HL Deb 13 April 1981 vol 419 cc796-7

5.22 p.m.

Read 3a.

Lord Scarman

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. I hope that in moving this Motion I may say a few words about the Bill. It contains only two effective clauses, but those clauses enjoy the support not only of the Law Commission but of the committee presided over with such distinction by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which inquired into and reported on the preparation of legislation. The Bill, short as it is, does not go as far as the Law Commission recommended, but it does go as far as it could go, enjoying the consent of both the Renton Committee and the Law Commission. It is therefore an uncontroversial Bill and, if I may say so, I hope it will be so regarded if and when it reaches another place.

There was only one matter of controversy concerning the Bill. That was a point upon which the Law Commission, and indeed others, took a strong view. That view was not shared by the Law Society, the Bar Council or a number of my noble and learned colleagues in this House. Therefore, preferring the good and attainable to the best and unattainable, I yielded and it has gone. Now there is no controversy.

I present this Bill as one which, though short, could have a significant influence for the good of the development of English law. I say that for one simple reason. Increasingly, owing to the complexity of the society in which we live, English law is becoming more and more statute based. It is absolutely essential, if the enacted will of Parliament is to be fulfilled, that the judges should adopt the correct approach to Parliament's enactments.

This Bill, if passed, will improve communications between Parliament and the judges as to the intention of Parliament in those enactments which, under our Bill of Rights, our judges have to accept, interpret and apply. If the principles of this Bill be accepted and passed into law, then the task and duty of the judges is clear and the Bill does not add one whit to the power of the judges. The judges already stand between Parliament and the citizen: it is their interpretation and application of the statute law which bears upon the citizen. It is therefore very important that they should get it right. This Bill, my Lords, will help them, and I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Scarman.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, not for the first time has the noble and learned Lord fulfilled a very useful public service and, as we have learned this afternoon, it will not be the last time he will be fulfilling a great public service. I imagine he heard the acclamation with which his name was greeted this afternoon when we heard of the important duty he is now to undertake. My Lords, this is a useful Bill and, as the noble and learned Lord said, it is a non-controversial one. We on these Benches hope that it will have a speedy voyage without anybody seeking to interfere with its course until it safely reaches port.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to add my word of thanks and congratulations to my noble and learned friend on the Cross-Benches, and to say that when he was absent—I believe actually in Brixton this afternoon—the notice we received from my noble friend Lord Belstead of his acceptance of this onerous and, in the nature of things, painful task was very well received in all quarters of the House. My only regret is that we shall lose his comradeship in the Appellate Committee for a short time. I think it says a very great deal for my noble and learned friend's sense of public duty that he has accepted this task from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and I am sure that the whole House is grateful to him for having done so.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!

On Question, Bill passed and sent to the Commons.