HL Deb 09 December 1952 vol 179 cc837-40

3.36 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it has, I think, been the practice of this House for some years to take the Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill formally, and the reason for that is that there is only one principle on the Second Reading—that is, that there should be such a Bill. The Bills included in the Schedule cannot well, from a practical point of view, be discussed together. There are ten separate Bills dealing with ten separate subjects, and they would not form a homogeneous subject for one debate. I would therefore ask any noble Lord who wants to put down any detailed question in regard to measures in the Schedule to do so at the Committee stage.

One further matter which I should like to mention is this. Last year, on the Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, whether there could not be published with this Bill an Explanatory Memorandum. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, undertook to look at that proposal. We have looked at it closely, and we find that during the period of nearly 150 years in which Expiring Laws Continuance legislation has been carried in this House, there has never been an Explanatory Memorandum published. I do not say for a moment that that is in itself a complete answer. But there is a further reason, and I should like to put it to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in this way. When an Explanatory Memorandum is issued with a new Bill, that Memorandum is explanatory of what the Bill is intended to do. If your Lordships ask for an Explanatory Memorandum here you will really be asking for an official and brief explanation of existing legislation. The draftsman is, in fact, expected to draft his laws clearly and concisely, and to ask him thereafter to make an abbreviated Memorandum of what he has done is, I suggest, calculated possibly to lead to misunderstanding. In any case, I am advised that it would set a most undesirable precedent. It is for that reason that we have not been able to comply with the noble Lord's request. I would say this, to show that I am atleast anxious to meet him so far as I can. I say frankly, and with some temerity, that if any noble Lord likes to ask me a simple question at this stage on any of the measures in the Schedule, I will endeavour to give him a simple reply. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I tender my thanks to the noble Earl for the explanation that he has given, and I hope that he will convey my acknowledgements also to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, for giving attention to the matter which I raised twelve months ago. The noble Earl has, I think, completely given his case away in the last few words of his speech. He has invited noble Lords who care to do so to put a simple question to him about any measure in this Schedule and has said that he will try to give a simple reply. That is all we require in connection with the various measures in the Schedule. There was a time when I sat on that Bench opposite, and I had the responsibility on one or two occasions of putting through this annual Bill. On each occasion, I was provided with a brief from the Department concerned, explaining the various measures therein. So there is nothing whatever to prevent a printed explanation being made in reply to a proper curiosity on the Acts mentioned in the Bill.

May I give an illustration? In the present Schedule, the second Act therein is one enacted as long ago as 1934, and its title is "The Cotton Manufacturing Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1934." I question whether any noble Lord sitting in the House at present—other than the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk—could tell me what that Act is about. Surely, if your Lordships are going to pass this Bill continuing these Acts of Parliament for a further year, you ought to know something about them. I know what the 1934 Act is about because it concerns a dispute that existed in the cotton industry on a temporary basis of reckoning up wages as long ago as 1934; and it has been carried forward, year by year, ever since in your Lordships' House because the industry will not face a permanent settlement. It seems to me that the case I put forward could be met by placing in the Schedule either a copy of the preamble to the Acts concerned or a simple statement like that to which the noble Earl has made reference. Then when we saw the titles in the Schedule, we should know what the Bill seeks to do.

But there is another question involved in this. When a Bill is introduced into Parliament for the first time it is printed, and when it comes up for Second Reading there is attached to it a Memorandum, as the noble Earl has said. If the Bill is introduced in your Lordships' House, we find in our Chamber a Memorandum attached to it explaining the measure; but when the Bill leaves your Lordships' House and goes to another place the Memorandum is deleted and Members in another place have to go somewhere else to find out what the Bill is about. The reverse is exactly the same. If a Bill is introduced into another place first, a Memorandum is attached to it, but when it comes to your Lordships' House, the Memorandum is detached. At the time I put my question to the noble Viscount, I had that in mind as much as the particulars about this present Bill. Why is it not possible, when a Bill has gone through one House, for the Memorandum attached to it to continue to be attached to it while it is passing through the Second House? If that be done, we should all be greatly helped.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for supporting the Second Reading. Frankly, he has not said very much about the Bill. He made a strong plea for Memoranda and no doubt we shall try to meet him, so far as we can. I do not think there would be any objection to publishing the preambles of Acts dealt with, if that would help him, but I should like to say to him that he could find them in the Library in a few minutes, if he wished to do so. In regard to other Bills, I think that matter goes wider than the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and that it should be made the subject of another Motion, if the noble Lords feel strongly about it.


My Lords, I would not have said a word about this had the noble Earl not gone out of his way to make an announcement in which I was mentioned. What I have said refers to the announcement which he made to your Lordships.


My Lords, I accept that readily, and leave the subject of Memoranda.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he is proposing to print all the preambles of Bills in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. It seems to me that that would help very little and would mean more printing. Anyone can find the preambles, if he wishes. Are they all to be printed?


I said it could be done if the noble Lord pressed sufficiently, and that we were ready to help him as much as we could, but I did add that it was not very difficult to find the preambles in the Library at any time the noble Lord wished. Personally, in the circumstances, I think it would be an unnecessary step.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.