HL Deb 13 June 1989 vol 508 cc1266-8

3.6 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

As your Lordships will be aware, one of the functions of the Law Commission and the Law Commission for Scotland is to promote: The repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments, the reduction of the number of separate enactments and generally the simplification and modernisation of the law". Over the past 20 years, the two Law Commissions have presented to Parliament 13 reports on statute law revision, with draft Bills attached. The 12 previous reports have resulted in the repeal of over 2,600 enactments, including 1,225 whole Acts. The present Bill proposes the repeal of 189 whole Acts or orders and the removal of redundant provisions from 355 others.

The Bill and its predecessors play a valuable part in the work of modernising and improving the statute book, work to which I attach particular importance. On the last occasion when a Bill of this nature was before this House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said that progress in this field had been admirable. I share his view and look forward to further progress being made by the Bill.

The repeals set out in Schedule 1 to the Bill are in 11 parts, relating to the administration of justice, finance, Ireland, local government, medicine, overseas' jurisdiction, planning and land, religious disabilities, transport and miscellaneous matters. The oldest statute to be repealed is the Innkeepers Act 1424 and the most recent the Billiards (Abolition of Restrictions) Act 1987, which became spent on enactment, when its purposes were achieved.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to Part IX, which rationalises the vast amount of local authority legislation in South Yorkshire. In their explanatory note, the Law Commissions say that the, bulk, uncertain operation and inaccessibility of local legislation are problems of long standing". A detailed review of such legislation for South Yorkshire has been carried out for the Law Commission and I hope that similar projects may follow.

As always in a Bill of this nature, several provisions which are to be repealed because they are now obsolete or spent are nevertheless of historical interest. Much of the legislation that was passed for the establishment of the Irish Free State and the government of Northern Ireland is now redundant, as are various provisions relating to disabilities which formerly affected Roman Catholics and Jews. Their repeal will, I am sure, arouse less debate than their enactment. I should add that there has been full consultation with interested bodies on these and all the other repeals.

I am sure that your Lordships would wish to join me in thanking the two Law Commissions for the very careful and detailed way in which they have, as always, set about their important task. If this Bill is given a Second Reading, it will be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in the usual way. I beg to move.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will join with the noble and learned Lord in his expression of gratitude to the Law Commission and those who have been concerned in this admirable record of achievement in the matter of repeals. Some noble Lords might think that those repeals may well have been applied to some more recent legislation. But I should not end a congratulatory note on such a political point. However, it is not wholly absent from the minds of some of us.

This is an admirable process and we look forward to examining the detail of what is proposed. The setting up of the Law Commission was an important step in law reform, the most significant certainly in my time. We are grateful to see that the good work in that field is being maintained.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his remarks. I am sure that the Law Commission will also appreciate his thanks.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidated Bills.

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