§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Selkirk, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The object of this Bill is to perpetuate for one further year certain Acts, or parts of Acts, which are due to expire on December 31 this year, and some others which end on March 31 next year. Details of these are in the Schedule. We usually pass this Bill in December, though last year it was in November. The only difference between this Bill and the Act of last year is that we have been able to drop the subsection on the Civil Contingency Fund Act which was included last year, and is now covered by permanent legislation. If any of your Lordships would like to raise in Committee any points on any one of the individual Acts mentioned in the Schedule, it would be helpful if he would give notice of the fact so that the appropriate one of my colleagues can be present to answer his questions in detail. Of course, I will try to answer, broadly, any questions that may be raised on the general principle of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hawke.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am giving the noble Lord the comfort of spending a peaceful Christmas by assuring him that, so far as I know, it is not the intention of anybody on this side to move any Amendments to this Bill. In another place a series of Amendments were moved to delete certain provisions in the Schedule, prefaced in every case by the explanation that it was not really intended that the provisions should be deleted, but that the Amendments were merely a pretext for raising a debate. We do not peed that pretext. There are two things I should like to say about this Bill. They have been said on a number of occasions before, but I think they ought to be said again. So far as I remember, the last time was some years ago.
The first point is that it is difficult to follow the Schedule. There are some eight, nine or ten references to Acts of Parliament, or to parts thereof, and if one wants to form a judgment as to 1273 whether any of these should be carried on for another year one ought to know what they are. I would defy any Member of this House, with the possible exception of the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor and the noble Lord who introduced the Bill, to say, for instance, what is contained in Sections 1 and 2 of the Cotton Manufacturing Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1934. And yet we are continuing these sections for another year. I feel that a White Paper might be of interest and value to noble Lords who want to play an intelligent part in these proceedings. It looks as if, having done it once, such a Paper could re-circulate every year. The same document would apply because, with rare exceptions, this legislation is continued from year to year. I hope the noble Lord will bear that suggestion in mind, to see whether anything of that kind can be done.
The other point is this. Is it really necessary to carry on some of this legislation in this way from year to year? Some of it is becoming somewhat ancient, almost venerable. There is the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act of 1919, Section 1. This has been re-enacted every year since 1919—that is, for thirty-six years. By now I should have thought that we might make up our minds whether or not we wanted this as a permanent part of our legislation. The same applies to the Cotton Manufacturing Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1934. That is not quite so venerable but it conies of age this year. It is now twenty-one years old. Do we really want this as a permanent part of our legislation? There are some youngsters as well, enactments only five years old. Perhaps it is too early to say whether a temporary provision which has been going on for only five years needs to be enacted permanently, but I should have thought that by now we could make up our minds about these "old stagers." I would remind the House of the emergency legislation that we passed about a week ago. We were told that the Government are seriously engaged in reducing the amount of temporary legislation, either transferring it into permanent legislation or getting rid of it altogether. But here we seem to go on, year after year, passing this temporary legislation. I feel that 1274 the time has arrived when it might be seriously looked at, to see whether we cannot shorten this Schedule, or even get rid of it altogether. Subject to that comment, I do not propose to move, on another occasion, the deletion of any of these provisions. I will give the noble Lord one year's respite, but I hope that after the next year we shall be able to get a satisfactory answer to this point.
§ 5.2 p.m.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for receiving the Bill in the spirit in which he has done. I have previously heard the point about some explanation being desirable, and I had my mind on a memorandum—the noble Lord mentioned a White Paper. I had turned this subject over in my mind from a drafting and illustrative point of view, and I do not know whether it would be in order to produce a memorandum relating to a section of an Act which itself had a full memorandum printed when it was originally enacted. That is a technical point, but I will certainly look into it.
§ LORD SILKIN
All we want is a short reminder of what these Acts are all about; we do not want a legal explanation.
My Lords, as regards the length of time for which this temporary legislation has been running, of course in every case we hope that it will not be necessary to enact it permanently; that is why it is still included in this Bill. In fact, one of these Acts, the Road Traffic Act, will be covered, we hope, by a Bill now passing through another place. I will certainly call the attention of the responsible Ministers to what the noble Lord has said, but at the moment I believe that the Acts, or parts of Acts, referred to are necessary, although not permanently necessary.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.