§ LORD DYNEVOR had given Notice of the following Question—To ask His Majesty's Government whether they will circulate before the Second Reading of the Land Drainage Bill, which is described as a Bill to amend and consolidate the enactments relating to the drainage of land, a Memorandum showing in detail which of the seventy-four clauses and eight schedules of the Bill are reproductions of the existing law, and which clauses and schedules propose alterations in the existing law, and the extent of those alterations.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think I need detain you for more than a few seconds because I have been given to understand that the Government is going to grant my request, and is to publish the Memorandum I have asked for in the Question I have put down in my name, for which I am very grateful. I would like to ask the Government just one question in reference to it, and that is how soon may we expect the Memorandum? It will require a great deal of study after we have received it before we can understand it all, because we have learned from one of the schedules to this Bill that no fewer than sixteen Acts of Parliament are being repealed, and four are being partly repealed. Therefore we shall want to know exactly how much in the Bill is old legislation being re-enacted and how much is new legislation? The Second Reading of this Bill is down for Tuesday next and I should hope that we may have a considerable time to study the details of this Bill before we take the Second Reading. I beg to ask the Question standing in my name.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I have already had it intimated to the noble Lord that we are prepared to give this 1182 information. I think he knows a great deal about it already—we know how skilled he is in these matters—but the information will be ready on Friday, and I think that will give him sufficient time.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble and learned Lord is going to grant the request of my noble friend and supply this information. My noble friend has said that the form in which the Government has framed the Bill is so unusual—as I shall show in a moment—as to make it very necessary that it should be very carefully canvassed after this information is in our hands. Speaking as I think somewhat hastily, the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House seemed to suggest the other day that to draft a Bill which was partly consolidation and partly amendment was the usual course. I ma quite sure the noble and learned Lord would not have said so if my noble friend his colleague, Lord Muir Mackenzie, had been on the Bench opposite. I deeply regret the reason which keeps my noble friend from occupying his usual position. He has, of course, enforced over and over again what is the true doctrine of the procedure of this House—namely, that as far as it can be avoided we should never mix up consolidation and amendment.
The proper course when the two processes have to be carried out is to have two Bills—one Bill for amendment, and then, when that Amending Bill has been passed, a second Bill for consolidation. Then the Consolidation Bill embodies the changes in the law which the Amending Bill has made. That is the proper practice and I should not have thought it necessary to make these observations had it not been that I think the rather hasty observations of the noble and learned Lord would create a bad precedent. It is a very great mischief to mix up the two things for many reasons. I will give only one reason, which I think the Government will recognise as sufficient. If you mix up consolidation and amendment, you re-open the whole of the law which is consolidated for re-discussion in Parliament, and every matter which has been accepted and treated as the law up to that moment is re-discussed in this House, and, what is more important, in another place. Therefore I venture to suggest that the procedure of the Govern- 1183 ment in putting these two things together is very unusual and ought not to be pursued. Indeed, it may be necessary when the Bill comes before us in Committee to consider whether we should not divide it into two in order to avoid creating this precedent.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to say one word in answer to what the noble Marquess has said. I should like to join him in expressing deep regret that we have not the noble Lord, Lord Muir Mackenzie, with us. I served on the Consolidation Bills Committee for a long time myself, but, of course, he has been Chairman and is a great authority, and I would willingly assent to anything that he said. I do not want to go into the general question now. I think the difficulties have been exaggerated, but that is a matter of personal opinion. The question really is one of clear drafting. However, we will give this information and we will see how the matter goes on in the future.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, may I be allowed to ask the noble and learned 1184 Lord if we may expect to have this Memorandum in our hands on Friday, or whether it will not be until Saturday? because, as I have said, it will take some time—I should have thought at least a week—to study that Memorandum. Until we have it in our hands it will be impossible to understand this Bill and to find out what is old legislation and what is new. I have had the greatest difficulty in reading this Bill. I have been studying it, and I have spoken to legal friends and they also are in great difficulties.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Really the noble Lord has no right to make a second speech in this way. I have answered his Question and I have said we are prepared to give this information.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past seven o'clock.