HL Deb 28 June 1955 vol 193 cc340-4

2.42 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time. As this is the first occasion upon which I have had the privilege of addressing your Lordships at any length—indeed, this is in the nature of a maiden speech—I would crave your Lordships' indulgence.

My Lords, the true parents of the Bill are the Scottish Local Government Law Consolidation Committee, which was set up in June, 1948, by the then Secretary of State for Scotland and which includes Members of both Houses of Parliament and representatives of the Scottish local authority associations and of Government Departments. The task of this Committee is to make recommendations about consolidation in the field of Scottish local government law, and of saying what amendments are needed with a view to facilitating consolidation and securing simplicity, uniformity and conciseness. With your Lordships' permission, I propose, for brevity, to refer to this Committee as the Fisher Committee, that being the name of its Chairman, Professor Fisher, who is Professor of Civil Law at Edinburgh University.

In October, 1953, the Fisher Committee prepared and published with their Third Report a draft Bill designed to replace the main Statutes dealing with police administration in Scotland. Copies of that draft Bill were sent to the police authorities and to the local authority associations, and thereafter discussions were held, as a result of which agreement was arrived at concerning a number of modifications to the draft Bill. When these discussions had been completed and the modifications made, a Bill was introduced into your Lordships' House. Unfortunately, that Bill became an Election casualty, but the Bill is identical with the previous one, apart from one or two very minor amendments. The Bill as introduced before the Election was also sent to all the police and local authority associations concerned, but not a single criticism or suggestion for amendment has been received. Therefore I think your Lordships can be assured that this Bill is agreed to by all those most directly concerned. In these circumstances, perhaps your Lordships will excuse me if I do not offer a detailed account of the forty clauses and three Schedules which the Bill contains.

The Bill seeks to bring within the compass of a single Statute a mass of law which is now scattered throughout the Statute Book. It repeals wholly ten Acts of Parliament and repeals in part another ten. Those Acts range in age from the year 1821 to the year 1946. I can state briefly to your Lordships the task which faced the Fisher Committee. They were faced with four main Acts, or groups of Acts, affecting police administration in Scotland. The first of these, the Police (Scotland) Act, 1857, provides for the establishment and administration of police forces in the Scottish counties. Secondly, the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, makes similar provision for police forces in most large burghs. Thirdly, the police forces of Aberdeen. Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Greenock are administered under Local Acts varying in date between 1866 and 1950. Finally, there are certain General Acts relating to the police, some applying to Scotland and some to Great Britain as a whole. The Fisher Committee had therefore to mould and adapt into a single new code the codes now applying to different areas, and I believe your Lordships will agree with me when I say that they are to be congratulated on contriving to do this with the minimum change in the present law.

Perhaps I should digress for a moment to explain that some of the General Acts relating to the police throughout Great Britain are not affected by this Bill. They are not included in it because they deal with specific subjects, such as pensions, which, as a matter of convenience, have been dealt with in legislation for Great Britain as a whole. But, apart from such exceptions, the Bill codifies the whole of the law dealing with police administration in Scotland.

Finally, there is the question of procedure. As your Lordships will appreciate from what I have said about achieving uniformity in the provisions applying to different police areas, this Bill is not pure consolidation. It cannot, therefore, be dealt with in terms of the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act, 1949, since uniformity is not one of the purposes for which amendments may be made under the short procedure provided by that Act. But as the Bill is in the nature of consolidation, Her Majesty's Government propose to invite both Houses of Parliament to concur in appointing a Joint Select Committee to consider the Bill in detail; that is subject, of course, to your Lordships agreeing to give the Bill a Second Reading this afternoon. In the event of your Lordships so agreeing, I propose this evening to hand in a Motion, which will appear on the Order Paper of your Lordships' House tomorrow, that a Joint Committee of both Houses be set up. That will be following exactly the same procedure as was adopted in the case of the Bill for the Local Government (Scotland) Act. 1947.

This Bill is entirely non-Party, and I hope it is entirely non-controversial. It has been welcomed by the Scottish police and Scottish local authority associations, and by the Scottish Press, as a valuable step towards a clearer and tidier Statute Book so far as police administration in Scotland is concerned. I therefore beg leave to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Strathclyde.)

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me—and I deem it a great privilege—to offer the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, our thanks and appreciation for the excellent maiden speech he has delivered. He is fortunate in his subject, for he has here a Bill which, I am certain, will find complete approval in your Lordships' House. He need have no fear in regard to the Bill in that respect. It will be received, as it has already been received in Scotland, with complete approval, and we shall look forward to helping it on its course and making way for the further Bill which the noble Lord has promised us. I have had many opportunities of coming into contact with the noble Lord, and it is a great pleasure to me to welcome him here. I may sound as if I were an elder statesman, or someone of that kind, welcoming a new boy. That is not my position, but I have had such happy experience of the noble Lord in other directions, in another place and in the hospital service in Scotland, that it is an especial pleasure to me to have the opportunity of offering the congratulations of those who sit with me on these Benches, and. I am sure, of the whole House, on the speech that he has given us.

With regard to the Bill, whether we take its parentage as being that of my right honourable friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirling, who appointed the Committee when he was Secretary of State for Scotland, in June, 1948, or whether we look upon the Bill as Professor Fisher's (his Report on this particular matter was issued in October. 1953), we cannot but agree that the period of gestation has been of considerable length. I hope that that means that this new Bill will serve us for a long time. I believe that animals which have a long period of gestation live to a great age, and, using that analogy, this Bill should indeed serve us for a very long time. It has been so clearly explained to us by the noble Lord that there seems little for me to say with regard to its provisions. As the noble Lord has shown, it gathers about twenty Acts into one single instrument and makes a code for universal application throughout Scotland. That is a good piece of work, and we join with the noble Lord in congratulating Professor Fisher and his Committee on the excellent work they have done in this connection.

This Bill deals with a great service— one that I think we should always remember with gratitude. Recent reports from chiefs of police in different parts of the country have shown that the police service is not up to full strength. That is regrettable. It is certainly a great service—one of the best in the country, and one of which we can be proud—and I hope that the foundation which is being laid by this Bill will result in such attention being given to the service and to the conditions, for those who join it that the blanks which now exist will be rapidly filled up. Then we may be able to deal adequately with all that comes within the ambit of police duties, whether the officers concerned are chief constables or rank-and-file members of the different forces. I do not think I need say more about this Bill, except to give it a warm welcome and to concur in its receiving a Second Reading.

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, normally a non-controversial Bill of this nature, based as it is on common sense and having the approbation of all Parties in your Lordships' House, would not evoke a speech of more than the one word "Content," in answer to the Question from the Woolsack. But it is indeed a pleasure to be able to felicitate the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on his clarity and competence in taking this, the first of, possibly, a series of political hurdles in your Lordships' House, all of which we hope will in the future be equally low and equally easy. From time to time, it falls to some of us to follow in the footsteps of some noble Lord who has the respect and admiration—even the affection—of your Lordships' House. That position is to the successor one of some delicacy and personal apprehension. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has come forward to succeed one whom we all regard with these feelings of friendship, and for this reason, as well as for his Lordship's own obvious merits, we offer him both our good will and our good wishes. It is a somewhat unusual but rather interesting and pleasing circumstance when a Member of your Lordships' House has in another place a Ministerial colleague who is his own son. I hope that the noble Lord will take it as a matter of congratulation from me, and not as a matter of impertinence, if I use the words of the traditional medical bulletin: "Father and child both doing well."

On Question, Bill read 2a.