only where the notice is to be served within seven days. Then you have the fact that there is not the slightest indication in the Act itself that this Act is referred to, and unless a man knows it by intuition, he would have no means of guidance to this Act. That might be provided for by the addition of a formal clause. I maintain, my Lords, with the greatest possible confidence, that the addition every now and then of a formal clause would be a much less serious matter than the fact that all over the country people are constantly making mistakes for want of something of the kind. Another difficulty would arise where the place at which a notice had to be served was within 15 miles, and where the notice had to be served by post.


I should like to say one word upon the last observation of my noble and learned Friend. Unless you are to displace two decisions of the Queen's Bench which have never, as far as I know, been shaken, when you speak of distance it must be measured in a straight line. The value which I attach to this and to the other Amendment is that there should be a rule of law by statute, and then the question will simply be what is the construction to be placed upon this Act.


My Lords, the question would be, what is the commonly-understood meaning of a term used. It is easy to say it shall mean so-and-so unless the contrary is expressed, but if you are to understand it, a plain interpretation of it should be given.

The further debate of the said Amendment was put off to Thursday next.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, till to-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.