HL Deb 16 December 1975 vol 366 cc1331-3

3.1 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The Bill proposes the repeal, on the ground that they are no longer of practical utility, of 92 whole Acts of Parliament and one Church Assembly Measure, and the partial repeal of 211 other Acts, all of which were passed into law between 1694 and this year. The enactments proposed for repeal are listed in the Schedule to the Bill by categories, which range from alcoholism and animals, through medicine and money, to war and emergency. The Bill gives effect to the Seventh Report of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission on Statute Law Revision. I am sure the House will be grateful to the two Law Commissions for their valuable and continuing work in this field.

This Bill contains some interesting repeals. One historic Act that is to go is the Treaty of Peace Act 1919. Its function, which was to enable the Treaty of Peace concluded at Versailles on 28th June 1919 to be carried into effect, is now spent. Another, rather older, Act included in the Bill is the Isle of Man Purchase Act 1765, which gave effect to the contract for the sale of the Isle of Man to the Crown, by the Duke of Atholl and others, for the sum of £70,000. It would be interesting to reflect on what it would fetch today. Finally, I would mention a group of enactments now proposed for repeal which have been the subject of comment by noble Lords when previous Statute Law (Repeals) Bills have been before the House. These are obsolete enactments, listed in the Schedule under the heading "Road Traffic", regulating stage carriages and London hackney carriages. They are part of a complex code of old legislation governing the London cab trade and include, for example, a provision in Section 51 of the London Hackney Carriage Act 1831 —a particular favourite of my noble friend Lord Janner in this field—requiring a proprietor of any hackney carriage who feeds his horse to do so only with corn out of a bag, or with hay which he shall hold or deliver with his hands ". The penalty for failing to comply with this provision was a fine of 20 shillings.

My Lords, I do not think there are any other points on the Bill that I ought to draw to your Lordships' attention. Its provisions are explained in the Law Commission's joint Seventh Report, and if it is given a Second Reading it will be referred to the Joint Committee in the usual way. I beg to move.

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


My Lords, may I say how pleased I am—as I am sure are not only the lay people of this land but particularly the solicitors and the barristers—by the removal of so many obsolete Acts from the Statute Book. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was good enough to refer to a matter I have raised on a number of occasions. I have not yet had an opportunity of examining closely the provisions of the hackney carriage Acts which are being repealed at the present time. There is a provision that every hackney carriage must have a bundle of hay inside the carriage, which of course would include taxicabs, and I hope that that provision is no longer to prevail because I am afraid our friends who drive taxi-cabs have been rather remiss in not observing this particular regulation which required them to have hay in their cabs.

Speaking seriously, my Lords, I think it is tremendously important, both from our point of view and from that of the community as a whole, that as many obsolete Acts as possible should be removed from the Statute Book. They are a great impediment to the possibility of finding out what the real law is in various matters.


My Lords, may I add a word or two of commendation for the work of the Law Commissions. They go on surprising me every day. Having already produced reports repealing so many Acts on the Statute Book which they deem have no useful purpose to serve, the Commission go on finding as many as they have on this occasion, which only shows what an awful lot of junk there was originally on the Statute Book. If they can continue like this, and can increase the speed and bring in Consolidation Bills, we may yet live to see a Statute Book of which we can be proud, instead of feeling it to be a disgrace.


My Lords, while endorsing what has been said, I can only say as a matter of experience that our Statute Book is becoming less and less a matter of which we can be proud.


My Lords, I am grateful for the commendation the Bill at any rate has received. I have little doubt that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, will recollect his distinguished role in the mass of legislation which was introduced by his Administration. However, I am not a man to make a Party point on this issue, as your Lordships may have observed. At any rate, the happy position is that we are slowly winning the battle. Gradually as the years go by there are fewer Statutes than there used to be on the Statute Book.

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