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Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill

Volume 388: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1943

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asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the increasing practice of legislation by reference, as exemplified by the Government's Amendments to the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill, incorporating references to 150 individual Sections in eight different Acts of Parliament dating from 1882 to 1935; and whether, in view of the necessity for saving the time of Parliament, local authorities and the business community, he will instruct all Government Departments to avoid this practice, either by the methods recommended in 1938 or by other methods?

I am not aware that the practice of legislating by reference is increasing. It is impossible to draft a Bill amending existing legislation without referring to that legislation. The Bill referred to by the hon. Member sets up a new Board on whom it is proposed to confer, subject to certain necessary modifications, the powers under existing legislation of authorised undertakers and of the Central Electricity Board. As the hon. Member is aware, the Bill as introduced proposed that the necessary modifications of the existing legislation should be made by Order in Council; and it was in deference to views expressed by hon. Members that amendments were put down by the Government to make the necessary modifications by the Bill itself. It is necessary to apply no less than 13 separate enactments comprising 299 Sections and 13 Schedules. To have set out in a Schedule the whole of these enactments with the proposed modifications would have resulted in the production of a Bill which, by its mere bulk, would be more difficult for Members to understand than the Bill in its present form with the amendments proposed. As regards the last part of the Question, the draftsmen of Government Bills have constantly in mind the proposals made in 1938 and all other available methods of making amending legislation as lucid as possible.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in new major Measures of this kind a serious effort ought to be made to ensure that such a Bill as this is, as far as practicable, a complete legislative entity in itself, so that the House and the country may understand what they are doing without endless references to Acts more than half a century old?