HL Deb 11 May 1978 vol 391 cc1160-2

3.23 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill repeals 361 enactments, including 222 whole Acts, passed into law between the years 1421 and 1977 on the ground that they are no longer of any practical utility. It gives effect to the Ninth Joint Report of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission on Statute Law Revision. Eight previous reports on Statute law revision published since 1969, and a report on Jurisdiction of Certain Ancient Courts published in February 1976, have resulted in the repeal of over 1,970 enactments, including 726 whole Acts. The present Bill continues the programme of consolidation and Statute law revision undertaken by the Commissions with a view to achieving a rational and coherent Statute Book, so far as that is possible, containing only enactments which are of contemporary significance. I am sure that the House would wish to express to the two Law Commissions its appreciation of the invaluable work they are doing in this field.

The enactments repealed by this Bill are set out in Schedule 1. I notice that the first in the Schedule is the Poor Prisoners (Scotland) Act 1825, which of course has no relation whatsoever to recent events in your Lordships' House. The Bill contains a fascinating collection of Statutes. They include two Acts, of 1531 and 1535, enacted to protect the ports of Plymouth, Dartmouth, Teignmouth, Falmouth and Fowey from silting as a result of tin-working operations carried out by means of stream-works. Another Act of 1535: For the more effectual preservation and improvement of the spawn and fry of fish in the River of Thames, and Waters of Medway: and for the better regulating the Fishery thereof", is also repealed. There is also an Act of 1736: For the more effectual preventing the unlawful playing of interludes within the precincts of the two universities in that part of Great Britain called England". That was before devolution, my Lords. Section 10 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 also disappears. That provided that no toll should be taken on any turnpike road or bridge for a horse or police van passing along such road or bridge in the service of the Metropolitan Police provided that the rider of the horse or driver of the van had his dress and accoutrements according to the regulations of the police force.

My Lords, a number of Acts of historical interest are repealed by Part XIV of Schedule I to the Bill. Among these is an Act of 1535 which declared void a conveyance of land by Sir Thomas More, who was attainted of high treason. In this year of the 500th anniversary of my great predecessor's birth, it is pleasing to see rectified one small injustice inflicted upon his memory. It is also appropriate, think, in the week in which British Rail have inaugurated their new highspeed service between London and Edinburgh, to refer to the repeal of an Act of 1757—the first Railway Act ever passed.

My Lords, Schedule 1 to the Bill is an excellent miscellany of Statutes, and every lover of the British Constitution will, I am sure, shed a passing tear at their demise. Nevertheless, their departure will leave the Statute Book a little less cluttered and a little more suited to contemporary needs. If the Bill is given a Second Reading, it will be referred to the Joint Committee in the usual way. My Lords, I beg to move.

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

On Question, Bill read 2a, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.