HL Deb 23 June 1890 vol 345 cc1619-21

in rising to ask the Lord Chancellor whether any scheme could be recommended to Parliament by which the consolidation of Statutes could be more easily effected, either by the Statute Law Committee or by some other body, said: My Lords, before asking the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack the question which stands in my name, I hope I may be permitted to say a word or two in explanation of the object of the question. I have, for a considerable period, noticed that Consolidation Bills are, from time to time, brought before both Houses of Parliament, and it is obviously quite impossible for the general body of Members of either House to consider a matter of so technical a nature as the consolidation of one Statute with another. There exists, as your Lordships are well aware, a Statute Law Revision Committee, which revises all the Statutes from time to time, and a great number of the old Statutes have already been so revised; but, as regards the consolidation of Statutes, it is such a purely technical matter to consolidate Statutes as requiring special legal knowledge that I should be very glad to see some body, either the Statute Law Revision Committee or some other body, which could be made answerable for the work of consolidating the Statutes appointed to perform that work before the Bills come before the consideration of cither House. My Lords, it is within my recollection that in 1875 there was a very long Bill which was considered in another place—that was the Public Health Act of 1875. In that Statute there were 343 clauses. I was in the House when that Bill was going through, and I am sure it was quite impossible for any Member to form an opinion upon numerous clauses without having all the previous Acts before him. Then there has been another Bill of the kind passing through your Lordships' House, the Lunacy Acts Consolidation Bill. That Bill also has about 350 clauses. My object in asking this question is to elicit from my noble and learned Friend some expression of opinion as to whether it would be possible or not to have some body to consolidate these very long Statutes. The Parliamentary machine is already somewhat out of gear; and when your Lordships observe the number of questions which are asked not merely upon notice in another place, but the hundreds of other questions which are asked without any notice at all, to us outsiders not understanding the technical part of Bill-drafting it seems a matter of ordinary common-sense that these matters should be delegated to some body other than the Houses of Parliament. I do not mean that Consolidation Bills should be with- drawn from passing through all their stages; all I mean is that it is impossible for either House of Parliament to consider them in Committee, and it is for that reason that I venture to ask the noble and learned Lord the question which stands in my name.


My Lords, I am sorry to say that I am unable to suggest any improvement of the existing system under which the consolidation and revision of the Statute Law proceeds, except to recommend Parliament (in another place) to allow the Bill presented for that purpose to pass as rapidly as possible. It is not necessary for me to repeat, what I have frequently asserted, my acknowledgment of the accuracy combined with speed which has characterised the work of the Statute Law Committee since I have had occasion to deal with it. I have been glad to learn that the Select Committee of the House of Commons which has recently examined the Statute Law Revision Bill confirms my opinion. But I am sorry to say a very serious check has for the present apparently paralysed the work, just when it was making most satisfac-