§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 3ª. —(Lord Denning.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3ª.
§ LORD DENNING moved the following Amendment:
Page 13, line 37, leave out from beginning to end of line 40 and insert—
("(2) The provisions of this Act shall come into operation as follows—
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Clause 20 states:
(2) This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint and different dates may be so appointed for different provisions of this Act.
At the Committee stage, my noble friend Lord Foot drew attention to some difficulties which have arisen, and which may arise, from the clause being in that form, since there might be an indefinite delay before provisions in the Bill came into operation. Consideration has been given to what my noble friend said, and I hope that a satisfactory solution has been found. The solution is that the great majority of the provisions of the Bill should come into operation not immediately on the day it is passed, but one month thereafter. The reason for that is that the Law Society and others have often said that it takes a good time to get copies of the Bill through and for it to become known to the profession. So what is proposed in paragraph (2)(b) of the Amendment is that most of the provisions of the Bill will come into operation
… at the end of the period of one month beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
§ But there are other provisions which ought to be held up for a little while. The first is Clause 5, which deals with the powers of the Council of the Law Society to take possession of documents in case of a solicitor's default or to seize accounts. Application to the High Court is needed in that case, and rules have to be made in relation to such an application. It is therefore thought desirable to give time for the rules to be propounded, and it is suggested that the provision should come into operation on January 1, 1974. The same argument applies in the case of Clause 15, which entitles solicitors to administer oaths without any special permission for the purpose. That needs a little arrangement and administration, and it is therefore proposed that that clause, too, should come into operation on January 1, 1974. The remainder of the exceptions are simply in regard to consequential amending and repealing provisions. So that the object of the Amendment is to ensure that the great majority of the provisions in the Bill should come into operation one month after it is passed, and the others will come into operation on January 1, 1974. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ LORD FOOT
My Lords, since this is a matter which I raised originally, I should like to say just three sentences. I am greatly obliged to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and to the Law Society for having accepted the substance of what I proposed. I had intended to make one or two further observations, but I do not think I should be justified in detaining the House any longer. Perhaps I may just say this in conclusion. What was worrying me about Clause 20 was that there was an open-ended discretion vested in the Lord Chancellor to decide when he should bring into operation any particular part of the Bill. I think that this is a matter of more general application and I hope that it may be possible, at some time in the future, for the House and Parliament to consider whether this sort of clause is constitutionally objectionable and whether, where this clause is written into any other Bill, it ought to be subject to consideration. I do not want to detain the House any longer, and I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for having accepted the substance of my Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, I think it only remains for me to say this. This Amendment has been agreed with my Department, and therefore with me, and is perfectly acceptable to me. I explained, when the noble Lord, Lord Foot, raised his point on Committee, that whereas I was quite prepared for my Department to be used as a public convenience, I was reluctant to allow it to be turned into a whipping boy. The original commencement provisions were simply designed as a public convenience, and therefore I am perfectly content for fixed dates of commencement in this case to be substituted for them. However, I do not accept the constitutional doctrine of the noble Lord, Lord Foot. I have already described my view with regard to it. It is of course perfectly open to him to raise on an appropriate question the propriety of the present commencement provisions in other Acts when we come to them, or by way of substantive debate, but now that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has moved this Amendment, the point does not arise here.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Denning.)
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.