HL Deb 14 March 1950 vol 166 cc197-9

2.46 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I have on previous occasions drawn your Lordship's attention to the somewhat chaotic state of the Statute Book. We have made considerable progress in improving it by enacting the Statute Law Revision Act of 1948. This Bill is the second and last of the Statute Law Revision Bills necessary to enable the Third Edition of Statutes Revised to be published. We hope that this Edition will be published this year, and it will comprise the Statute Law to the end of 1948. This body of law down to the end of 1948 is at present to be found in fifty-seven volumes containing approximately 45,000 pages. As a result of specific repeals by Statute Law Revision and other Acts, and omissions authorised by Statute Law Revision Acts and proposed by this Bill, the text of the Statutes to be contained in the Third Edition of Statutes Revised will be reduced from 45,000 to 28,000 pages, which I feel sure your Lordships will agree is a very substantial and suitable reduction.

This Bill affects some 1,350 Statutes. There are in it two features which have not appeared in previous Statute Law Revision Bills. First, there are special provisions relating to Northern Ireland. These are consequent upon the decision of the Government of Northern Ireland to publish a Revised Edition of Statutes affecting Northern Ireland, this being one of the matters with which we have to deal. Secondly, there are provisions relating to the revision of Church Assembly Measures, which are necessary because the Third Edition of Statutes Revised will include as a companion volume a volume of Church Assembly Measures. The enactments which can be omitted from the Third Edition of the Statutes Revised, because they relate to matters within the powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and will therefore be included in the Revised Edition of the Statutes of Northern Ireland, total approximately 4,000 pages. The total reduction in the bulk of the Statute Law affected by the Bill is about 6,000 pages.

My Lords, I commend this Bill to your Lordships. It has of course been very carefully examined, and I believe that it is a useful step forward towards our common goal of trying to improve the condition of the Statute Book. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill he now read 2*.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I think we shall all be very willing to forward the progress of this Bill. I cannot describe it as very attractive reading. There are 213 pages of print and the whole of it after page 4 consists of Schedules. If anyone is interested in the antiquities of the law, he can turn to page five, or indeed to many other pages and there get some idea of the kind of thing which it is hoped to remove from the Statutes of the Realm. I imagine that this will be considered in Committee not by the Whole House but by a Committee specially qualified and appointed to deal with these niceties. But I have no doubt that, broadly speaking, it is very desirable to clear away what is really dead wood in an impenetrable thicket, and in time produce a series of volumes which will contain a statement of what the law, for practical purposes, is.

We are only following along lines which have been followed, for example, in Canada. Some of us who have had to sit helping to exercise a jurisdiction which has now disappeared, in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, know that the reference constantly is to Revised Statutes, which represent the result of clearing away matter which has ceased to be of any living importance. The principle of the Bill, therefore, everyone will accept, and I would only venture to add that it is obvious to me, and I am sure to anyone who has had to make some acquaintance with this kind of subject, that a vast amount of skilled work has been put into the business of preparing this Bill, work which certainly members of Parliament in either House would never he able to do for themselves. We therefore owe a great debt of gratitude to the skilled helpers who put together this Statute, which the Lord Chancellor now presents to us for its Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2*.