HL Deb 26 July 1993 vol 548 cc958-60
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. In doing so, in relation to this Bill and the other two Bills in my name on the Order Paper, I am sure that the House will wish to record its gratitude to the two Law Commissions for their work, and also to the Joint Committee on. Consolidation and to the parliamentary draftsman.

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

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, perhaps I can raise a point which may be of interest to the House on the Third Reading of this consolidation Bill. I do so because, if I am wrong, it will be useful that it be recorded that I am wrong in regard to procedures that may take place in the future. If I am right, it may be of some value that I have brought the matter to the attention of the House and to the noble and learned Lord to whom I gave brief notice that I intended to raise this point.

In Clause 2 of the Bill we seek to repeal a repeal. In other words, in regard to a statute passed in the reign of George III, we are saying that, 15 years after its repeal, we undo that repeal. It may be of interest to the House that the normal procedure expected when seeking to repeal a repeal by an earlier statute is a re-enactment of the statute and not a cancellation of the repeal. I acknowledge at once that that may not be so when a mistake has been made in the repeal. In that case we record in the repeal enactment that a mistake was made and therefore the repeal of the repeal takes place.

In the Long Title of the Bill there is a recital that the repeal in Clause 2 is to correct a mistake in the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1978. However, when one comes to the clause there is no statement that there is a mistake and that that is why the repeal takes place. If my point is a valid one, then it ought to be placed on record —no more than that—that in future legislation of this kind, where a repeal is repealed, it can only be done where a mistake has occurred and the clause repealing it so says.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, Clause 2 of the Bill deems the Act of George III never to have been repealed. As the noble Lord said, it explains in the Long Title that that repeal was a mistake in the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1978. The effect of re-enacting, without more, would be to put the old statute hack on the statute book from the date of the re-enactment, whereas the formula used as recommended by the Law Commissions is a formula which seeks to recover the whole ground right back to 1978, subject to provisos in subsection (2) of Clause 2, with which perhaps we need not deal.

Of course, all Bills are intended to be read as a whole and the reader of Clause 2 will have read the Long Title before he or she reaches Clause 2 and so will know that the reason for the form adopted in Clause 2 was that a mistake was made in 1978. The statute in question is a fairly recondite one to which reference is not frequently made. The desire to have it corrected and put back on the statute book came from the trustees of a certain common which was affected by this matter and whose interest apparently had been overlooked in 1978.

I think that the position is reasonably clear, reasonably secure and reasonably appropriate for the state of matters which the Law Commissions encountered. The proposal is in accord with their recommendations and appears to have satisfied the joint committee.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I may in one sentence merely ask him to confirm that this procedure as followed in the Bill will not be sufficient to repeal a repeal unless the original repeal was a mistake.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I think it highly unlikely that one would want to go along this road except in the situation in which there was a mistake. It is always difficult to envisage all possible circumstances and therefore I am unwilling to say "never". But I think it highly unlikely that this procedure would be appropriate except in similar circumstances which I must fondly hope may not recur.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mishcon for raising a point which may be recondite, not to say surreal. My major purpose in standing is to reaffirm what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said about the quality and the value of the work which is done by the Law Commission on these occasions, for which we are extremely grateful.

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.