§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD DERWENT)
My Lords, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has asked me to apologise to the House for his absence. He is engaged on judicial business at the Privy Council, on a case which was left over from last week, and he has asked me to assure your Lordships that he will be in the House at the earliest possible moment.
My Lords, this is the latest in the series of Statute Law Revision Bills, the first of which was introduced just 100 years ago. Previous Bills during the past dozen years were introduced in 1953, 1958, 1959 and 1960. Both by effluxion of time and for other reasons many statutory provisions become spent or obsolete, and it is desirable that they should be repealed. Your Lordships will not, I am sure, expect me to discuss all the dead provisions which this Bill proposes to remove. These will, of course, have to be examined, in the normal way, by the Joint Select Committee on Con- 380 solidation Bills, whose Report will be laid in due course. After that, your Lordships will have the usual opportunity of considering the Bill as amended by the Joint Committee, if necessary, and it will then be open to your Lordships to comment on any points of detail which may need consideration. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am sure we all approve of getting rid of dead wood in our legislation. This long series of Acts of Parliament has remained on the Statute Book for many years without having any practical effect or validity, and quite possibly merely with the object of confusing the lawyers. I do not assume that the noble Lord is personally responsible for this, but I should like to ask him how it comes about that some of these Acts have been on the Statute Book for 200 years without their having any effect at all, having long since ceased to have any purpose, having regard to the reason for their enactment. And since we have had a considerable number of Statute Law Revision Acts, how is it that we have not been able to repeal these before now? Are there many others that could be repealed, or are we today making a clean sweep of all the dead wood that exists? I should like an answer on that point; but, subject to that, we support any measure of this kind.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, the noble Lord will appreciate that this examination of the law and what may or may not be dead wood, takes a considerable time, and one has to be most careful not to do away with something that is referred to in another Act and may have some effect in that Act. Although some of these Acts have been in force for 200 years, it is not necessarily the fact that they have been dead wood all that time, or for anything like that time. I am afraid that I cannot give an undertaking that there will be no more of these Statute Law Revision Bills. This work is continuous and it is going on at a much greater speed than hitherto, if I may put it that way. As I have already said. we have cut out dead 381 wood in 1953, 1958, 1959 and 1960, and I am sure that we are making an impression on the dead wood; but I cannot go further than that at the moment.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.