§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, this Bill continues the series of Statute Law Revision Bills, the first of which was introduced almost exactly a century ago. Previous Bills in the last decade were introduced in 1953, 1958, 1959 and 1960. By lapse of time and otherwise many statutory provisions become obsolete or spent, and it is expedient that they should be repealed. Your Lordships will not expect me to describe all the dead provisions which the Bill proposes to repeal. These will fall to be examined, in the usual way, by the Joint Select Committee on Consolidation Bills, whose Report will be laid in due course. After that, the House will have an opportunity of considering the Bill as amended by the Joint Committee, and it will be open to your Lordships to comment on any points of detail which may arise. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, there is very little I want to say about this Bill. We are in spring and the Government are evidently getting a passion for spring cleaning. Last week we had a spring-cleaning Bill which was not very welcome. This particular piece of spring cleaning, I am glad to say, is not particularly objected to. It does not upset anybody or anything. It merely tidies up; but not all tidying up is necessarily good in itself and I do not want a Bill to be 81 accepted merely because it is a tidying-up Bill. We have had quite a number of similar Bills in the past few years, and some of these Statutes we are repealing go back to the reign of Edward II and Edward III. Does it mean that they have been missed by previous Committees? Surely there is no greater reason why they should be repealed to-day than, say, in 1952 or 1954 and so on. Are there many more of these still to be examined to see whether they are out of date to-day?
One other point. Speaking as a practising lawyer I would mention that it is not always convenient to have particular sections of Acts repealed when the whole Act is still in force. I wonder whether there is any alternative to that. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is much more experienced in this kind of thing than I would be; but it seems to me that when one is having to look up an Act it is quite inconvenient not to know or to be able to find out readily whether or not particular sections have been repealed. I should be glad if the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would give his views on that point. But this, of course, is normal practice and I do not wish to be difficult in any way.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's concluding remarks. I am sure he will agree that it is desirable to clear all dead wood from the Statute Book as speedily as one can. Sometimes Statutes become obsolete at different times and it is not possible to have one complete, comprehensive measure to clear away everything, because things become obsolete as the years go on and therefore it is necessary to have a number of Statute Law Revision Bills from time to time. When one clears, one wants to take off the Statute Book anything that really has become dead wood, and I am sure that this is a process that your Lordships will welcome.
With regard to the second point, the fact that it may be tiresome to have to find out whether a section of a Statute is still in force when another Act repeals a particular section of that Act, I see the force of that objection but I do not at the moment see any particular way in which that difficulty can be met. But when considering a Statute it is even more tiresome if one has to consider a 82 section and does not realise that it has become a completely obsolete section. It is the case, with modern reference books available, that it is not difficult to discover which particular provision of old Statutes have been repealed by Statute Law Revision. But I will give consideration to the point that the noble Lord has made, and I am grateful for the welcome he has given to this measure.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to make a remark about this tidying-up process. A tidying-up Bill was mentioned by my noble friend just now. So far as I can see, that was not exactly tidying up. It is restoring legislation of a past nature, legislation of 1902 for education, and almost of 1889. Can we be sure that the tidying up will not all follow that process?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I was not wishing to enter into any controversy with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, but I would not regard the measure debated for two days last week as just a tidying-up measure; I thought it was a progressive and constructive measure. I do not want to argue about that, and I am grateful to the noble Earl for correcting the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in that respect.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.